Mikel Arteta has declared his admiration for Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka, revealing he was interested in bringing him to Manchester City when he started as Pep Guardiola’s assistant.
Xhaka’s future at the Gunners has looked bleak since he reacted angrily to fan abuse earlier in the season, with former manager Unai Emery even conceding he would likely be moved on in January.
But with less than a week until the transfer window re-opens, Arteta has given the Swiss international hope that he may have a future with the club.
The new Arsenal manager admitting he’s been a long-time admirer of Xhaka and is hopeful fans are warming to him again.
“As a player, 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,” Arteta said.
“I was happy when Arsenal signed him because I thought he was going to be a terrific player. He has done some really good things and now he has got stuck in a very difficult situation that, I think, was growing and growing and growing and one day it exploded.
“But I have been amazed as well by how this relationship is starting to come back a little bit and I think the fans have been very, very positive about him as well.
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“Obviously it is difficult to change completely the scenario from where he was to a magnificent one. But I think we are in the right direction with him.”
Bundesliga club Hertha Berlin have been linked with a transfer swoop for Xhaka in January but Arteta has made it clear to the midfielder how much he values him.
“I told him how much I like him and what I expect from him, how important he is for the team,” he said.
“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.”
Xhaka played the full 90 minutes in the Gunners’ most recent clash against Everton which ended in a 0-0 draw.
Arsenal are next in action against Bournemouth on Thursday before backing up three days later to take on Chelsea.
Arteta inherits a side currently sitting 11th in the Premier League, just eight points clear of the relegation zone and nine points shy of fourth place.