Mikel Arteta has reassured Granit Xhaka that the midfielder is part of his Arsenal plans amid transfer speculation surrounding the Switzerland international’s future.
After an on-pitch falling out with sections of the Arsenal support, which led to him being stripped of the captaincy, Xhaka was reintegrated into the Arsenal team before Arteta’s appointment at the Emirates Stadium.
Is Xhaka back in favour at Arsenal? Five things to know…
- Xhaka was involved in an angry confrontation with the fans during a home draw with Crystal Palace in October.
- He was subsequently stripped of the captaincy after appearing to swear at supporters and remove his shirt while being substituted.
- Despite speculation of a January exit, Xhaka has started four matches this month.
- That said, he continues to be linked with a move away in the winter window, with Hertha Berlin the latest reported suitor.
- But Arteta claims he has reassured Xhaka of his place in the Arsenal team ahead of the Spaniard’s first official game in charge.
Unai Emery, who was sacked last month, and interim boss Freddie Ljungberg were both willing to give Xhaka another chance despite some fans being adamant that the midfielder should be sold for his previous outburst.
And Arteta now looks set to hand Xhaka a key role in his Arsenal side after holding brief talks over the 27-year-old’s future.
“I told him how much I like him and what I expect from him,” Arteta said. “How important he is for the team. I am here to help him, I want him to feel that we are right behind him. Not just myself but the whole club.
“If we can get the people in the right way as well, the fans with him, I think it will be helpful for the team, which is where it matters.”
Arteta also revealed Xhaka was among Manchester City’s potential targets before the Premier League champions ultimately settled on signing Ilkay Gundogan in the summer of 2016.
He added: “When I was going from Arsenal to City to start coaching and we were looking in that position, he was one of the players on my list.
“This is how much I liked him. I was happy when Arsenal signed him because I thought he was going to be a terrific player.”
Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.
Arteta hints at Arsenal captaincy change
Arteta went onto suggest the Arsenal captaincy, which was handed to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after Xhaka was stripped of the armband, could change in the future.
However, the Spaniard confirmed a change will not be made in the coming fixtures because of other priorities during the busy festive period.
“I don’t want to change everything drastically in two days,” Arteta said. “I want to put my feelings slowly, I want to see what is going around, and in the right moment I will make the decisions for the benefit of the team and the club.
“At the moment I don’t think it is the right time, with the amount of games coming up and the amount of things that have to be done, to change too many things.”