Granit Xhaka

Granit Xhaka says Arsenal has big character
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Arteta, Xhaka: Arsenal ‘showed big character’ in comeback at Chelsea

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Granit Xhaka was a center back for the day after David Luiz was sent off in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

The Swiss midfielder’s tumultuous season is most certainly in heady territory since Mikel Arteta was hired in December.

Xhaka was ebullient after the Gunners twice came back following Luiz’s red card, which preceded a Jorginho penalty.

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“We played very well after the red card,” Xhaka beamed. “So difficult, but we showed great team spirit.”

Arteta agreed.

“I am proud,” the manager said. “I said to them I believe they can get back in the game and I’m very pleased. … Tonight is going to be a great experience for (the young players) as in football anything can happen.”

He went on to discuss the Gunners oft-debated character, as the 10th place Gunners sit 10 points behind fourth place Chelsea and will finish the match week at least four points off fifth.

“After this game nobody will have to speak about us: We showed big character,” Xhaka said. “A lot of people say we have no character in the team, so after this game we showed we have.”

[ MORE: JPW’s 3 things learned ]

Arsenal visits Bournemouth this weekend in the FA Cup, and will like the look of their next two Premier League fixtures at Burnley and home to Newcastle.

The Top Four is a longshot, but you wouldn’t bet against the Gunners’ attack surging them into or near fifth. Baby steps.

Fleck artistry gets Sheffield United point at Arsenal

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John Fleck‘s perfectly lashed side volley gave Sheffield United a 1-1 draw at Arsenal on Saturday.

The Emirates Stadium saw a wasteful first hour from the Gunners give way to a resurgent Blades side and a share of the points.

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Gabriel Martinelli opened the scoring for the Gunners, who sit 10th with 29 points. The Blades move to 33 points and sit seventh.

The match was Mike Dean’s 500th Premier League match, and not without controversy. Dean neglected to award a penalty when Nicolas Pepe was chopped down in the box, but VAR stayed with him.


Three things we learned

1. Blades are for real: There’s a reason Chris Wilder is getting linked with plenty of jobs and got a new contract: Sheffield United’s men are bought into a system about as well as anyone not named Jurgen Klopp. Granted Arsenal let early United errors slide, but once the Blades took hold of momentum it rarely felt like the Gunners would score the game’s second goal

2. Aubameyang absence glaring: It’s no surprise that missing one of the world’s best scorers is a not good, but you’d peg Arsenal’s talented group of attackers to sort it out. Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette had their moments and Martinelli did get his goal, but there was an Auba-sized hole in both the aura and composure of the Gunners in the final third. That red card is stinging like a fresh cut.

3. Xhaka, Torreira steady: Mikel Arteta has found better play from Swiss hard man Granit Xhaka, while Lucas Torreira is working well with his center midfield mate. Their play allows Mesut Ozil to do whatever he wants, more or less. Throw in a fine day from Shkrodan Mustafi, and the Gunners were a Maitland-Niles 50-50 battle away from a clean sheet

Man of the Match: Give it to Fleck for the goal plus four tackles and another day of committed challenges.


Lacazette sent Nicolas Pepe down the right flank, and the Ivorian sent a terrific cross for Gabriel Martinelli. The youngster volleyed across goal and wide of the far post.

Lucas Torreira popped a dipping shot that Dean Henderson smothered in the 32nd minute.

Martinelli didn’t miss his second, punching home a 45th minute deflected cross from Bukayo Saka. The latter had a terrific first half for the Gunners.

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The Blades didn’t quit, and Arsenal was forced into a goal line clearance in the 56th.

Pepe could’ve won a penalty when he was chopped down on a dribble into the box, but VAR upheld Mike Dean’s initial judgment.

Sheffield United scored an equalizerr in brilliant fashion, Fleck slashing a bounding side volley past Leno in the 83rd minute.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles blocked a shot and Leno made a tremendous save in stoppage time to keep the hosts’ point.

Arteta urges Xhaka to reject transfer to Hertha Berlin

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Mikel Arteta has urged former Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka to reject a proposed move to Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin and remain with the Premier League club beyond the January transfer window.

