Mikel Arteta says Granit Xhaka was lucky to escape damage to his cruciate knee ligament in last Sunday’s north London derby but admits losing the player for three months still represents a big loss for Arsenal.
The Gunners medical team confirmed yesterday that the Switzerland international had suffered a significant injury to his medial knee ligament but will not require surgery.
“Obviously, it’s really bad news personally for Granit,” said Arteta ahead of Saturday’s trip to Brighton. “He’s already had a couple of incidents this season with Covid and the suspension and now a long-term injury.
“He’s a strong man and he will use this time to focus on other things and I’m sure he’ll be back in the right place when he’s back. He’s a big player for us, really important and he will be missed. Other players have to step in.”
He added: “It’s a significant injury but he probably escaped an even worse injury in that action. That action for the cruciate ligament is a tricky one so, yeah, it is what is. His mentality is top, he knows what he needs to do now and hopefully, he can escape surgery, which is really important, and after that, he needs to prepare himself in the best possible way because time flies.”
The Spaniard was also quizzed on who might replace Xhaka alongside Thomas Partey in midfield. While he wouldn’t be drawn on specific names, he was then asked specifically about Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ credentials.
“He [Xhaka] is a big, big loss and we’re going to lose him for a while,” he said.
“We’ll try to keep him as close as possible to the team and he’ll evolve. It’s the first big injury that he’s had, we are here to help him and i’m sure we’ll find other ways [to cope] around the team because we have some other really good players that will step in and do the job.
“Ainsley is certainly one of the options and we’ve used him quite a lot at the start of the season and he’s doing really well. I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen.”
Having come close to selling Xhaka in the summer, it’s somewhat ironic that for the first time in his Gunners career he’s now facing a prolonged spell on the sidelines. It certainly represents a good opportunity for others to prove there is life after Granit, whenever that might actually come.