– Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka says he was not planning to “wear the shirt any more” before a meeting with Mikel Arteta persuaded him to stay at the club.
– In October 2019, Xhaka was substituted by then-Gunners boss Unai Emery during a match against Crystal Palace to jeers from his own fans.
– He was Arsenal captain then and reacted angrily to noise from the crowd by waving and cupping his ear sarcastically, exchanging words before taking off his shirt and going straight down the tunnel.
– Speaking to BBC Sport about the Arsenal documentary – All or Nothing, which followed the club last season – Xhaka said he had made up his mind to leave.
– “He (Arteta) is the reason why I’m still at this football club,” added the 29-year-old. “All of the club knows why I am still here, because three years ago I was gone.
– “My suitcases were packed and finished, but I had a meeting with Mikel when he came. He wanted to hear my opinion about what had happened and I explained to him.
– “I remember it exactly. I told him, ‘It has nothing to do with you’, because I didn’t know him and I never played with him. Obviously I knew his name, but not the person and I said, ‘I’m gone, I can’t wear the shirt any more’.
– “He said, ‘Give me a chance for six months and if you are still not happy after six months, I’m the guy who will help you, not to run away, but you can leave’.
– “I didn’t speak with family, with nobody, and normally I don’t do that. But I said, ‘OK Mikel, I will stay for you’, and I’m still here.”
– Xhaka is now a part of an exciting group of players at Arsenal and started their first game of the season in the 2-0 win over, coincidentally, Crystal Palace.
– The Switzerland international is now one of the senior players in the squad and also one of the longest serving, having joined from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2016.
– “With Rob Holding and Hector [Bellerin], I think I’m the only guy here from six or seven years ago, everyone else is new here,” added Xhaka.
– “On one side, that makes me very proud. On the – other side, you have to know the other players as well.
– “We are building something very special here, with the project with Mikel.
– “It’s a shame I only have two years more on my contract. Let’s see what happens after two years, but I am seeing a big, big future for this club.”
– When asked if he had changed since that day against Palace three years ago, he said: “A better person? I don’t know, as I think I was always a good person, but… different.
– “Different because a lot of people ask me, ‘was last season the best, Granit, since you are here?’
– “But I never had problems at this club, not with team-mates, not with people in the building, it was only this moment with the Palace game.
– “Everything else was fine with the club. But people only see the moment and they were disappointed and they forgot the other five years.
– “But this is part of the business. People don’t see the rest, they see only the moment, and they give you a number whether good or bad.”