Granit Xhaka was set to leave Arsenal after furious clash with fans but Mikel Arteta’s intervention has led to midfielder become the Gooners’ darling

    Granit Xhaka being serenaded by his adoring fans after Arsenal’s win over Brentford shows football is the funniest of old games.

    That’s not to say he doesn’t deserve this adulation, Xhaka has made an excellent start to what’s proving to be a very exciting season for the team with their latest outing seeing them dispatch Brentford.

    The high-flying Gunners are top of the Premier League with 18 points from a possible 21

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    The high-flying Gunners are top of the Premier League with 18 points from a possible 21

    And Xhaka is having a particularly good time of it

    AFP

    And Xhaka is having a particularly good time of it

    But just shy of three years ago Xhaka appeared to be finished as an Arsenal player with his already fractious relationship with the fans hitting an all-time low in October 2019.

    The Switzerland midfielder was frequently the scapegoat when Arsenal put in a bad performance, which became an all-too regular occurrence for the Gooners’ liking in recent years.

    And then during Arsenal’s 2-2 draw at home to Crystal Palace tempers frayed at Xhaka being substituted just after the hour was met with roars of delight from the Emirates Stadium crowd.

    Xhaka responded by waving and cupping his ear sarcastically at the angry supporters as he slowly walked off before exchanging words with any Arsenal fan in earshot.

    He lost the captaincy a few days later and it seemed inevitable that Xhaka would find a new club at the earliest opportunity.

    The player admitted his ‘suitcases were packed’ until manager Mikel Arteta, who had only been Gunners manager a matter of weeks, persuaded him to stay.

    Not even Xhaka saw a way back at Arsenal after this outburst

    Getty – Contributor

    Not even Xhaka saw a way back at Arsenal after this outburst

    And what a good decision it’s proving to be with Xhaka now a player transformed for the better.

    When asked about what had brought about Xhaka’s upturn in form, Arteta said in his post-match press conference: “His consistency.

    “How he goes about every day, how he’s learned through different moments in his career whether they are here or with the national team and his willingness over time to stay humble, look forward and try to get better and when you do that normally good things happen.”

    Arteta added: “I think he feels now that that love and respect goes both ways.

    Many managers would’ve given up on Xhaka but Arteta’s decision to stick by him is now paying off

    Getty

    Many managers would’ve given up on Xhaka but Arteta’s decision to stick by him is now paying off

    “I think you see our supporters the way they were singing to him as well. It makes him emotional, it makes him try to give even more and I’m really pleased for him because in my opinion he fully deserves it.”

    But Arteta deserves huge credit for Xhaka’s renaissance, believes talkSPORT’s Darren Ambrose.

    Ambrose said: “He owes Mikel Arteta a lot, by the way. Arteta doesn’t suffer any fools, we’ve seen that with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

    “If you’re not a good egg he’ll get rid of you so he must be a good egg behind the scenes and we’re led to believe that. We’ve been told by a lot of the players speaking about Xhaka that he’s a good guy in the changing room.

    “He’s had his antics on the pitch, we do know about that and he owes Arteta a lot for just sticking by him and letting him have the chance to win back the supporters, which he’s done.”

    Xhaka captaining Arsenal during their 3-0 win at Brentford was barely noticed, demonstrating how far he’s come over the last three years

    Getty

    Xhaka captaining Arsenal during their 3-0 win at Brentford was barely noticed, demonstrating how far he’s come over the last three years

    But perhaps the biggest reason Arsenal fans have taken Xhaka into their hearts so much is because his rise is just like the journey the team is currently on.

    Former Arsenal striker Kevin Campbell told talkSPORT Breakfast: “When you look at the Arsenal right now you look at the Granit Xhakas of this world, he epitomises what’s happening at this club.

    “He’s gone from an okay player who got sent off a lot of the time to having absolutely outstanding performances.

    “If we’re honest he’s kind of got a supporting cast around him that are good enough so he doesn’t have to worry too much about other things and he can go and progress his game.”

    And who knows where this journey will end for Xhaka and Arsenal. But everyone involved is enjoying the ride so far.

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