Mikel Arteta says he’s been a long-standing fan of Granit Xhaka and believes the Swiss midfielder is an important part of Arsenal’s team.
The 27-year-old has been heavily linked with a January move to Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin but it appears our new head coach is doing his best to persuade the club’s former captain that he still has a bright future at the Emirates.
Xhaka is under contract until 2023 but has been exploring his options ever since he’s public falling out with the Arsenal supporters who jeered him off the pitch during October’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace.
“I told him how much I like him and what I expect from him,” Arteta said of this week’s meeting with Xhaka.
“How important he is for the team. I am here to help him, I want him to feel that we are right behind him. Not just myself but the whole club. If we can get the people in the right way as well, the fans with him, I think it will be helpful for the team, which is where it matters.”
Xhaka joined Arsenal not long after Arteta hung up his boots. The Spaniard has now revealed that when he subsequently moved to the Etihad to become part of Pep Guardiola’s coaching team, the then Borussia Moenchengladbach player was very much on his radar as a potential City recruit.
“When I was going from Arsenal to City to start coaching and we were looking in that position, he was one of the players on my list,” Arteta said.
“This is how much I liked him. I was happy when Arsenal signed him because I thought he was going to be a terrific player.
“He has done some really good things and now he has got stuck in a very difficult situation that, I think, was growing and growing and growing and one day it exploded. But I have been amazed as well by how this relationship is starting to come back a little bit and I think the fans have been very, very positive about him.
“Obviously it is difficult to change completely the scenario from where he was to a magnificent one. But I think we are in the right direction with him.”
Arteta also confirmed that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will continue to wear the captain’s armband for the time being.
Perhaps aware that making yet another change in mid-season might cause unnecessary headlines in the papers and friction within the squad, the boss said: “I don’t want to change everything drastically in two days. I want to put my feelings slowly, I want to see what is going around, and in the right moment I will make the decisions for the benefit of the team and the club.
“At the moment I don’t think it is the right time, with the amount of games coming up and the amount of things that have to be done, to change too many things.”