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Mikel Arteta tells ‘terrific player’ Granit Xhaka his future lies with Arsenal


Mikel Arteta has told Granit Xhaka that the midfielder’s future lies with Arsenal despite reports in Germany linking him with Hertha Berlin. The new head coach also revealed that Xhaka was a potential transfer target for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City before the player’s move to north London.

Xhaka has recently been reintegrated into Arsenal’s side after a month-long absence caused by his fallout with a section of the support. He has started four matches in December and, with Arteta watching from the Goodison Park stands on Saturday, was one of their better performers in the goalless draw with Everton. It has been a relatively successful return, perhaps helped by the club’s managerial situation dominating the news cycle, and Arteta believes he can build on that with a player he has always rated.

By the time Arteta joined Manchester City’s coaching staff with Guardiola in July 2016, Xhaka had signed for Arsenal from Borussia Mönchengladbach with City having signed Ilkay Gündogan for the central midfield position. But he explained the Switzerland international had been among those under consideration.

“When I was going from Arsenal to City to start coaching and we were looking in that position, he was one of the players on my list,” Arteta said. “This is how much I liked him. I was happy when Arsenal signed him because I thought he was going to be a terrific player.

“ He has done some really good things and now he has got stuck in a very difficult situation that, I think, was growing and growing and growing and one day it exploded. But I have been amazed as well by how this relationship is starting to come back a little bit and I think the fans have been very, very positive about him. Obviously it is difficult to change completely the scenario from where he was to a magnificent one. But I think we are in the right direction with him.”

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Asked whether he had spoken to Xhaka about his future, amid suggestions the player is keen to join Jürgen Klinsmann’s Hertha, Arteta said he had told the 27-year-old he can be a focal point as Arsenal look to haul themselves out of the bottom half, beginning at Bournemouth on Boxing Day.

“I told him how much I like him and what I expect from him,” Arteta said. “How important he is for the team. I am here to help him, I want him to feel that we are right behind him. Not just myself but the whole club. If we can get the people in the right way as well, the fans with him, I think it will be helpful for the team, which is where it matters.”

Arteta confirmed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who succeeded Xhaka as club captain, would retain the armband on Boxing Day but left open the possibility of change.

“I don’t want to change everything drastically in two days,” he said. “I want to put my feelings slowly, I want to see what is going around, and in the right moment I will make the decisions for the benefit of the team and the club. At the moment I don’t think it is the right time, with the amount of games coming up and the amount of things that have to be done, to change too many things.”

Footage of Arteta’s early training sessions, in which he has preached simple tenets involving passing and awareness of space, has proved popular and his ultimate aim is to play a style similar to that of Guardiola, even if the results will not be instant.

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“That’s what I was born with, that’s what I understand and what I believe is the best way to play,” he said. “But the context is very important, and the context right now, here, is not Manchester City. It is completely different. So I can’t demand the players to do some things because I will expose them and that is the last thing I want to do. I want to give them confidence, reassurance and guidance. But slowly, slowly, slowly, hopefully we will get to where I want.”



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