Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka has explained how he reached "boiling point" in the game against Crystal Palace after receiving online abuse that included death threats against his family.

Xhaka cupped his ears to the home fans, who mockingly cheered his substitution during Sunday's 2-2 draw in the Premier League, then removed his shirt before walking straight down the tunnel.

Head coach Unai Emery said on Tuesday that the 27-year-old midfielder should say sorry for the way he reacted while leaving the pitch at Emirates Stadium, while a number of former Arsenal players have called for him to be stripped of the captaincy.

In a statement released on Arsenal's official Twitter account, Xhaka apologised for any disrespect conveyed by his actions as he revealed the personal abuse that has been aimed his way.

"After taking some time to reflect on what happened on Sunday afternoon, I would like to give you an explanation rather than just a quick response," he said.

"The scenes that took place around my substitution have moved me deeply.

"I love this club and always give 100 per cent on and off the pitch.

"My feeling of not being understood by fans, and repeated abusive comments at matches and in social media over the last weeks and months have hurt me deeply.

"People have said things like: 'we will break your legs', 'kill your wife' and 'wish that your daughter gets cancer'.

"That has stirred me up and I reached boiling point when I felt the rejection in the stadium on Sunday.

"In this situation, I let myself be carried away and reacted in a way that disrespected the group of fans that support our club, our team and myself with positive energy.

"That has not been my intention and I'm sorry if that's what people thought.

"My wish is that we get back to a place of mutual respect, remembering why we fell in love with this game in the first place.

"Let's move forward positively together."

Xhaka was not part of Arsenal's squad for Wednesday's EFL Cup clash with Liverpool - a game the Gunners lost on penalties to exit the competition after a remarkable 5-5 draw - but was involved in training on Thursday ahead of this weekend's home match with Wolves.

Arsenal desperately need a positive result against Wolves if they are to draw a line under a tumultuous week at Emirates Stadium, but Nuno Espirito Santo's men have a strong record against the top flight's 'big six'.

The Gunners have been reeling since they squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Crystal Palace in a game that saw Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka booed by his own supporters, and the visibly angry Switzerland international cupped his ear to the disgruntled crowd as he left the field.

The result left Arsenal winless in two league games and facing something of a crisis of leadership as they prepare to face Wolves, who arrive in north London unbeaten in their last five league matches.

Last season's FA Cup semi-finalists have conceded just three goals in that time, and Arsenal need only look at the champions to learn about the threat they pose - it is less than a month since Wolves stunned Manchester City at Etihad Stadium, Adama Traore scoring two late goals in a 2-0 victory.

All eyes will be on Xhaka, should he play, as fifth-placed Arsenal seek to stave off the challenge of five teams within three points of them in the Premier League table.

EMERY MUST FIND MEN WHO CAN GO THE DISTANCE

Unai Emery has rotated his Arsenal midfield continuously this season and he has no shortage of match-fit replacements for Xhaka should he opt to leave his under-fire playmaker out against Wolves.

Lucas Torreira and Joe Willock have both played deep-lying midfield roles in recent matches and Emery may opt to trust one of them alongside Matteo Guendouzi in what is likely to be a high-octane battle in the middle of the park.

Nuno likes to pack the middle of his midfield in away games and the combination of Leander Dendoncker, Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho helped Wolves come from a goal down to draw 1-1 with Newcastle United last time out.

That game followed a familiar pattern for Wolves, who have conceded the first goal in more Premier League matches (seven) than any other side this season, though they have come back to draw five of those games.

While the average time Arsenal take to score their first goal in Premier League matches is 39 minutes, Wolves take an average of 61 minutes to find the net.

Twice in league games this season Arsenal have led by more than one goal only to draw 2-2. As they go up against the division's comeback specialists, they can ill afford to slip up again.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: GRANIT XHAKA V RUBEN NEVES

Having left him out of the rollercoaster EFL Cup defeat to Liverpool at Anfield, Emery has a big decision to make about whether to recall the much-maligned Xhaka.

Gunners greats Ian Wright, Nigel Winterburn and Emmanuel Petit have been among the many to condemn his actions but a return to the XI has not been ruled out.

