The Swiss midfielder’s tenure at the Emirates came to an end last evening as he signed a new contract with Bayer Leverkusen and is set to play under Xabi Alonso. Granit Xhaka’s time at Arsenal was an absolute rollercoaster of a ride from being booed by the fans to having his own song sang at the Emirates, it really was an amazing journey.
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Xhaka’s time at Arsenal
In the summer of 2016, Arséne Wenger, then Arsenal manager signed Xhaka from Borussia Mönchengladbach for around £35m. Xhaka came as a substitute signing to N’Golo Kante, he was signed by the Gunners when they withdrew from the race to sign the French midfielder.
Start to his Arsenal career
The Swiss made his debut in the opening match of the 2016-2017 Premier League campaign against Liverpool, where the Gunners lost by 4 goals to 3 and also picked up a yellow card. He had a knack of picking up cards because of his hothead nature from his Mönchengladbach days and that attitude made him an undesirable character at the club.
His first red card for Arsenal was on October 15, in a 3-2 win over Swansea City and was again sent off in a match against Burnley on 22 January in that season only. He was heavily criticised due to his bad tackles and when asked about it, he said that it was just the way he played.
In his Arsenal career he scored some amazing goals and most of them were long range shots. The Swiss midfielder loved to have a go at the goal from a distance and unsurprisingly he did score a lot of goals with his amazing left foot from outside of the box.
He went on to win the FA Cup and the Community Shield in that season for the Gunners and was a crucial part of the team. In 2019, Xhaka was made Arsenal’s captain, due to his leadership qualities and with the hope of him taking more responsibility for the team, by Unai Emery.
The infamous incident
In that season only came the highlight of Xhaka’s time at Arsenal. On 27 October, 2019 in a match against Crystal Palace the home crowd started to cheer when his name was called to be substituted. He was booed as he walked off the pitch and his response to that caused him even more trouble.
His actions in that game met with significant criticism after the match and was stripped of the captain’s armband. He wasn’t given a regular place in the starting XI after this incident and it was eminent to all the viewers that he was gonna leave the club in the next transfer window.
His reintroduction under Mikel Arteta
However, he rediscovered himself under Mikel Arteta, who got hired by the board to take charge of Arsenal after Unai Emery. He became a key player in Arteta’s team with starting almost every match in the midfield. Xhaka was a big fan of Arteta’s plans and he believed that he (Arteta) was the right guy for Arsenal.
In 2020, Xhaka won his second FA Cup winners medal against Chelsea under Mikel Arteta and was able to win over the fans with his performances. He started to play better in Arteta’s system with being instrumental for the team.
Granit Xhaka was a leader on the pitch and inside the dressing room. He always motivated the players and was not afraid to take sides when it came to protecting his teammates. The Swiss was passionate for the club which reflected in every action of his, including the desperate tackles which brought him numerous criticisms.
Xhaka saying his goodbyes to the Emirates
He played his last game for the Gunners in the final Matchweek of the Premier League in a 5-0 victory against Wolves and got the perfect farewell by scoring 2 goals for the team with nearly scoring a hat-trick. After the match he got a standing ovation by the fans as they all knew he was gonna join Bayer Leverkusen in the summer.
From being jeered off by the fans to receiving huge amount of praises, Granit Xhaka’s time at Arsenal really was a memorable one. The way he connected with the fans in the last couple of years, under Mikel Arteta was truly remarkable.
Signing for Bayer Leverkusen
He signed a permanent contract with Bayer Leverkusen which marked an end to his Arsenal career. He was sold by the Gunners for a reported fee of around £21m which is considered a very healthy fee for a midfielder of his stature. He would be coached by one of the best midfielders of the game in the name of Xabi Alonso and would possibly be able add some more qualities to his game.