Premier League • England

Granit Xhaka opens up on Arsenal departure as midfielder makes twin confession over Gunners career

Granit Xhaka speaking to Arsenal teammate Gabriel Magalhaes

Granit Xhaka insists the incident that saw him booed off by Arsenal fans made him stronger as he prepares to continue his career with Bayer Leverkusen.

Xhaka, 30, has now left Arsenal after seven seasons at the Emirates. His Gunners career spanned three separate phases after being welcomed by the supporters following a 2016 move from Borussia Monchengladbach. The Switzerland international then blotted his copybook with a petulant rection to being substituted against Crystal Palace in October 2019.

He made rude gestures towards the travelling Arsenal fans and was later stripped of the captaincy.

It was thought the former Basel man would leave the north Londoners. However, he remained but spent time out of the first team.

The arrival of Mikel Arteta ushered in a new stage of his Arsenal career.

He was back in the fray and became an integral part of the side as they began their resurgence.

And the man with 115 Switzerland caps started 36 Premier League games as the Gunners finished second in the table last term.

He was heavily linked with leaving the club at the end of the campaign. Declan Rice’s imminent arrival seems to have hastened his exit.

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Now, having moved on, the tough-tackling schemer has opened up about his Arsenal career.

And it appears as though Xhaka felt he benefited from the incident.

“I was Arsenal captain in 2019. Then came this story with the fans,” he told Blick.

“I never had any problems with the boys and the club; it was more a misunderstanding between the fans and me.

“Coming back to Arsenal like that afterwards gave me even more strength. I was able to show what personality is in me.”

Xhaka still has much to learn

Xhaka made 297 appearances in all competitions for Arsenal, scoring 23 goals.

He saved his best goalscoring exploits for his last season, with nine throughout 2022-2023.

The Swiss will now work under Xabi Alonso at BayArena after inking a five-year deal with Leverkusen.

Reflecting on his time at the Emirates, the Basel-born star confessed that his captaincy skills still leave a lot to be desired.

But he was happy to leave Arsenal on good terms with the supporters.

“I don’t like talking about myself. But you can also praise yourself if the journalists don’t praise you that much,” he added.

“Seriously, you learn from things like that. You get stronger.

“At the end I was allowed to leave to great applause. That was my number one goal.

“Am I a ready leader? I would not say that. I’m sure I’ll still make mistakes, that’s part of it. But certainly, less than before.”

Rice will fill the void left by Xhaka’s departure when he completes a £100m move from West Ham.

The England star has already paid tribute to the Hammers fans after the clubs agreed on the huge transfer fee.

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