Should he get the nod, Xhaka could win back some favour with supporters by getting the better of Neves in a key midfield battle.

The pair operate in similar roles to vastly differing degrees of adulation, even as the Opta data portrays Wolves star Neves as generally less effective than the Arsenal skipper.

Xhaka has created four more scoring chances, registered three more tackles and provided three more blocks in the Premier League this season despite playing one game less.

He has additionally contested 33 more duels at a superior success rate and his passing accuracy of 86.54 per cent is comfortably in advance of Neves' 75.45 per cent.

However, the Portuguese former Porto man can lay claim to having made seven more interceptions than Xhaka, a skill that will prove useful as the visitors attempt to stymie their opponents' play in north London.

FORM GUIDE: WOLVES IN CAPITAL MOOD

The prospect of a trip to London will not daunt Wolves, who have not lost a Premier League match in the capital since March 2012, when Fulham thumped them 5-0.

They have won three and drawn four of their seven subsequent matches in the city, and their recent form has been good no matter where they play.

Nuno's men have scored in each of their last nine Premier League games and could set a club record in the competition by finding the net on Saturday. Only table-topping Liverpool (19) are on a longer current goal-scoring run in the competition.

Arsenal must make the most of early opportunities, given that Wolves have scored a league-high 85 per cent of their Premier League goals in the second half of games this season (11/13), and Emery will take heart from his side's imperious home record on Saturday afternoons.

Arsenal have not lost at home at this time on a Saturday since the opening day of the 2013-14 season (1-3 vs Aston Villa), winning 20 and drawing two since then.

Goals are rarely in short supply at the Emirates, where Arsenal have scored in each of their last 23 league games, but the Gunners have kept just one clean sheet in their last seven.

HISTORY SAYS...

Arsenal have faced Wolves 10 times in the Premier League, breezing to consecutive victories in their first six matches against them in the competition.

Since then, however, they have won just one of their last four (D2, L1) and they failed to win either of their clashes with Nuno's newly promoted side in 2018-19.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan rescued a point for the Gunners in this fixture last season, scoring an 86th-minute equaliser in a 1-1 draw, and Wolves were 3-1 winners when the sides met at Molineux in April.

That victory ended a run of 16 league games without victory against the Gunners and another win on Saturday would see Wolves recording consecutive top-flight wins against them for the first time since September 1979 (a run of three).

Arsenal head coach Unai Emery praised Mesut Ozil for his performance in the club's remarkable EFL Cup penalty shoot-out loss to Liverpool.

Fans were treated to a goalfest at Anfield, where Liverpool and Arsenal played out a 5-5 draw before the home side advanced to the quarter-finals after prevailing 5-4 on penalties.

Arsenal twice squandered the lead on Wednesday as out-of-favour playmaker Ozil was named in the starting XI and impressed for the Gunners on Merseyside.

Ozil's display was highlighted by a nonchalant backheel flick from the byline for Ainsley Maitland-Niles to put Arsenal 4-2 ahead before Liverpool's comeback.

"I think he played very well," Emery told reporters. "Tonight, you've seen he is a skilful player in the team and he was very positive every time and I think he played a very good match.

"We spoke before the match, and we made the decision in the second half to take him off because he hasn't played for a little while and we want to keep his fitness as he was very tired but for him it was great to play 60/65 minutes."

"I think in that moment it is good to make that decision as we were calm and he did the work very well and we decided it was better to rest him," he added.

Asked if he will be included again in the future, Emery – who is unsure when captain Granit Xhaka will return after his absence following his confrontation with supporters – replied: "Yes he will feature. We have a match on Saturday and we will look at the possibility to use him again alongside other players and this is the way sometimes."

On the game itself, Emery said: "It was a crazy match. I think it was amazing for the supporters, for us and everybody. For the football, I think as a supporter I enjoyed it.

"The play in the first half had a high rhythm. It was a very good performance in general, we can also speak about the defensive moments tactically but in attack, five goals. But we can't be 100 per cent happy even if we had won.

"Sometimes I think in these matches, it can help the supporters being happy with the energy, with the spirit from both teams. We were very close to the win and they equalised late on and penalties are 50/50. We are disappointed in the end, defensively because we conceded five goals but there were a lot of positives for us to use for the future."

