Xhaka says he is ready to battle for Arsenal place

Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka, who has been linked with a move to struggling Newcastle in the January transfer window, said the boos and jeers has not altered his views of the city or the club. — Action Images via Reuters
Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka, who has been linked with a move to struggling Newcastle in the January transfer window, said the boos and jeers has not altered his views of the city or the club. — Action Images via Reuters

LONDON, Nov 11 — Granit Xhaka may have been stripped of the Arsenal captaincy due to his public run-in with the club’s fans but he says he will be staying and fighting for his place in the team.

The volatile 27-year-old Swiss international midfielder has not played since he mouthed an obscenity at a section of Gunners fans jeering him when he was substituted in the Premier League match with Crystal Palace a fortnight ago.

However, despite manager Unai Emery deciding he could not carry on as skipper — a role he was given after a secret ballot of the players — he told Swiss newspaper Blick he would not be leaving.

Xhaka has had a fractious relationship with Arsenal supporters since his arrival from Bundesliga outfit Borussia Moenchengladbach in 2016, costing the Premier League side a fee reported to be £38 million (US$49 million).

“You can be sure that I’ll keep fighting and putting myself out there in every training session,” Xhaka said.

“I feel last week has been dealt with and I’m ready.

“My time at Arsenal has been very positive for a long time.

“After a difficult start, I played a lot and overall I’ve had a great time at Arsenal.

“My family and I also feel very well in the city of London.”

Xhaka, who has been linked with a move to struggling Newcastle in the January transfer window, said the boos and jeers has not altered his views of the city or the club.

“I’ll continue to stay positive,” he said. “(To) give my all to an even greater extent and prove that I am an important part of this great team.”

The 2-0 defeat by Leicester on Saturday left Arsenal with just one win in six Premier League games and eight points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester City.

Xhaka and many of his teammates are now on a fortnight international break. Their next league game will be against second-from-bottom Southampton on November 23.

Xhaka does concede the abuse hurt — he claimed his emotions were running high because his daughter had received online abuse — but said it was counter-productive for the whole team’s morale.

“Insulting and swearing at your own captain will cause upset and a bad atmosphere for the team you are actually supposed to be supporting.

“That makes no sense to me and weakens the team’s spirit.”

He does not spare the online abusers either.

“What has changed through social media are phenomena such as ‘sxxx storms’ that can over-run you from one minute to the next,” he said.

“Also new is the cloak of anonymity you can use to attack players without fear of consequences.

“What happened here is abnormal and excessive and there can be no justification for it.” — AFP

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