Arsenal: Xhaka may 'never play for club again' says Emery
Unai Emery’s comments on Granit Xhaka speak volumes about the character of the player after he all but confirmed he will be leaving Arsenal. The Switzerland star’s impending exit from the Emirates looks set to be announced this week.
Bayer Leverkusen are in talks to sign Xhaka for a fee of around £13million. It has been very much a love-hate relationship with supporters during his seven years in north London.
There was initial excitement when he joined from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2016, earning a reputation for an eye for the spectacular. But he was often played out of position by Arsene Wenger and then Emery during his first few years at the club.
He filled in as a holding midfielder but his temperament often got the better of him. Xhaka famously fell out with Arsenal supporters in October 2019.
He was booed off after Arsenal had let slip a 2-0 lead at home to Crystal Palace. Xhaka took an age to walk off when being substituted and he reacted angrily to the thousands shouting at him from the stands.
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Emery stripped him of the captaincy a few days later, just months after the Spaniard had given him the armband. At the time, Emery admitted he did not know if Xhaka would ever play for Arsenal again.
He said: “As a coach I have a responsibility for the team: we need a player like Granit Xhaka. But also, I don’t know if he’s going to play [for us] again.
“I don’t know because, if he is available in his mind to continue helping us and continue defending the Arsenal shirt, I think time is giving us that solution. Then, if I decide he is in the group with us, if he is ready and 100 per cent in his mind with the decision to help us – we have a solution.
“He said to me that he is not available yet to play; not Wednesday, not tomorrow.”
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However, Xhaka went on to prove Emery, the fans and pundits wrong. He did play again, with his next appearance coming in Emery’s final game in charge against Eintracht Frankfurt.
Xhaka came close to leaving on more than one occasion after that. But since the dark day of that draw against Palace at the Emirates, Xhaka has made a total of 152 further appearances for Arsenal.
In all, he has played 296 times for the Gunners. So over half of his outings have come since then.
Xhaka has come full circle and the fans who loved him at the start are sad to see him leave. And it speaks volumes about him as a player that he was able to resurrect a career in north London when nearly everyone thought it would be impossible.
Xhaka is set to make his 225th and final Premier League appearance against Wolves on Sunday. Only 12 players have played more for Arsenal in the competition but no others have come back from such adversity.
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