Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola offered sympathy to beleaguered Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka following his confrontation with Gunners fans, acknowledging an understanding of the midfielder's emotions.
Arsenal were held to a 2-2 draw by Crystal Palace on Sunday in their most recent Premier League match, throwing away a 2-0 lead, but the match was marred by a second-half incident that saw Xhaka react angrily when fans ironically cheered – and then booed him - as he was substituted.
Xhaka sarcastically encouraged the jeering by throwing his arms up and cupping an ear, before shouting expletives at the crowd and taking his shirt off as he headed straight for the tunnel.
Coach Unai Emery, who said Xhaka was wrong to react in such a way, left him out of the squad for the EFL Cup clash with Liverpool and the upcoming Premier League visit of Wolves.
It remains to be seen if Emery keeps Xhaka as his captain, or indeed if he ever plays for the club again, but Guardiola sympathised with the Switzerland international, who revealed on Thursday he and his family have received abusive messages for months.
The following is a message from Granit Xhaka... pic.twitter.com/YG5lBKmQvi— Arsenal (@Arsenal) October 31, 2019
"We have to respect our supporters," Guardiola told reporters. "But it is not easy for the players sometimes.
"I understand Xhaka, the emotions, the moment. I don't know what's going on inside, but maybe I'm not the right man to say, because sometimes I cannot control my emotions, but you have to try it.
"At the end, it's just a game, to have fun, to do their best, and I'm sure all the players, Xhaka included, do their absolute best for Arsenal, do the best for his mates and for winning games. He is the captain because he has something special in the locker room.
"It's happened because sometimes you lose control. It will be forgotten, they'll move forward and hopefully the fans can forgive Xhaka and he can show what an incredible player he is."