Leonita Lekaj, the wife of Granit Xhaka, has revealed her husband’s other side beneath his more aggressive style of play in front of the prying eyes of Arsenal All Or Nothing Camera.
Football is a game of passion; the drive to win, prove a point, and convince impatient fans hungrily yawning for victory do welled-up emotions and trigger certain moves and reactions. Granit Xhaka is not an exception, as his wife, Leonita Lekaj, revealed prime secrets behind the Swiss occasional overbearing attitude and approach to matches. The Arsenal All Or Nothing Camera has turned its lens to behind-the-scenes and dark corners of Granit Xhaka’s world.
Since Joining the Gunners from the German side Borussia Monchengladbach in 2016, Granit Xhaka has been the most controversial Gunners player. His aggressive and combative style of play generated many reactions, with a resultant impact on Arsenal matches and games.
Xhaka is known for his wild and reckless tackles which have earned him an unprecedented 5 straight reds cards since his 6 years spell with the club – the highest number of red cards earned by any player within that period.
In 2020, Xhaka had pulled another on-pitch blister when he grabbed Ashley Westwood of Burnley by the neck after a clash on the pitch. He was immediately red-carded leaving the Gunners with a 10-man squad on the pitch.
Another scenario that attracted criticism from Gooners was Xhaka’s high challenge on Diogo Jota just 24 minutes into the EFL cup semi-final clash with Liverpool which left the referee with no option but to send him off reducing the Gunners again to 10 men in a crucial League Cup encounter.
Against Manchester City, Xhaka has been red-carded four times; a staggering stat for a player of his caliber.
According to the dailymail, Xhaka’s high-handed and aggressive tactics have torn the Arsenal fan base apart. Some Gooners are solidly behind the Swiss, especially when his aggressive play yields positive results for the team. The other side of the divide are concerned with Arsenal fans who are worried that Xhaka’s tactics and style are taking a negative toll on the team. Pressures and criticism have been mounting on the 29-year-old severely. However, Xhaka has remained unmoved by criticisms.
“People say I am very aggressive with my game. There are people who love you and people don’t love you. They will write stuff about you and criticize you. It is hard,” he said.
“This is who I am, I can’t change myself from today and tomorrow. Of course, I need to improve. I know I need to improve.”
On one occasion, he scolded jeering and booing Arsenal fans telling them to shut the “f*** off” when he was substituted in the Gunners’ 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace in 2019. It was this outburst by Xhaka that made him lose the captaincy under former Arsenal manager Unai Emery.
Unlike Unai Emery, Mikel Arteta has demonstrated a different attitude to Xhaka’s excesses. According to the Spaniard, some decisions become inevitable in a game when it’s the last and only option available. Arteta had reportedly gone into the dressing room with the players and pat Xhaka on the back for a superb performance despite being sent off in the Liverpool match.
“When a teammate has to do something in the last line and he gets sent off, that’s when you lift him. And you protect him and the way you have done it today, it was absolutely magnificent, guys. I am so proud of you”, the coach was quoted as saying.
Leonita Lekaj defend her husband Granit Xhaka
Meanwhile, Leonita Lekaj, Xhaka’s wife, has given more insights on the other side of the Swiss midfielder which the Gunners’ fans do not see. According to Leonita, Xhaka rarely sleeps when he loses a game.
“When they have lost a game and he comes home, he’s really upset,” she said.
“I try to speak with him a little bit and tell him the next game’s better. But… he can’t sleep the whole night when they lose.”
Probably, Granit Xhaka loses sleep after a lost game because his fears are magnified about Arsenal fans blaming him for not giving enough to the club. Leonita’s narration of Xhaka’s personal life portrays the Swiss international as a caring and passionate player who gives his best for the club, instead of the purported ill-tempered hothead with an aggressive football style.
Meanwhile, Xhaka had stated that his aggressive and combative football style is a result of his passion for the game and the success of the club. After the Liverpool blunder last season, Xhaka apologized to the Gunners fans. He explained that some decisions become inevitable in the game when one is the last man standing, although he is working to improve on his on-pitch decisions.
Mikel Arteta has also corroborated Leonaita’s narrative. According to Arteta, Arsenal fans may be misunderstanding Xhaka because if they are close to him, they will understand better the kind of player he is; his passion and commitment to the club.
“If every fan or individual spent five, 10 minutes with Granit – even two minutes – they will understand the person he is, the professional that he is, and how much he cares about the club”, the coach said.
Granit had admitted that he wanted to leave the club after his contract with the club expired, but was convinced by Arteta and Edu to stay. The Swiss renewed his contract with the club in August 2021which will keep him at the club till 2024.