Not many would have expected Granit Xhaka to still be an Arsenal player after what happened in October. His future was up in the air with Hertha Berlin almost certain to get his signature this month. (Blick)
However, it is safe to say now that Xhaka will stay and Mikel Arteta couldn’t have asked for anything better. Xhaka, since his return to the squad, has been almost flawless and has shown why he is our best midfielder.
Arteta’s appointment has seen him play a slightly different role which looks to suit him a lot more than before. Arsenal shifting back to their philosophy of maintaining possession and dominating the game has certainly helped Xhaka’s cause but the biggest difference in his performances is the fans.
After his outburst at home against Palace, a majority of fans didn’t want him to wear the Arsenal shirt again. His apology changed a few people’s minds but many remained against him.
Support makes Xhaka a better player
Not having the fans’ support will impact any player irrespective how good he is. Xhaka used to feel the pressure of the fans every time he touched the ball but things are different now.
Xhaka had a poor first-half against Leeds but the reaction from the fans wasn’t what it used to be. The Swiss international looked a completely different player in the second half which wouldn’t have been the case had the fans turned on him before the break.
The former skipper bossed the second half and was incredibly smart to get himself fouled on multiple occasions to break Leeds’ momentum. His tactical fouls were spaced just about right to avoid a booking which hilariously irked a number of pundits including former Spurs man Danny Murphy.
The massive difference now is that the criticism of the Swiss international is having no effect on fans’ judgement. It almost seems like everyone has seen exactly what Xhaka is capable of. The fans have realised that supporting him will only make him get better which in turn makes Arsenal a better side.
The same kind of support will help maintain Xhaka’s confidence and he will be a force in Arsenal’s midfield. Our transitional play has to go through the Swissman and him making the right decisions will help win us games more often than not.
With his future now secure, Xhaka’s main focus has to be to continue his form. In Arteta, he has someone who fully trusts him and that combined with the fans’ backing, 2020 is going to be Granit Xhaka’s best year is a professional footballer.