Granit Xhaka admits that he is never likely to be a fan favourite at Arsenal but feels he has won the respect of the club faithful in recent times.
The 29-year-old is currently in his sixth season at the Emirates after joining from Borussia Monchengladbach in May 2016. The Switzerland international has made 231 appearances in all competitions, chipping in with 13 goals. He has enjoyed a lengthy stay in north London but it has not been without controversy.
Having been handed the captaincy by Unai Emery in September 2019, he was stripped of the armband just five weeks later. The combative midfielder was booed by a section of Gunners fans after being substituted in a match against Crystal Palace.
He responded by making several sarcastic gestures and mouthing obscenities towards the spectators. Emery took exception to his actions and demoted him from captain, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang landing the armband.
It seemed likely that Xhaka would leave the club but the arrival of Mikel Arteta as manager turned his fortunes around. He was reintroduced to the first team and went on to make 31 Premier League appearances in 2019-2020.
Xhaka feeling the love
The man with 98 Switzerland caps enjoyed 31 outings last term and has been seen nine times in 2021-2022. Xhaka understands that he will never be a club legend but senses that the fans are now back on his side.
“People were good with me,” he told The Athletic. “Of course they might say something – that is part of our life.
“But after what happened two years ago we were very far from each other.
“I think we are step by step coming closer and closer. I don’t believe we will be best friends. But what I can tell people is from the first day until the last day I am here I will do everything for the football club.”
Xhaka has been linked with a move away in recent times. But he pledged his future to Arsenal by penning a new deal in August this year.
The former Basel schemer is now tied to the Emirates until the end of 2023-2024. And he is determined to repay the faith shown in him by the club and fans.
“I will make mistakes because everyone does. We are not perfect,” he added. “But I will give 100 per cent in every training session and every game. This is my message to the fans.
“Sometimes you have misunderstandings and I believe this was the only reason for the problem we had between us.
“I feel much more love than one or two years ago but it is a slow process we have to do with each other.”