Mesut Ozil's nonchalant backheel flick from the byline for Ainsley Maitland-Niles was legitimately the most efficient way to let his team-mate put Arsenal 4-2 up.

His nonchalant lean on the advertising hoarding as a gaggle of Gunners fans leapt towards him in celebration was simply the best thing he could possibly have done.

After five weeks on the outside looking in, a playmaker of rare talent was back on the field enjoying himself. It was wonderful to see.

Wednesday's riotously berserk 5-5 EFL Cup draw preceding a penalty shoot-out defeat to Liverpool was Ozil's third appearance of the season in all competitions and a first since a 5-0 win at Nottingham Forest in the previous round.

Since then, there's been an error-strewn draw at Manchester United, a comfortable win and breathless comeback in the Europa League, an unconvincing victory over Bournemouth, a troubling defeat at Sheffield United and then Sunday's 2-2 draw at home to Crystal Palace – a 2-0 lead surrendered in a pit of mutual seething featuring Granit Xhaka and the Emirates Stadium faithful.

What Ozil has made of that from his vantage point in the stands is anyone's guess, although the clanging Shkodran Mustafi own goal that gave Liverpool an early lead probably wasn't a complete surprise.

Tricks and treats in Halloween week

Ozil simply went about his business of smooth, effortless playmaking, cajoling Arsenal on to the front foot in a contest where ample changes made to each side meant entertainment leapt into the void left by any semblance of solid team structure.

The former Germany international looked to have the slowest pulse inside Anfield when he knocked a pass to the byline for Maitland-Niles and then recycled possession to Bukayo Saka for Lucas Torreira's equaliser. Coolness, calmness and an Arsenal goal crafted intelligently from open play. Remember those?

He played a part in Gabriel Martinelli's first before a seventh goal in as many Gunners outings for the 18-year-old came after a move where Ozil's reverse lay-off qualified as both a trick and a delectable treat this Halloween week.

"We've got Ozil! Mesut Ozil! I just don't think you understand," the Arsenal fans in the Anfield Road End boomed. Perhaps it was a song directed towards their head coach. Unai, you're allowed to pick this guy, you know.

After Martinelli's brace, Ozil gave away a dubious penalty for James Milner to reduce the arrears. Maybe he shouldn't track back after all.

No sooner had Arsenal re-established their two-goal lead did it vanish into the crisp Merseyside night. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain slammed home a violent long-range effort home against his former club and Emiliano Martinez could only push a firm hit from Divock Origi into his net.

Heroes, villains and different trajectories

Even when Arsenal are inspired by sparkling individual displays, they remain as robust as a hollowed-out pumpkin. When Liverpool are much-changed and disjoined, this Jurgen Klopp-inspired collective will still pull things out of the fire.

That is the respective lot of these clubs right now and one set by mis-management and shrewd management over a number of years. Joe Willock remarkably scoring the best goal of the 10, Origi's last equaliser and Liverpool's eventual penalty shootout triumph all exist in that context.

Nevertheless, this Wednesday evening offered a reminder that the best football Arsenal – or any team for that matter – produce tends to come a safe distance away from hatred and bile.

This is a squad increasingly split into midweek cup heroes and weekend Premier League villains. The fact Ozil has been in both camps fairly recently underlines the folly of that distinction.

We know that over the past 16 months Ozil has retired from international football citing "racism and disrespect" and been the victim of an attempted carjacking. It is hard to contemplate the toll such events must take on a person. On a human level, it felt satisfying to see him soak up Wednesday's adoration from the travelling supporters.

Xhaka and Mustafi's on-field errors do not come with similar mitigation. But it is tempting to wonder whether sections of an Arsenal fanbase taken on a ride of risible ticket prices and false dawns since moving to their current home are misdirecting their anger.

Ozil's satisfaction on the hoarding showed a little love and kindness can always make more meaningful noise than the latest hot take.

Arsenal twice squandered the lead as they were dumped out of the EFL Cup by Liverpool on penalties after a remarkable 5-5 draw at Anfield.

