'Xhaka is the leader Arsenal needs' - Emery defends Gunners captaincy decision

The Spaniard says he made the right call in handing the midfielder the captain's armband, even though he was stripped of the role in October

Unai Emery has defended his decision to make Granit Xhaka the Arsenal captain this season.

Switzerland international Xhaka was handed the captain's armband at the start of the campaign after the departures of previous leader Laurent Koscielny and three other vice-captains.

But Xhaka was stripped of his duties as skipper after he clashed with supporters when he was being substituted in the 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace in October.

The 27-year-old midfielder was being jeered by the home crowd while he walked off and retaliated by shouting at them to "f*ck off".

He was kept out of the squad for several weeks as a result before Emery brought him back into the starting XI to face Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League, which turned out to be the Spaniard's final game in charge.

But Emery, who has since been replaced as Gunners boss by Mikel Arteta, feels giving the captaincy to the 27-year-old was the correct decision, insisting he was, and still is, the leader they need.

"The main captains last year were Koscielny, [Petr] Cech, [Aaron] Ramsey and Nacho Monreal and they all left the team," Emery said in an interview with BBC Sport

"So the natural leader in the changing room, because of his values and what he represented, was Granit Xhaka. There was a vote to see if what I felt about him was also felt by the players, and they did.

"Circumstances meant that Xhaka had a clash with fans, but he is the leader that this team needs then and now, because of the values he represents, because of the respect everyone had for him and because of his experience.

"But from the moment he stops being captain, there are other players who also have the capacity to take over, like [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang, [Mesut] Ozil, [Alexandre] Lacazette but the hierarchies within a team have to be established with values, the strength of the squad and also what happens on the pitch.

"The coach has to let things flow naturally and allow the leadership to be established. Logically, I am the one who decides who will be the captain, but the players get to tell me who they perceive as captain.

"What made it difficult was that the four principal captains left and new people had to take on the responsibility.

"These things need a process of settling and adjusting to wearing the armband that is very important to me and very necessary for this transition to take place."

Xhaka was replaced by Aubameyang as the Gunners' permanent captain, but the Gabon international has only tasted victory once as Arteta struggles to turn the club's form around.