Mikel Arteta discloses he threatened to axe Granit Xhaka if he refused to adapt at Arsenal
Mikel Arteta reveals he threatened to axe Granit Xhaka if he refused to adapt at Arsenal.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has revealed that he threatened to axe Granit Xhaka if the midfielder refused to adapt his position at the club.
Xhaka has been vital to Arsenal’s successful first half of the season, which has seen them lead the Premier League by five points over defending champion Manchester City.
With three goals and three assists in the Premier League so far this season, the Swiss international has significantly improved in attacking areas.
Arteta claims he needed to ‘unlock’ Xhaka’s full potential in order for Arsenal to improve and suggests that the 30-year-old would have found himself out of the team if he struggled to evolve.
When asked about Xhaka’s change to a more advanced role this season, Arteta told Sky Sports: ‘I think it was a necessity.
I think the squad wanted to evolve to another level and be more dominant and have more resources in the final third to attack and to score more goals. We needed to make that change.
‘I spoke to him at the end of the season and said, ‘I need to unlock something in your brain because you’re so comfortable and confident playing in this area that you have forgot what is actually going to win us the game and the team now demands somebody here, so unless you unlock that I’m going to have to do something about it’.
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‘He took it straight away. He’s a very intelligent player, he came to pre-season fitter than ever, slimmer than ever, and he knew that if we wanted to take the team to a different level we had to change his role. He knew that was coming.
‘We believed he has those qualities, those qualities were there to be exploited and they were hiding.
‘The team needed those qualities very much. As I said, he is extremely intelligent, he has the physical capacity to constantly threat and occupy those spaces and recover his position quickly enough to have the balance we need.
‘He’s been really consistent, the way he trains, the way he practises, to evolve to the demands we want for the team.
‘He’s a special person. He’s very straight, he’s very honest, he’s very loyal and he’s very passionate about what he does.
‘So when you have someone like that you want to help him, you want to protect him, you want him to fulfil the talent he has. He’s made some mistakes and he’s learnt from it, but he has always faced adveristy and difficulty and he’s never run away from it.
‘This is what all managers wants from their players. You know you can count on him, he will fight and break walls for you. This is what we expect from our players.’