Under-pressure Gunners boss Unai Emery needed a positive result to lift the gloom around Arsenal after they let slip a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Crystal Palace, but Jurgen Klopp's irrepressible young Reds prevailed.

Shkodran Mustafi's own goal and James Milner's penalty bookended a Lucas Torreira strike and Gabriel Martinelli's double in a first half characterised by defensive errors and gung-ho attacking.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles extended Arsenal's 3-2 interval lead before strikes from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Divock Origi levelled the contest, only for Joe Willock to put Arsenal back in front with a wonderful solo effort 20 minutes from time.

But Origi penetrated Arsenal's porous defence again to take the game to penalties, and Dani Ceballos had his spot-kick saved as Liverpool clinched a place in the quarter-finals at the expense of their beleaguered visitors.

Granit Xhaka is absent from Arsenal's squad to face Liverpool in the EFL Cup on Wednesday following his confrontation with supporters on Sunday, but Mesut Ozil returns to the team and Harvey Elliott is set to make history for the Reds.

Xhaka was withdrawn during the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace and was widely jeered by the home support as he made his way off the pitch, sparking a reaction from the midfielder.

The Gunners captain sarcastically encouraged the boos, appeared to yell an expletive at the crowd and then angrily removed his jersey on his way down the tunnel.

Coach Unai Emery said the much-maligned Swiss midfielder was "wrong" but has not confirmed whether Xhaka will remain as captain or not. Hector Bellerin will wear the armband in his absence on Wednesday night.

Emery has taken the opportunity to rotate his squad, handing rare starts to Ozil and Lucas Torreira.

For the hosts, Elliott will become the youngest ever player to feature for Liverpool at Anfield after being named in the starting XI at 16 years and 209 days old.

The winger – who became the Premier League's youngest ever player last season with Fulham – featured prominently in pre-season and regularly trained with the Reds' first team.

He made his competitive Liverpool debut in a 2-0 win over MK Dons in the previous round of the competition, playing the full 90 minutes.

As was the case on that occasion, Elliott is part of a youthful starting XI, with the England youth international joined by Rhian Brewster, Neco Williams, Sepp van den Berg and Caoimhin Kelleher, while Yasser Larouci, Curtis Jones, Pedro Chirivella, Billy Koumetio and Leighton Clarkson are all on the bench.

Mesut Ozil could go from being an Arsenal first-team outcast to captain of the side that takes on Premier League leaders Liverpool on Wednesday.

Manager Unai Emery revealed German midfielder Ozil is in contention to lead out the Gunners for the EFL Cup match at Anfield after crunch talks to determine his commitment.

The 31-year-old has made just two appearances this season, starting the Premier League draw at Watford and the EFL Cup win against Nottingham Forest in September.

Ozil has been linked with a move away from Emirates Stadium; however, he is reportedly the highest-earning player at the club, and cannot join another club until January.

Talks between manager and player on Tuesday appear to have been fruitful, according to Emery.

"He's in the group so he has a chance to play," said Emery. "We have had this morning a very good conversation, Mesut and me, and I said to him I haven't changed my idea about him.

"He knows what I want from him because it's the same as last season in the first day of pre-season training when we had a conversation. It's the same as one month ago and in that way, some circumstances weren't helping us in every moment to be consistent or available to play.

"But I will say I think the last weeks he has progressively been training well and adding his spirit to help us.

"For example, our conversation this morning was because I wanted to listen to him about how he's thinking now to help us and be with us tomorrow. Then if we are in the same spirit and the same idea, to play. It was a very good conversation and tomorrow he’s in the group."

Asked whether Ozil could be the captain of the team to take on Jurgen Klopp's Reds, given Granit Xhaka will be rested, Emery said: "It depends. He could be, yes."

Emery explained: "We need his quality, his skill and his consistency. We need his positive mentality and then he will help us on the pitch. That's the next step. I think he's done the steps before, and now I want the steps like in pre-season and one month ago to help us on the pitch."

Emmanuel Petit has joined the chorus of former players calling for Granit Xhaka to be stripped of the Arsenal captaincy.

Xhaka, 27, inflamed a fractious relationship with fans when he reacted angrily to being booed during Sunday's 2-2 Premier League draw with Crystal Palace at Emirates Stadium.

