Mikel Arteta has paid a glowing tribute to Granit Xhaka, who is on the verge of joining Bayer Leverkusen from Arsenal. The 30-year-old has enjoyed his best ever season at the north London club and played a key role in securing a return to the Champions League after a seven-year absence. Xhaka has been given a new lease of life by his manager who has deployed him in a new attacking role that has yielded seven goals and seven assists in all competitions. Despite the progress he has made and his undoubted worth to one of the youngest squads in the Premier League, Xhaka is keen on a fresh challenge and a return to the Bundesliga where he spent four years earlier in his career with Borussia Monchengladback. The Switzerland international is understood to have held extensive talks with Bayer’s manager Xabi Alonso and personal terms are already agreed with Arsenal ready to accept an offer in the region of £13million.
Xhaka could have the opportunity to pay an emotional farewell to Arsenal’s fans against Wolves at the Emirates next week but Arteta refused to confirm his future would be clarified ahead of that match. ‘The clarity I think is he is a player who has played every minute since I’ve been the manager,’ said Arteta ahead of Saturday’s match against Nottingham Forest. ‘He is an incredibly respected figure at the club. He has a great history around him with what he has achieved at the club in going through very tough moments. He is a key and very important part of us and whatever happens will be something that we discuss certainly not now.’
Reacting to the news that goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale had signed a new long-term deal with Arsenal, Arteta said: ‘We’re all so happy that Aaron has signed a new contract. The way Aaron has developed over the past two years has been exceptional, with his performances, contribution and overall adaptation to the club. It’s great that we’re continuing to build our future with our biggest talents in our young squad. We’re all looking forward to enjoying many more years of Aaron the player and the person at the football club.’