Granit Xhaka is still an important member of Mikel Arteta’s starting lineup, but a summer transfer away from the Emirates is a distinct possibility.
After Granit Xhaka’s score against Manchester United last weekend, Alexandre Lacazette’s face said it all.
While the Switzerland international may be divisive among Arsenal supporters, few players command more respect in the dressing room than the 29-year-old.
And it was evident last Saturday when Lacazette and his teammates swarmed Granit Xhaka in the aftermath of a spectacular strike that secured a decisive 3-1 victory in the Premier League title race.
Mikel Arteta stated of Xhaka’s big moment, “I was dreaming of that because he deserves it.”
“If every fan or individual spent five, ten, or even two minutes with Granit, they would grasp who he is as a person, a professional, and how much he cares about the club.”
In the last five years, he has received five red cards, as well as some major individual errors that have cost his team dearly.
And, of course, there was the memorable moment in October 2019 when his tense relationship with Arsenal fans erupted in a spectacular way when he was substituted by Unai Emery during a home game against Crystal Palace.
Granit Xhaka, who had only been elected captain a month before, removed his shirt and was plainly seen addressing fans at Emirates Stadium to “F*ck off” as he was booed off the pitch.
The midfielder was deprived of his captaincy as a result of the incident, and he has since admitted that his “suitcases were literally by the door” in the aftermath, with a return to Germany all but accepted.
However, Emery’s departure soon after and Arteta’s appointment threw everything into disarray.
In an interview with The Players’ Tribune, Xhaka claimed that “Mikel began to talk about how I was a significant part of his plans.”
“I appreciated his friendliness. He was straightforward and honest. Plans that are well-defined. I had the impression that I could put my trust in him. He advised me to give him six months and then let him know if I still wanted to leave.
“Normally, I take a lot of time to make these decisions, but on that particular day, I disobeyed my own rules.”
“My mind had abandoned Arsenal, but not my heart.” ‘You can’t leave this football club like this,’ my heart was telling me.
As a result, Xhaka remained in north London and became an important member of Arteta’s team.
And now, two years later, he remains a key figure in the new Arsenal that has formed under the Spaniard.
Xhaka has remained at Emirates Stadium despite numerous other senior players being moved on during the dramatic overhaul. He was even given a new deal last summer after a potential move to Roma fell through.
When asked about Xhaka’s relevance, Arteta remarked, “We need some balance in whatever we do.” “This is especially true given the team’s traits and dispositions.
“In terms of the youth and academy players we’re bringing in, as well as the signings we’ve made, Granit was crucial, in my opinion.”
“He was always going to play a crucial leadership role in [assisting us] in achieving our goals.”
During his time in north London, Xhaka’s flaws were exposed. The disciplinary concerns, as well as the blunders that resulted to goals, have been well-publicized.
Despite this, when he has been available, all three managers under whom he has played in north London have continued to utilize him at the heart of their midfield.
Arteta has put his faith in him, giving him 22 Premier League starts this season, and Xhaka has not disappointed, with his latest displays against Chelsea and Manchester United highlighting his influence.
However, there are hints that the Spaniard is finally preparing for life at Arsenal without Xhaka.
He was on the verge of leaving last summer, with only the failure of Arsenal and Roma to agree on a fee keeping him from joining Jose Mourinho in the Italian capital.
However, it would not be surprising if Roma re-signed Xhaka at the end of the season.
Mourinho is a great fan of the midfielder, and Arteta is unlikely to object to a transfer if the Serie A club meets Arsenal’s asking price.
While Arsenal’s manager continues to have complete faith in Xhaka, a little alteration in the formation since the turn of the year has provided a hint as to how he plans to set up his team next season.
And that’s with Thomas Partey in the back of the midfield, with two more advanced players in front of him.
Prior to Partey’s injury, Xhaka had been filling one of those duties, and while he had been doing a good job, it is evident that this is not a long-term position for him.
This could explain why Arsenal is interested in signing Youri Tielemans from Leicester this summer and have retained their interest in Wolves’ Ruben Neves — a player they would have signed last year if Xhaka’s move to Roma had gone through.
While many questioned why Xhaka was given a contract extension after the proposed trade fell through, it helped safeguard his market worth for Arsenal.
So, if a fair offer comes in this summer, this may be the year the midfielder finally calls time on his always-eventful spell in north London.