The midfielder raised his arms, cupped an ear, took off his shirt and appeared to swear at home supporters who jeered him off the pitch in the second half.

Gunners great Ian Wright instructed Xhaka to apologise, while long-serving former defender Nigel Winterburn is among those who have advised manager Unai Emery to take away the armband, a move Petit agrees must be made.

"For me, he can't be the Arsenal captain any longer. It's impossible," the former France international wrote in a column for Paddy Power.

"What he did was unacceptable. What he did on the pitch is one thing – I've made it clear that I don't know what he adds to the team – but what Xhaka did as he left the pitch is totally different. You can't do that, it's like betrayal in England.

"I played with guys like Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira – real leaders, big captains – and they showed the personality and character of what it means to be Arsenal captain, whatever happened on the pitch.

"Adams and Vieira always respected the fans. I don't think Xhaka understands what it means to be a supporter in England. He doesn't know the love those people have for the club and the players, they always support you."

That was not the case against Palace, with Petit claiming the "anger" directed at Xhaka was a sign Arsenal supporters no longer want him at the club.

The 1998 World Cup winner and former Arsenal midfield maestro believes some of the blame for the breakdown in relations must also be apportioned to head coach Emery.

Petit said: "He knows Xhaka has been getting criticised for weeks, so what message does it send substituting this player, his captain, after an hour?

"If you remember, the same thing happened against Sheffield United, again when they needed to chase the win.

"Clearly, doing that two league games in a row tells the world that you don't think your captain is at the right level to play."

Hector Bellerin has called for unity at Arsenal in the wake of Sunday's confrontation between Granit Xhaka and Gunners fans during the draw with Crystal Palace.

Unai Emery's side surrendered a 2-0 lead to tie 2-2 with Palace at Emirates Stadium to fall four points adrift of the Premier League top four.

The match was controversial due to the use of VAR to award the visitors a penalty after Wilfried Zaha had initially been booked for diving, and then to disallow a potential late winner from Sokratis Papastathopoulos.

It was Xhaka's substitution that proved to be the main talking point, though, with the Arsenal captain withdrawn 61 minutes in to ironic cheers and then boos from sections of the home fans.

Xhaka responded by appearing to mockingly encourage the supporters to boo more loudly before pulling his shirt off as he reached the dugout, having sworn while making his way from the pitch.

The Switzerland international was deeply upset by the incident, according to a report in The Athletic, while head coach Emery said the club will consider taking action after describing his player's actions as "wrong".

Bellerin has since issued something of a rallying cry by calling for Arsenal fans on social media to show some understanding towards Xhaka and get behind the team.

"We are all humans, we all have emotions, and sometimes it's not easy dealing with them," he wrote. "It's time to lift each other up, not to push each other away. We only win when we are together."

Aside from the Xhaka controversy, the match placed Emery's position under further scrutiny, with the Gunners having won only two of their past eight league matches.

They head to Liverpool in the EFL Cup on Wednesday before hosting Wolves in their next league fixture on Saturday.

Arsenal hero Ian Wright has told Granit Xhaka to apologise after the Gunners captain lost his cool with home fans in the draw against Crystal Palace.

Wright, the club's former striker, said Xhaka had no right to react as he did when substituted during the London derby that finished 2-2 at Emirates Stadium.

Xhaka cupped an ear to the jeering crowd and appeared to swear towards Arsenal supporters before taking off his shirt and storming down the tunnel.

They had been baying for him as he slowly made his way off the pitch, with Xhaka's performances rarely meeting the high standards of previous Arsenal captains.

But Wright insisted the behaviour was inexcusable, saying on Match of the Day 2: "He should apologise. That's the captain. He should have apologised already.

"[If he apologises] it's not a case of that's the end of it, but that's the guy they've chosen as the captain and that's not captain's behaviour.

"Arsenal fans have showed a lot of patience with him and the performances he's put in. He owes them a lot more than acting like that."

Wright questioned whether Xhaka's confidence might have gone because of flak from supporters and suggested he was reluctant to show for the ball.

"Players getting booed is not the best at the best of times," Wright said.

