Granit Xhaka has admitted he was on the verge of leaving the club he was abused by the club’s fans in October 2019.
During a match against Crystal Palace which Arsenal looked like winning after leading 2-0 inside the first 10 minutes yet ended in a bitter 2-2 draw, Xhaka was substituted in the 60th minute and was ridiculed by the home fans.
The fans at the Emirates channelled the anger on the club captain who tore his shirt up after being substituted and made some obscene gestures while leaving the pitch.
The midfielder was later stripped off his captaincy by then manager Unai Emery and was even expected never to play again for the club.
Xhaka since then has enjoyed some good times playing in midfield for the Gunners having won the fans back on his side once again and becoming one of the regulars in the starting XI.
Speaking to BT Sports about the incidence for the first time, Xhaka said: ‘Everyone knows what happened with me and the fans – or the fans with me. It was not a good time. It was not a nice time.
‘But maybe it was the key because I came back stronger than ever so I learned a lot from this situation. I hope the fans have too.
‘I was always saying to myself, but to the fans too, I am a guy that will go 100 per cent each game. The people start to understand me more and more now again.
‘I have to be honest, I’m very honest with everyone. I was very, very close to leaving the club. I have, until this moment, I had a great, great time in this football club.
‘But after this, I was of course a bit down because I did not expect that from the people, from the fans. It was never in my mind to leave the club before, but after this happened, of course you think about it.’
For Xhaka, Arteta has been the one who has brought changes to Arsenal overturning things gradually since replacing Unai Emery. Even though the Gunners couldn’t make the top 6, they won significant games against champions Liverpool and runner-ups Manchester City and can boast of an FA Cup final which they are yet to play against Chelsea on August 1.
Not just the day-to-day operations but also the mentality at the club in general has changed according to the midfielder.
‘Since Mikel came to this club a lot of things have changed,’ he added. ‘He’s changed the mentality, the spirit, not only for us players but in the group.
‘Everyone knows exactly what their job is. We have a clear game plan. He prepared us really well against a lot of good teams and yeah, at the moment, it’s like we are back with happiness. Coming to training with happiness. We do amazing work.’
Xhaka also added that Arteta was the one who convinced him to remain at the Emirates and repay the faith placed in him.
‘Mikel was the guy,’ says Xhaka. ‘He turned me around and gave me a second chance and he showed me he trusted me and I tried to give him everything back.