Four months ago, the toxicity that had surrounded Arsenal came to a head. That was the day that the Gunners squandered a two-goal lead to Crystal Palace and saw former captain Granit Xhaka booed off the pitch by the home crowd.
It appeared that Xhaka might never play for Arsenal again after his angry reaction to the fans’ jeers. His actions led to him being stripped of the captaincy.
Now, Xhaka appears to be thriving under new manager Mikel Arteta.
The fallout from this incident was big news, but many saw Xhaka as the scapegoat for the side’s struggles. In an article he wrote for the Daily Mail, former player Martin Keown laid the blame for the Xhaka situation squarely at the feet of the former manager for having the players vote for team captain.
Following the blow up, Xhaka was left out in the cold for several weeks. At the same time he endured a torrent of online abuse. It was even reported that the player had reached an agreement with Hertha Berlin for a January move away from the Emirates.
The managerial change was the beginning of Xhaka’s reemergence. Right from the start Arteta expressed his admiration for Xhaka and his importance to the team.
The way we want to play, if we get him on board he can be a tremendous player for the football club. It is everything – his commitment, I like the way he is, the way he lives, his professional(ism), and the way he trains.
Xhaka has had time to reflect on the entire episode and recently opened up on how Arteta has helped him regain his passion for the club and restore his reputation.
Regarding the incident versus Crystal Palace, Xhaka said:
I think everyone knows that ten weeks ago I was not enjoying my football. It was not a good time for me and my family and there were moments when I thought I would never play for this club again. This was not about me as a player, this was about the human.
About his relationship with Arsenal fans, Xhaka stated,
“I hope that people can understand the situation and how I was feeling inside. I realize the fans want the players to perform in every game, but they also need to understand that it is not always so easy.”
Regarding his status in the squad, Xhaka said, “I told the club, ‘As long as I am here, I am always ready to give everything’. That has been the key to happiness for me and with the help of Mikel and my team-mates I am enjoying being an Arsenal player again.”
Xhaka is now focused on Arsenal and what the club can achieve, “I don’t want to dwell on the past. I want to look forward and I know we can have a big future with Mikel.”
It seems the fans and Xhaka are now on the same page:
So much love and respect for Granit Xhaka. He is leader and knows what exactly makes or breaks a player.— brighten (@u_bhekani) February 23, 2020