Neil Humphreys: Swearing Granit Xhaka sums up the Arsenal shambles
Erratic swearing scapegoat represents all that is wrong at Arsenal
Granit Xhaka has turned into the heckled comedian who won't leave the stage without a fight.
The Arsenal skipper seems to be on a selfless - and almost certainly self-destructive - mission to take a bullet for Unai Emery.
Had the Gunners manager not been blessed with the human shield of Xhaka, then he might have been fired already.
Had Emery been assessed on just about anything vaguely relating to football matters, he might have been fired already.
But he endures.
The Arsenal circus rolls on, from one maddening fixture to another, as the clown with the captain's armband continues to draw attention away through sleight of hand or, in this case, through some hilariously tactless swear words.
Xhaka told the crowd where to go. He used the f-word, the one never uttered to fans. Not "fourth", as in fourth place, that's still an unspoken fairy tale at Arsenal. He went for the other one.
The Swiss midfielder, cursed with the knack of misreading the mood of most football situations, swore at hecklers like a jittery comedian bombing on stage.
Ian Wright, the go-to pundit for all controversial matters pertaining to his beloved Gunners, has demanded an apology from Xhaka.
After three years of inconsistency, Xhaka should be thankful for the supporters' patience, according to Wright, instead of swearing at them for a smattering of boos when he was substituted against Crystal Palace.
For Wright, Xhaka's petulance was unbecoming of an Arsenal footballer, which is where the retired striker has misread the mood of his old club.
Xhaka is Arsenal right now.
When he bleeds for the club, he bleeds the red of Arsenal.
OK, Xhaka has rarely stretched enough sinewy muscle to suggest he's about to bleed for anything, but the skipper is in step with his side's rhythm.
There isn't any. Club and captain are a mirror image of each other.
In the first half, Xhaka took control and provided an assist for one of Arsenal's goals. In the second half, the inspired gave way to the impostor.
Xhaka played like a confused droid whose memory had been erased at half-time. He'd forgotten his skills from the first half. He'd forgotten how to play.
His teammates followed suit, allowing Crystal Palace to snatch a 2-2 draw that seemed inconceivable when the Gunners scored twice in the opening 10 minutes.
At 27, Xhaka should be closing in on his peak, or at least capable of emulating the cerebral, creative force that he often is for Switzerland.
His left foot can dazzle opponents. He can deliver creatively. Like Arsenal. He's technically gifted. Like Arsenal. He produces moments of brilliance. Like Arsenal.
And then he hibernates. Like Arsenal.
Fairly or not, Xhaka has come to represent the exasperating, mercurial fortunes of Emery's Gunners, a divisive figurehead for too many divisive performances.
His artistry can be matched, and even surpassed, by his gift for anonymity.
On paper, he's a world-beater. On the pitch, he's a wearying enigma, the perfect poster boy for a wearying club.
Perhaps the Arsenal faithful think of the absent Mesut Oezil and imagine what they could be. When they see Xhaka, they are reminded of what they are.
The skipper has suffered the indignity of being substituted in consecutive EPL games, a rarity among captains. The supporters have jeered his efforts on three occasions now (Palace, Sheffield United and Aston Villa), an unusual occurrence.
And he turned on his own fans, mocking them, swearing at them and throwing his jersey in a tantrum that was more in keeping with the Kardashians than the club captain.
But his petulance was warranted in one aspect. He's become a scapegoat for failings above his pay grade.
Emery's masterplan is still a muddle.
Arsenal's defence seldom keep a clean sheet - they've managed only two in 10 EPL games this season - and David Luiz remains an accident wrapped in an afro whenever a cross comes in. He lost Jordan Ayew, allowing Palace to equalise.
Calum Chambers laboured along the right. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was isolated on the same flank and Emery offered no alternative to his rigid 4-4-2 once Palace drew level with 40 minutes still to play.
Xhaka lost his way, but so did his teammates. So did Emery. Their collective intensity evaporated. No solutions were offered, a common theme this season.
Xhaka hasn't taken kindly to his scapegoat status, but his manager must be secretly relieved. The captain is taking the flak for his troubled coach. For now. It's hardly a long-term strategy for self-preservation.
Once the booing reaches the dugout, Emery will know that the sack is coming.
In fact, Xhaka will probably swear on it.