Mikel Arteta was quick to praise Granit Xhaka’s professionalism after the Swiss delivered a solid performance on his return to Arsenal’s starting lineup against Southampton.
Having injured his ankle at the Etihad last week, it looked like the Gunners would be without the midfielder for a couple of weeks.
Following a quicker than expected recovery, he was selected in favour of Matteo Guendouzi at St Mary’s and brought more balance to our play as we secured a 2-0 win; our first away from home in the Premier League since Arteta took over in December.
“He’s a big presence,” said Arteta when asked in his post-game press conference what the Swiss brings to his team. “He’s someone who doesn’t hide.
“He has very clear principles and values, and he puts that on the pitch every time he’s there. His commitment is excellent and he’s a really good example for the rest.
“But I don’t like to focus on any individual. Today the starters, the subs and the players that I didn’t use all had the right energy, with the right commitment and the right intention every time they jumped into the pitch.”
While three points and a clean sheet on the road are very welcome, it’s clear the boss is not getting carried away. Currently ninth in the table, it’s looking increasingly likely that we’ll have to settle for Europa League football, even if we string a run of results together in the coming weeks.
For the time being, Arteta wants his team to maintain its focus on things within their control.
“I don’t know,” he said when asked if we can qualify for Europe. “I said that I don’t want to talk about what’s going to happen on the table, but I’m concerned about what we do every day in training and how we prepare and compete in the games.
“We had two very different games against City and Brighton. Against City we lost two players in 20 minutes and we played 45 minutes with 10 men, and we gave them two goals. Against Brighton we had total control of the game and we threw the game away in seven minutes.
“I know what this team can do but only when we are 100 per cent focused and we are 100 per cent committed to competing. If not, we are at the moment average. Today we showed that when we do it, we are difficult to beat and we can win at any ground.”