xhaka arsenal Introduction
xhaka arsenal Xhaka's late thunderbolt was greeted with scenes of adulation for fans
xhaka arsenal Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta enjoying the Granit Xhaka love from fans: 'I know how much that means to him'xhaka arsenal
LONDON -- Mikel Arteta was celebrating a dream come true today as Granit Xhaka basked in the adulation of Arsenal supporters as their match winner.
Xhaka's thunderous 30 yard strike proved to be the match-winning moment at the Emirates Stadium, ending a spell of near relentless Manchester United pressure with Arsenal's final goal in a 3-1 win that propelled them into the top four and offered renewed hope that they would qualify for the Champions League.
It would be the first time that Xhaka, one of Arsenal's longest serving players, has been part of a team to secure a top four finish. The 29 year old has often been viewed as the poster boy of Arsenal's decline since their title push in 2016, the season before he arrived, and his frosty relationship with fans reached a nadir in late 2019 when he swore at supporters who were booing him as he was being substituted. He would subsequently be stripped of the captaincy.
On his arrival a few months later, Arteta convinced Xhaka to stay at the club with the Swiss international soon reestablished as a key figure in the Arsenal side. After years in which his errors seemed to cost the Gunners all too often Xhaka, is now making decisive contributions in another fashion. On Wednesday, his nutmeg of Marcos Alonso outside his own box set Arsenal on course for their second goal in a 4-2 win over Chelsea. Three days later he capped a dominant display in midfield with his first goal since December 2020, one he celebrated by blowing kisses to fans in the North Bank. It may have been directed to specific individuals sat in a box; regardless the Emirates Stadium as a whole was feeling the love.
"[In 2019] I was dreaming of that because he deserves it," Arteta told CBS Sports. "If any fan would individually spend five or 10 minutes with Granit, or even two minutes, because that's all you need, they would understand the person that he is, the professional that he is and how much he cares about the club. But the history was there.
"Now I think he made, I would say a risky move, when he opened up and expressed completely his feelings [in an interview with the Players' Tribune], but as well he's done that because he's prepared. He feels that environment is going to protect him, he feels loved at the club and the response I think it was great. Thank you to the fans for showing that appreciation to him because I know how much that means to him."
WHAT A STRIKE GRANIT XHAKA! :⚡
Arsenal take a 3-1 lead over United.
📺: @USA_Network & @NBCUniverso #ARSMUN | #MyPLMorning pic.twitter.com/FUKMBVi1Yb
Only Bukayo Saka, customarily excellent again today, has played more Premier League minutes than Xhaka since Arteta's appointment. In a period where the club have looked to change the age profile of their squad, moving on established figures such as Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at significant cost to themselves while giving central roles to the likes of Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, their former club captain has been a constant.
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