Granit Xhaka says Mikel Arteta is the reason he is still at Arsenal today after reflecting on his infamous gesture towards the club’s fans.
A year has now passed since Xhaka reacted to being booed off the pitch by his own fans. His actions led him to be stripped of the club captaincy, and he never played under Unai Emery again.
It seemed certain that the Swiss international would leave Arsenal at the earliest opportunity, but he found a new lease of life when Arteta came in as manager in December 2019.
Xhaka has re-established himself as a key player under Arteta, and has even taken the captain’s armband back in a couple of games when his replacement Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has not been on the pitch.
Now, Xhaka has looked back on the incident, explaining how Arteta helped him turn his Arsenal career around.
“I didn’t go to training for two days, worrying about what all had happened,” Xhaka told Neue Zurcher Zeitung (via the Daily Cannon).
“With my heart I had already left the club. The fact that I am still there today is thanks to coach Mikel Arteta.
“First, he wanted an explanation from me of what I felt, why I had acted like that. I could tell him my motives, let out what was on my mind.”
Xhaka ‘surprised’ by abuse
The midfielder, now 28, went on to address the reasons behind his angry reaction – even if he admitted he may not deal with the abuse in the same way if it happened again.
“I was completely surprised by this,” he said. “I am a human being, I have emotions, even I get hurt by things.
“The disparaging gesture towards the fans that I made back then, I might not make today.
“But there are situations that you just can’t prepare for.
“I am basically a person who can handle criticism well. But what happened there was not acceptable to me.
“My family has been insulted even though it has nothing to do with the sport.”
Xhaka eventually made 30 starts for Arsenal in the Premier League last season. He has started five out of eight league games so far this term.