Former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira has leapt to the defence of Granit Xhaka, saying he “deserves respect”.
The 27-year-old Switzerland international was stripped of the captaincy following an altercation with fans against Crystal Palace and has not featured for the first team since.
Despite manager Unai Emery suggesting the player may never play for the club again, Nice head coach Vieira is more sympathetic.
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”I feel sorry for him because he [was] the captain and he’s going through a really difficult period and really difficult time at Arsenal,” Vieira said.
“I think we have to remind ourselves that he’s achieved a lot since he’s at Arsenal and he deserves a lot of respect.
“When you’re a player and don’t perform the way you expect, you get frustrated about yourself. And sometimes you say things or do things you regret.
“I find it really difficult a lot of ex-footballers have jumped on him and being really negative towards him – it’s too too easy.
“I know how good he is and he will come through this difficult period because he’s a strong man, he’s a good player. And he will show how good he is.”
‘Arsenal need to stay calm’
Vieira, who won six major honours at Arsenal between 1996-2005, has also urged patience around the club with manager Unai Emery under increasing pressure at the Emirates.
Emery has just two wins from their last 10 Premier League games with their latest a disappointing 2-0 defeat away to Leicester.
”I think it is a club that’s going through a really difficult period,” Vieira added.
“But you have clubs going the same way, I think is never easy when you change manager, especially after Arsene (Wenger), who spent 20 years over there.
“And I think [Manchester] United went through the same spell, Chelsea went through the same spell. And I think what people need is to be calm and to give the manager a time to resolve the issues.”
‘Return to PL my dream’
Vieira, whose Nice side currently lie 13th in France’s Ligue 1, has also spoken of his desire to return to England as a Premier League manager at some point in the future.
He said: “You dream about coaching one day in the Premier League. You will want to coach one of the teams that you play for.
“But you know what I am really focusing at the moment is how we can improve in Nice, to do better in the league.