"I think they're frustrated with the fact he's not run off the pitch. I've seen him substituted before and he's bolted off the pitch.

"This time he's walked off. Now he's goading them.

"We're talking about fans that have watched him play, in the four years he's been there, a handful of good games and he's treating the fans like that."

Trouble could be brewing at Arsenal, with the 27-year-old Swiss set to have talks with head coach Unai Emery about his behaviour.

The Instagram account of striker Alexandre Lacazette also liked a post from a widely followed Arsenal supporter who said "enough is enough" for Emery and that Xhaka should never play for the club again.

Wright stressed that regardless of the fans' views and the way they might express them, Xhaka was out of order with his response during Sunday's game.

"He's the captain, so he's got the responsibility of being able to take that on board because he's been voted as the captain," Wright said.

"You can't go like that. The amount of stick that someone like Mesut Ozil's got, I can understand if Mesut Ozil came off and threw his shirt down, but [Xhaka] is the captain; the manager's got faith in him."

Unai Emery says Granit Xhaka was wrong to react to Arsenal supporters' boos in the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace on Sunday.

The Gunners captain cupped his ears to the fans who appeared to ironically cheer him as he was substituted on the hour mark, before removing his shirt and walking straight down the tunnel.

Arsenal had earlier thrown away a two-goal lead given to them by Sokratis Papastathopoulos and David Luiz, with Luka Milivojevic and Jordan Ayew ensuring a point for Palace.

Speaking about Xhaka's reaction, Emery told BBC's Match of the Day: "He's wrong. He's wrong, but we are going to speak inside about that situation. I want first to listen to him and to be calm but, really, he was wrong in this action."

He later told a media conference: "We are here because we have supporters. We work for them and need to have respect for them when they are applauding us and criticising us."

When asked if Xhaka will remain as captain, Emery said: "Now is not the time to talk about that."

Sokratis thought he had snatched all three points for the Gunners when he slammed home with six minutes remaining, but a VAR review deemed Calum Chambers had committed a foul in the build-up.

Emery was not happy with the decision and feels his side were hard done by.

"For me there is no confusion; it is not a good decision," he said. "We deserved to win. We had a good reaction after they equalised. We scored but then they didn't count it.

"We didn't concede many chances apart from the penalty. Our reaction was very good. The supporters tried to help us in the last minutes to score the third goal and win the match but it didn't happen."

Unai Emery was left frustrated after he was pressed over Mesut Ozil's future at Arsenal following his decision to leave the playmaker out against Vitoria SC.

Ozil has featured just twice for the Gunners this term, starting against Watford and Nottingham Forest in the Premier League and EFL Cup respectively.

However, the 31-year-old is yet to be named in a Europa League match squad as Emery continues to omit him from the first-team picture.

But when asked to comment on Ozil's future following Arsenal's fortunate 3-2 victory over Vitoria on Thursday, Emery swiftly rebuffed the questions.

"I think tonight is not the time to speak about that," Emery told a news conference.

"I prefer to speak about the match and about the players that played.

"He wasn't in the squad and that was the decision and we will now work for Sunday [against Crystal Palace]."

One player who did come on to make an impact at Emirates Stadium was Nicolas Pepe, whose late double secured the points in dramatic fashion, and Emery believes Arsenal will soon be seeing the best of their club-record signing, who has been slow to adapt to English football.

"Usually every new player needs time to adapt and Pepe is a very good player, we believe in him totally," Emery affirmed.

"Also what he's doing sometimes feels better, sometimes more difficult depending on the opposition. But he's improving, tonight that's two goals which are very important for us and for him.

"He's continuing his adaptation process and the quicker he does that, the better it is for us. We are very happy for him because those two goals were perfect.

"He was trying a lot of set pieces on the training ground this week and I was expecting him to shoot because I was positive about having a situation like that.

"I think the most important thing is three points and how some individuals can improve and become more confident."

Arsenal's victory leaves them top of Group F with maximum points from three games played, while the Gunners sit fifth in the Premier League following their defeat to Sheffield United on Monday.

Nicolas Pepe salvaged a fortuitous Europa League win for Arsenal as Unai Emery's side twice came from behind to overcome Vitoria SC 3-2.

