Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta says Granit Xhaka and David Luiz are two players who “fight for the club” after seeing his side chalk up two huge wins last week.
Both have had their fair share of criticism from Gunners fans recently, but Arteta is convinced the pair will prove to be assets next season.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s Premier League clash with Aston Villa, Arteta opened up about the pair, who have both played every minute of the two recent wins over champions Liverpool and Man City.
“They are two players that are worth spending time with and giving confidence because I know how professional they are, how much they want to be successful at this football club and how much they care,” said Arteta.
“Sometimes they react or how difficulties, they really suffer. When that happens, these players deserve support and back-up. They are showing with their performances that they have worked to be here, and you can see how they fight for the club.”
Arteta added: “The challenge with Granit was to convince him that there was still a place for him here, that I had big belief in him and that things can turn around pretty quickly in this industry.
“He had to send the right messages. First, he had to believe that he could do it and if that was the case, we were going to support him all the way too.
“I’m really glad to hear and sense the reaction from the fans towards him because they can appreciate what he’s done. That’s in the past [the Crystal Palace incident], there’s a lot of positives to take from sometimes difficult situations and we all learn from that.
“I think it’s a really good example for any player that is in a difficult moment that if you are willing, if you are consistent and you really want to do it genuinely, I think there is a way back.”
Asked if Xhaka had benefited from playing without crowds, Arteta said: “Well, obviously you talk after the incident that happened, you are completely right.
“Afterwards, when I joined to be fair, when we had the crowd I didn’t sense any individual reaction towards him, I think the crowd started to be a lot more positive towards him. But I don’t know, I think it’s a question for him. But he’s someone that can handle any situation.”
Arteta was also asked whether he thought the players were on board with his methods after two huge victories over the top two in the Premier League.
“Yes, all credit to the players for the way they’ve been performing and the way they’ve been believing in what we are trying to do.
“Obviously, this is a marathon, a long-term thing that has to be in place and you have to do it consistently throughout 10 months.
“It’s not good enough to do it in a week so we haven’t done anything, just won two games that gives us a big belief and the sense that if we are all doing our best, we can compete against any team, but now we have to be consistent and do it every three days.”
Centre-back Shkodran Mustafi will miss out against Villa through injury.
“We are assessing Mustafi after he had to come off because he felt something in his hamstring so we have to see how he is in the next few days.
“The rest are okay, we will get Eddie Nketiah back from suspension and Cedric back because he was cup-tied and the rest I don’t know. I have to see them today, how they recovered because they played a lot of minutes in the last few games and pick the team that can go and beat Villa,” said Arteta, who believes Villa have been unlucky.
“In my opinion, they have been very unlucky in a lot of games. They’re a team that wants to play football, makes it very difficult for the opponent when they have the ball.
“I think the fans not being there in that ground – which is one of my favourites in England, to be fair – is a big disadvantage for them. But we really need to be careful that they are alive and you can see that in the last few games that I watched of them and that we better be ready.”