Thank You Granit Xhaka – It was Quite the Ride

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Granit Xhaka departs from Arsenal to Bayer Leverkusen after making 297 appearances for Arsenal in seven seasons with the club. He was an ever-present player for the Gunners, averaging over 40 appearances every campaign, and giving his all to the side. In Xhaka’s time at Arsenal, he served three managers, starting with Arsene Wenger that acquired his services from Borussia Monchengladbach, to Unai Emery, where he reached his nadir with the club and Mikel Arteta, where we saw his resurgence.

Whether he featured as a No. 6, or a ‘left No. 8’, Xhaka remained a modicum of consistency with a sleek passing range that saw him create loads of chances for his teammates. He also had an eye for goal and possessed a fierce shot from that magic wand of a left boot. I can’t get over that swerve for his famous goal against Manchester United that got David de Gea scrambling and thinking about his destiny afterwards.

Arsenal Sporting Director, Edu Gaspar, and the club’s gaffer, Mikel Arteta, have paid their tributes to Xhaka, and it’s so good to see him leave on very good terms with the club, especially if you recall the events of October 2019 that saw Xhaka’s relationship with the fans reach an all-time low. With Arsenal struggling against Crystal Palace, Unai Emery made the decision to substitute Xhaka for a young Bukayo Saka. The Swiss midfielder was jeered by the crowd when his number popped up on the fourth officials board earlier in the season. This time, Xhaka, for the life of me was having none of it. He threw his armband on the pitch, rather than passing it to his vice captain, Aubameyang, screamed ‘f*ck off’ to the Gooners, cupped his ear to further incite the fans before taking his shirt off and storming into the dressing room.

That was truly the end. 

His agent went to the streets and gained alignment with the higher ups at Hertha Berlin, and personal terms were agreed. All that was left was a fee agreement between Arsenal and the German based outfit, but the deteriorating results on the pitch saw Emery lose his job and the doors opened for Arteta to make his mark on the club. One of his first major milestones as the Arsenal gaffer, wasn’t really that 2020 FA Cup win, but mending bridges with Xhaka and re-assigning him back to the first team setup.

He had been stripped of the Arsenal captaincy and had lost his allure to don the famous Red and White, but Arteta convinced him to stay and even went ahead to facilitate the Swiss midfielder extending his contract to 2024. The fans also forgave one of their favorite sons and he backed it up with some exemplary performances on the pitch, to the point he won player of the month awards and was recognized on a national scale, winning the Swiss Player of the Year award. Xhaka had scored only seven goals in his last four seasons prior to the recently concluded campaign – this season he scored nine. Oleksandr Zinchenko’s introduction to the side also helped his resurgence, but Xhaka also put in the work and reaped the rewards.

Off the pitch, he was a leader with massive influence in the dressing room, enforcing Arteta’s ideas to the side and mentoring the younger ones. The writing was on the wall when Arsenal thrashed Wolves resoundingly on the last game of the season. Xhaka was on steroids mode that day, scoring two goals and playing like it was his last, which it eventually turned out to be. The way he stayed on the pitch and waved his goodbyes to the fans gave a very good hint that his time with the club was coming to a halt.

Despite reaching an agreement with Bayer Leverkusen early in the summer, Xhaka still honored the club’s request to stay put while they worked tirelessly to secure the services of his replacement, Declan Rice. As soon as total agreement was reached with West Ham and Rice was given the go-ahead to have his Arsenal medicals, Xhaka jetted off to Germany to have his own medicals and confirm his five-year deal with Leverkusen.

297 games, 23 goals, 29 assists.

Thank you Granit Xhaka. It has been quite the ride.


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About enigma106

An Arsenal fan with a good sense of humor

Posted on July 7, 2023, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Transfer Gossip and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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