Premier League • England

Wilshere claims Arsenal will miss ‘passion’ of much-maligned star

Granit Xhaka, Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka, Arsenal

Jack Wilshere believes Arsenal will miss Granit Xhaka in the coming months after praising the passion that the opinion-splitting midfielder shows.

Xhaka is likely to be out until late December after suffering knee ligament damage in the north London derby 3-1 victory over Tottenham last month. He had only just returned from a three-match ban before being hit by the injury, although he escaped the need for surgery and a longer period on the sidelines.

Ever since his arrival from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2016, Arsenal supporters have been largely split on Xhaka.

The Switzerland skipper, however, has always retained the faith of his managers and team-mates.

He will be missing when Arsenal host former captain Patrick Vieira and his Crystal Palace side on Monday night. However, it was the corresponding fixture two seasons ago which saw Xhaka’s Arsenal career threatened.

With Palace having come from two down to draw level, Arsenal supporters cheered as Unai Emery opted to replace Xhaka with Bukayo Saka – prompting the Swiss to tell them to “f*** off” as he left the pitch, removing his shirt as he did so.

He was stripped of the captaincy by Emery but remained at the club and has worn the armband since under Mikel Arteta, with Wilshere also a fan of the 29-year-old.

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“Granit is someone I played with in my last few years at the club,” Wilshere said.

“He was always a good team-mate, a good team player. He obviously has his difficulties with the fans but that is just the type of character he is.

“He’s a passionate character, he wants to do well, he is driven and wants to be the best he can be and I think the fans are starting to see that now.”

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Xhaka a massive miss

Xhaka was injured for the goalless draw at Brighton before the international break and Wilshere, who is back training at Arsenal as he searches for a new club, feels Arteta’s side were worse off for his absence.

“The last game against Brighton, I think Arsenal really missed him,” he added.

“They missed his quality to put the foot on the ball and start attacks. He is the best player in the current squad at doing that so they need to work out a way to play without him there.

“He is injured and they are going to be without him for a few months – I think they will definitely miss him.”

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