UNAI EMERY is hoping he can convince outcast Granit Xhaka not to quit Arsenal in January.
Swiss star Xhaka remains upset at being stripped of the captaincy for swearing at Gunners fans four weeks ago.
The midfielder, 27, has not been included in their squad for the four games since his Emirates meltdown during the 2-2 with Crystal Palace.
While on international duty this week, Xhaka rapped: “I have a clear idea how things should proceed as I can’t accept what has happened.”
Yet ahead of hosting Southampton tomorrow, Emery is confident Xhaka is slowly coming around to the idea of an Arsenal return.
But the Gunners boss admits the player first needs to make his peace with supporters.
He said: “This morning at training I had a very good conversation with Granit and he wants to come back.
“He is feeling better and believes his team is Arsenal.
“He is a good guy and good player. He loves and respects Arsenal and knows that in one game he made a mistake.
“First of all, we do not forget his mistake. That is why I took the captaincy off him as it is better he does not have that responsibility.
“But he has told me he is very convinced to help the team and the objective I am working for is for Granit to have a long future with us.”
Xhaka, a £38.25million buy from Germans Borussia Moenchengladbach in 2016, still has 2½ years on his £100k-a-week contract.
Yet he has never been popular with the critical Arsenal fanbase and lost his rag when booed as he was subbed against Palace on October 27.
Now he is seriously considering his future, with Inter and AC Milan both weighing up January bids — along with several German clubs.
Xhaka did play in Switzerland’s Euro 2020 qualifiers against Georgia and Gibraltar this past week.
But he is unlikely to be involved for the Gunners against struggling Saints.
Emery acknowledges the situation is still very delicate as a number of fans are still not prepared to forgive Xhaka.
He admitted: “The confidence of the supporters will decide when he comes back. We want him to help us and also convince every supporter of his commitment.
“His performances are going to be better and they are going to be proud of him.
“At the moment it is most important how he feels. If we can connect with our fans, we are going to improve.
“In this situation, it is better to do it with him on the pitch. That could be at the Emirates or away.
“It’s a special circumstance with Xhaka, but he is not the only player who needs to find confidence.
“Hector Bellerin told me he sometimes struggled with the supporters when his performances were not the best.
“We have had some other players in the same situation. But they have all come back and with Xhaka, it’s the same.”
Arsenal have not won since Xhaka was banished and are eight points off the top four.
The Gunners are light in midfield with Dani Ceballos out for at least a month with a hamstring injury.
Sead Kolasinac, Rob Holding and Bukayo Saka are also doubtful to face Saints, so Emery has little margin for error.