Granit Xhaka has been ruled out for three months but the Arsenal midfielder’s response to his injury prognosis has hinted at the reason behind Mikel Arteta’s desire to keep him at the Emirates
The 28-year-old was heavily linked with a transfer to Roma during the summer window but ultimately remained at the Emirates, agreeing a new long-term deal with the Gunners.
But just as Arteta and co’s season was turning around, Xhaka suffered a knee injury which should see him ruled out for three months.
Or at least that is the doctor’s prognosis, with his manager revealing how the Switzerland captain has a different outlook on his length of absence.
Ahead of Arsenal’s match against Crystal Palace on Monday, Arteta said Xhaka was progressing well and added: “I’m sure that if you tell him three [months], he will be thinking two.
“He will be trying to do extra work to try to minimise that time, that’s for sure.”
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Having been a rare bright spot for the Gunners during their torrid 20-21 campaign, Xhaka is a pillar of Arteta’s team, although has only featured once since August 28, when his ill discipline once again got the better of him and he was sent off for a mistimed tackle.
After describing the extent of his midfield general’s injury as “lucky” considering the potential severity of a knee ligament issue, the Arsenal boss was full of praise for the sidelined Xhaka, who he described as a “big loss” on and off the pitch.
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“His mentality is top,” Arteta said. “He’s a big, big loss. We’re going to lose him for a while. We’ll try to keep him as close as possible to the team.
“He will evolve and develop in other areas. It’s the first big injury that he’s had,” he explained.
“We are here to help him and I’m sure we’ll find some ways around it in the team because we have some really good players who can do the job.”
It appears Arteta sees Xhaka as a leader, with him being one of the senior professionals whose credentials have been questioned in recent months during a period of unrest in the red area of north London.
The likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Bernd Leno – despite only being 32, 30 and 29 respectively – have also come in for criticism.
It follows the Gunners finishing eighth in the Premier League last term, now embarking on a season without European football for the first time in 26 years.
Is Xhaka as crucial to Arsenal as Arteta suggests? Give us your verdict here.
Prior to the north London derby victory over Tottenham Hotspur, club legend Tony Adams told Sky Sports: “My issue is the kids are our best players at this moment.
“[Buakyo] Saka and [Emile] Smith-Rowe they’re not supposed to lead, we need some good experienced players and players that stay fit.”
Injuries have blighted many-a-career in football, but Xhaka can fulfil Adams’ wish once he recovers as Arteta and co look to mount a top-four challenge.