Has revitalised Xhaka turned Arsenal corner?
Gunners boss praises Swiss international who was booed by his own fans earlier in season
24 January, 2020 — By Steve Barnett
MIKEL Arteta heaped praise on the “great” Granit Xhaka this week, insisting that the player, booed by his own fans earlier this season, can go on to be a vital part of Arsenal’s future.
Xhaka was lauded for his display in the 2-2 draw against Chelsea on Tuesday after filling in at the heart of the Gunners’ defence following the dismissal of David Luiz.
Away supporters cheered the midfielder and his team-mates off the pitch following the battling display at Stamford Bridge. The reaction was a far cry from the scenes seen back in October when Xhaka was stripped of the captaincy after reacting angrily to being booed by Arsenal fans when he was substituted in the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace.
In the aftermath of that incident, Xhaka looked to be heading for the exit door at the Emirates, with his agent claiming that he had agreed terms with Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin.
However, when Arteta took over as the new Arsenal head coach last month one of his first acts was to hold “positive talks” with the 27-year-old, in which he says he convinced the Swiss international to stay.
“From day one, I spoke with him. Obviously his mind was a little bit varied after a lot of things that happened to him in his life and his family,” revealed Arteta.
“I tried to convince him that it was the right place for him to play. I wanted to try to give him the chance to try to enjoy playing football again.
“Everything I ask him to do, in every training session, he’s positive and is willing to do it.
“Against Chelsea, I knew the moment I put him at centre-back, although I didn’t know how well he was going to do, I knew that he was going to put everything in. He was great.”
Arteta also made it clear that he won’t let his players get carried away by one good performance against their London rivals.
He added: “I hope they say, ‘OK from here we move to a different level’ and that they won’t say ‘we’ve done it at Chelsea, now we will go somewhere else and it will be easy’.
“I will not let them think that.”