Granit Xhaka reveals Mikel Arteta’s faith in him, confirms Arsenal did not want to renew his contract

Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Granit Xhaka has revealed that Arsenal wanted to get rid of him before Mikel Arteta was appointed as their new manager.

The Switzerland international had a mixed relationship with the fans during the early part of his Arsenal career, and it deteriorated when he was jeered off against Crystal Palace in late 2019.

The midfielder cupped his ears and threw his Gunners shirt after his 60th minute substitution and many believed that he would be sold by Arsenal at the turn of the year.

However, that was not the case. Unai Emery was sacked within a month after the incident and under Arteta, Xhaka managed to slowly but surely win over the supporters.

In his final season, Xhaka was splendid for the Gunners in the number eight role, scoring nine goals and providing seven assists from 47 appearances across all competitions.

Speaking exclusively to The Athletic, Xhaka has now revealed that the club showed little respect to him when he was captain and wanted to get rid of him until Arteta arrived.

The midfielder added that he had his bags packed to leave the Gunners in January 2020 but Arteta told him to stay and brought him back at a level where he knew he could always play at.

He said: “The club showed me little respect even though I was the captain. It was clear they wanted to get rid of me as quickly as possible, apart from one person: Mikel Arteta.”

“When I met him for the first time, my bags were already packed and I was about to hop on a plane. With my heart and soul, I had already left the club. I said to him, ‘The solution is for me to go’. Mikel told me he wanted me to stay. But I wasn’t sure.

“Mikel picked me up and brought me back to playing at a level I always knew I could play at, he was sure of my quality and didn’t care what anyone else said. Four years later, it ended with me almost scoring a hat-trick (against Wolverhampton Wanderers).

“Arsenal fans screaming that they wanted me to stay. It was a goosebumps moment. I can’t describe in words how happy my family were hearing that after everything that had gone on before.”

Meanwhile, Xhaka explained that he made the decision to move on from the Gunners after sporting director Edu Gaspar confirmed that the club did not want to hand him a new contract.

He added: “On one hand I was a bit sad (that Arsenal didn’t want to extend), but on the other hand I was also quite happy because I didn’t like that uncertainty.”

“Leverkusen’s plan for me was clear. Leaving Arsenal after seven years wasn’t easy on an emotional level after all the good and the bad things, but it was totally the right decision. I’m happy it worked out so well.”

Arsenal replaced Xhaka with Kai Havertz during last summer’s transfer window and there was a mixed reaction over the decision. However, the German has proved his credentials in fine fashion.

Havertz has five goals and one assist from the central midfield position. This includes a late winner at Brentford. He also scored a vital equaliser at Luton Town in the dramatic 4-3 victory.

Hence, the Gunners should have no regrets in parting ways with Xhaka. They felt the time was right for the decision and both the club and the player are benefitting from the same.

Arsenal have Havertz, who could be a long-term player in the number eight role while Xhaka is currently leading Bayer Leverkusen’s title charge in the Bundesliga under Xabi Alonso.

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