Exclusive Granit Xhaka: Arsenal midfielder on captaincy, Mikel Arteta and his Champions League ambition | Soccer News

When Mikel Arteta took over at Arsenal, he promised a revolution. Given Granit Xhaka’s history at the club, few would have predicted it would be the Swiss international at the forefront.

Xhaka has been a key member of the Arsenal squad since arriving from Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2016, but has proven to be divisive among fans, some of whom have criticized his performance and disciplinary record in the north of London.

The low point in the relationship came in October 2019 against Crystal Palace when Xhaka – captain at the time – appeared to swear at the Emirates crowd when he was booed after being substituted mid-game.

The 29-year-old lost the captaincy after the incident and he admitted he was close to leaving Arsenal, but Arteta convinced him to stay, and it was a decision that paid off , Xhaka enjoying something of a renaissance as the Gunners. push to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

The midfielder has brought influence and authority to Arsenal this season and has even spoken of another chance to captain the club one day, despite the armband being rejected when handed to him by the replacing Eddie Nketiah at the end of Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Brentford. February.

Sunday, May 1, 4:00 p.m.

Could Xhaka become Arsenal captain again? ‘Never say never’

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The Football Show panel discuss Granit Xhaka’s refusal to take the captain’s armband after Alexandre Lacazette’s exit in Arsenal’s win over Brentford.

“I would never say never,” he told Sky Sports when asked about the Arsenal captaincy. “I wasn’t ready for that yet.

“An Arsenal captain can be without an armband and I try to run the game and the players without an armband, but if tomorrow someone from the football club comes and asks me if I want to take it, I’ll be there because I know I’m ready to do it again.”

If that were to happen, it would be one of the great sports comeback stories.

Sitting talking to Xhaka now, it’s hard to believe he’s the same player who stormed down the tunnel that day against Palace.

His career at the north London club ended – he admits the suitcases were full – with Roma his likely destination.

Xhaka is not the same player now because he is not the same man. It wasn’t easy, but he arrived at a very different destination. In an interview for The Player’s Tribunehe opened up about the levels of hate he endured – it was a tough exercise but he feels precious and worthy.

Xhaka on a fan incident: “It was absolutely hateful”

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In 2019, Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka reacted angrily after being booed by his own supporters during their Premier League game against Crystal Palace.

He said: “After it happened people were telling me it wasn’t hate, but to me it was absolutely hate. I know what hate is and I know what what is love and what’s in between, it wasn’t in between, it wasn’t love, it was hate.

“I had very positive feedback from fans and social networks and I was very proud of myself. There are not many players talking about it, being very open, they are afraid for the future.

“For me it was the perfect time. You still have people saying you won’t change our opinion but it’s okay, the most important thing is how I feel and that’s fine.”

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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says midfielder Granit Xhaka has been through a lot after his difficult times at the club.

What was also given to him was an opportunity from the people at Arsenal, who supported him and helped him understand that having a few bumps in the journey is not a bad thing.

He added: “It’s not a fact of life that everything moves in a straight line, sometimes you have to take a different path take the second or third door to get back to where you know you want to be and that is my story in this football club.

“Getting crushed but being back, it all depends on the mentality, the confidence you have in yourself, the confidence of the people around you.”

Xhaka on Arteta: ‘I was missing a coach like this’

Xhaka says Arsenal players believe in Mikel Arteta's philosophy
Xhaka says Arsenal players believe in Mikel Arteta’s philosophy

Arteta convinced his midfielder to stay and the faith and belief he showed the player saw him flourish.

When Xhaka scored his brilliant strike in the 3-1 win over Manchester United last weekend, his manager was full of praise.

Arteta said: “If every fan or individual spent five, 10 minutes with Granit – even two minutes – they would understand the person he is, the professional he is and how much he cares for the club.”

There is definitely a special connection between the two. Xhaka said: “Mekel and I are very close. When he came two years ago, he told me exactly what I wanted to hear. I was missing a coach like him, very warm and open with clear ideas. and he’s always behind me no matter what people said about me.”

It gave him the confidence to speak up, make mistakes but work hard to improve.

“I’m not like that at the weekend but day to day. I’m 29 but I want to improve. I’m always hungry to achieve something and I want to give something back to Mikel because he was always the guy who supported me.”

Xhaka on Arsenal’s Champions League push: ‘I want to play against the best’

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Arsenal’s win over Manchester United.

That payback undoubtedly comes in the form of Champions League football.

The Gunners have recovered from three straight defeats to Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton to beat Chelsea and Man Utd, and they now sit in fourth place, two points ahead of north London rivals Spurs, with five games to play. starting with West Ham on Super Sunday. .

“I want to play against the best and succeed too,” Xhaka said.

Three weeks ago, after Arsenal’s third consecutive defeat – a 1-0 loss to Southampton – that prospect looked bleak, but the club’s form has improved greatly and Xhaka has been at the heart of it.

“The key is to be together and keep the faith. It’s always easier if you win to stay together, but the hardest time is when you lose. You have to stay strong with each other.

“I’m very proud of myself, we feel very good as a team. There’s a lot of respect, we laugh together, we’re sad and disappointed together – that’s part of our job – but in general we’re very happy. We We have done a great job so far because we are in a very good position and everything is in our hands.”

‘The West Ham game is key’

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Xhaka wants to measure up to the best in the Champions League

The next challenge for Arteta’s side is West Ham, who, despite making six changes against Chelsea in preparation for their Europa League semi-final, have brought the team closer to Thomas Tuchel.

“For me, this is the key game, we can’t watch the next four,” Xhaka said.

“It’s the game that determines whether we can get there or not. We have to be ready for a big fight, they’ll be tough, compact and have players who can change the game.”

One of those remaining fixtures is the North London Derby against Tottenham, which is also live on Sky Sports, and the mention of it makes Xhaka smile.

“I can’t remember a game that will be that important. I don’t think that far ahead but hopefully by the time we get there we will have enough points to play for free.”

That tells you a lot about the mentality of this Arsenal side heading into the break-in. I ask Xhaka to sum up Arsenal’s season in three words. he said, “Good, bad and let’s see the last part, hopefully positive.”

A fitting summary and you could use the same three to describe the player’s journey at Arsenal.

Watch West Ham vs Arsenal live on Sky Sports Premier League from 4pm on Sunday; kick off 4:30 p.m.

Essential Football Podcast – Mikel Arteta special: Arsenal’s transfer plans, why they can’t copy Liverpool’s route to the top and how his Gunners project is taking shape

In the latest episode of the Essential Football podcast, sky sports Screenwriter Nick Wright sits down with Mikel Arteta for an exclusive interview at Arsenal’s London Colney training facility.

Ahead of the Gunners’ crucial Premier League clash with West Ham – who’s live sky sports Sunday – Arsenal boss explains how his side have coped after injuries to Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey, the club’s summer transfer plans, why they can’t copy Liverpool’s route to the top and how his project Arsenal is growing.

In part 2, Nick is then joined by sky sports senior football journalist Oliver Yew to discuss the interview and all things Arsenal ahead of a pivotal few weeks for the club as they bid to return to the Champions League.

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