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Arteta hails Xhaka for bouncing back and hitting 200 games for Arsenal

Since joining Arsenal in 2016 from Borussia Monchengladbach for £35million, Xhaka’s time in north London has been full of highs and lows.

Those lows have arguably been greater than the highs – which include winning two FA Cups – and at times you wondered if the midfielder would make it to such a milestone as his 200th game.

The incident came after the Switzerland international and his family had received abuse online, and his emotions boiled over on the pitch.

Xhaka revealed to Standard Sport he thought he would never play for the club again after that and, following his red card against Burnley in December for grabbing midfielder Ashley Westwood by the throat, the question was once more asked if the Swiss’ time in north London was over.

The 28-year-old, however, has bounced back and, after making his 200th appearance for Arsenal on Tuesday, he will hope to chalk up another on Saturday when the Gunners head to Aston Villa.

Xhaka has been impressive since returning to the team following his red card against Burnley and Arteta has praised the midfielder’s resolve.

“It is not just the Burnley game, because he has had two big episodes,” said Arteta. “You can maybe overcome one of those, but I think the second time it really shocks you and he said: ‘I don’t want to go through that again’. 

“But this is why we are here, to try to support our players. I think the club was exceptional giving him all the support. 

“We try to do the same, the team-mates did the same, and he has come through again. Now he is getting a lot of praise, the way he is playing, and it is down to his character. It is down to as well how much he wants to succeed at the club.”

Xhaka’s revival has coincided with the return to fitness of Thomas Partey and the pair have formed a good partnership in central midfield.

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Partey and Xhaka have formed a good understanding in midfield together.

/ Arsenal FC via Getty Images )

Arteta has been pleased by the balance the duo offer, with Partey’s dynamism and strength complimented by Xhaka’s tactical discipline and range of passing.

“I thought he [Xhaka] was excellent the other night against Wolves,” said Arteta.  “He has been really consistent. I think he is improving game by game. I think his balance with Thomas is getting stronger, they haven’t played much together, and that chemistry has to flourish.

“I think they make each other better and we have a good balance between left and right footed there in those spaces as well. 

“Then there is his leadership level as well, he has matured a lot as a player and he has got a big importance in that dressing room. On the pitch, I think he is doing things much, much better than before as well.”

Xhaka has had plenty of critics during his time at Arsenal, but in Arteta he clearly has as a manager who believes in him.

The midfielder has been a regular for the Spaniard since he was appointed in December 2019 and persuading him to stay was one of his first objectives.

It has, on recent form, paid off and now Xhaka will no doubt be aiming to hit more milestones after reaching 200 games for Arsenal.

“Well he is a really important player for us,” said Arteta. “Since I have been here I think he has played almost every game – and there is not a better way to show how much you like and you value a player than to give him minutes on the pitch.”


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