[ MORE: West Ham brings back David Moyes to replace Manuel Pellegrini ]

Xhaka, who was stripped of the captaincy in the wake of his confrontational response to Arsenal fans booing him back in October, has reportedly already agreed to contract terms with Hertha, but Arteta will be hoping that his last-minute appeal could persuade the 27-year-old Swiss midfielder to stay.

After he was previously frozen out of the team by then-manager Unai Emery, Xhaka has come back into the fold since Arteta’s appointment earlier this month. Asked whether or not Xhaka will leave when the transfer window opens in three days, Arteta had the following to say — quotes from Sky Sports:

“I hope not. He played at Bournemouth and did really well — very committed — and played a really good game.

“After the game, he started to feel ill and temperature. He was not feeling good and has been in bed for two days and that is why not selected.”

According to reports, the two clubs are yet to agree a transfer fee should Xhaka give his seal of approval. Arsenal paid $46 million to sign him in 2016, and they intend to recoup most, if not all, of that fee.

Report: Fee the final obstacle in Granit Xhaka transfer to Hertha Berlin

Granit Xhaka transfer Arsenal
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Granit Xhaka is ready to join Jurgen Klinsmann at Hertha Berlin, according to his agent.

Now will Arsenal and new boss Mikel Arteta let the captain leave North London?

A report from Sky Sports quotes Xhaka’s agent Jose Noguera in saying that it’s all about the transfer fee.

Arsenal paid Borussia Monchengladbach $46 million for the Swiss midfielder, and wants to get that money back. Hertha signed the largest investment deal in German history earlier this summer and can invest. The Bundesliga outfit may view the fee a bit high for the 27-year-old want-away.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Xhaka has become a scapegoat at Arsenal for some high profile mistakes and a higher profile outburst toward booing supporters, but his value remains significant in Europe. Arteta has also spoken highly of the player and wanted Man City to buy him while an assistant at the Etihad.

Xhaka was close to his best on Boxing Day versus Bournemouth, and Arsenal doesn’t currently have a midfielder with his combination of power and skill. He’s an excellent passer with a rocket shot and a readiness to tackle, but he loses concentration and can lack discipline. Newcastle was linked with loan interest.

Here’s Noguera, via Sky Sports:

“Look, I say it frankly and honestly: we agree with Hertha BSC and would like to go to Berlin. We told Arsenal’s club boss Raul Sanllehi and sports director Edu as well as the new trainer Mikel Arteta. … Arsenal was informed about all the steps, the player and Hertha are clear. It is only about the transfer fee of the clubs.”

Hertha lost its first match under Klinsmann 2-1 to Borussia Dortmund, but has since won twice and drawn twice despite playing four teams from the top eight (The fifth team is Europa League contestant Eintracht Frankfurt).

Xhaka was one of the Bundesliga’s best midfielders, bar none, before he left for Arsenal. If Hertha can agree a fee and Klinsmann can recapture that form — We’ve seen what he did with Xhaka lite in Jermaine Jones — then this is a worthwhile risk.

Arsenal’s Emery: ‘We are better than we are showing’

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Granit Xhaka returned to the pitch in a losing effort, but his positive day gave Arsenal a glimmer of hope.

The Swiss midfielder played for the first time in five matches, a span that began when he swore at Arsenal fans who were booing him off the pitch in a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

He received applause from the Gunners faithful in Thursday’s 2-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt in Europa League play, but more importantly he was perhaps the side’s best player on the day (Bukayo Saka was also strong).

“Xhaka wanted to continue playing,” said Unai Emery, who credited the fans for their support of Xhaka. “His match today was good and he helped the team.”

That may not help Emery, whose Gunners looked inspired for large portions of the loss and lost David Luiz and Shkrodan Mustafi to injury.

“We are better than we are showing,” Emery said. “The response from the players in the first half was good but the injuries was important because we needed fresh players and we couldn’t do that.”

Emery claimed his focus is not on his job status, but finding an end to the win streak when Arsenal visits Norwich City. The Gunners then host Brighton before going to West Ham and Standard Liege.