Heading into Thursday's Group F meeting on the back of six successive home wins in European competition, Arsenal were well below par on Thursday, but substitute Pepe stepped up with a late double.

The result was far more than Arsenal were worth, with Vitoria - who took the lead through ex-Tottenham youngster Marcus Edwards early on - having crafted some excellent opportunities.

Gabriel Martinelli's equaliser had brightened Arsenal's prospects midway through the first half, though the Brazilian's header was swiftly cancelled out by Bruno Duarte.

But it was the much-maligned Pepe who had the final say with two devastating free-kicks - his second a spectacular effort in stoppage time which clinched the points.

Unai Emery has revealed Arsenal tried to sign Fabinho before his transfer to Liverpool in 2018.

Brazil international Fabinho moved from Monaco to Anfield before the start of last season for a fee reportedly rising to more than £40million.

The defensive midfielder did not start a Premier League fixture until close to November but has now become an important member of Jurgen Klopp's starting XI.

Emery, who also chased Fabinho while in charge of Paris Saint-Germain, believes that level of patience is required for Arsenal's record signing Nicolas Pepe.

The 24-year-old Ivory Coast winger has scored once in his first 11 competitive appearances for the Gunners and squandered a crucial first-half chance in Monday's 1-0 defeat at Sheffield United.

"Pepe needs time to adapt to the Premier League," Emery said ahead of his side's Europa League match against Vitoria Guimaraes.

"For example, in France, I loved a lot Fabinho. He was in Monaco and I wanted to sign him for PSG. When I arrived here, also his name was on the table to achieve to sign him, but he signed for Liverpool.

"The first six months he didn't play, it was adaptation, but now he is amazing and I want the same with [Dani] Ceballos, with Pepe.

"We need patience, but Pepe is improving. On Monday, the key to win was with him. If he scores the first goal, it's different.

"But it's one process and I believe in him and I know we need time and patience. The supporters have patience, some more than others. But I know we are convinced."

Arsenal are fifth in the Premier League and top of their Europa League group going into Thursday's home game.

Unai Emery has acknowledged fan criticism but insists the characterisation of Arsenal as tentative and unadventurous is inaccurate.

The Gunners lost 1-0 at Sheffield United on Monday, squandering a chance to go third in the Premier League.

The defeat followed an uninspiring and nervy 1-0 win over Bournemouth before the international break.

Despite spending a club-record sum on Nicolas Pepe in the close season, Arsenal have scored the fewest goals of all bar one team - Crystal Palace - in the Premier League's top seven.

Thursday's home meeting with Europa League opponents Vitoria Guimaraes presents a chance for a heavily scrutinised squad to find fluency and ease the pressure on their head coach.

"In my career, it's normal to have criticism of our work in the difficult moments, of my job, our team, the players," Emery said.

"On one hand, we have the supporters and their opinion, and we need to accept that. My focus is improving in the next match, seeing how we can improve on things.

"Also, it's how we can, little by little, get ahead, doing our steps in that way, progressing and achieving our immediate target. That's winning tomorrow [Thursday].

"We are at the beginning of this season and we have won two matches playing very well in this competition, with very good results.

"We lost a very big opportunity in the Premier League on Monday to be third in the table. We are now fifth, so we have another chance on Sunday [at home to Palace].

"We know we can improve and we need to improve, so we have to get better in our way.

"The most important thing is the team and the club, also that our objective is clear. We are at the beginning and I am very confident.

"I have belief in the players, in our work, the club's strategy, in every player and in our way with our job."

Rob Holding joined Emery at the pre-match news conference, a sign he is set to return to the starting XI after watching from the bench at Bramall Lane alongside Kieran Tierney.

Hector Bellerin was missing from the matchday squad entirely, but Emery shifted the focus away from individuals as he stressed a commitment to developing an attacking Arsenal.

"I don't want to achieve the best performance only with one system or with the same four players," he said.

"In the Europa League we are using different players and they are also improving our defensive moment. It's for all the players.

"Above all, I want to continue to be an offensive team, but improve defensively. Our mentality is to be offensive. I am going to get that balance little by little."

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