Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta believes Granit Xhaka was “hiding” some of his best qualities before he changed position in his team.
The Gunners are currently top of the Premier League table, five points clear of defending champions Manchester City, and Xhaka’s performances this season have been one of the key reasons for their success.
Xhaka has always caught the eye for Switzerland But he has taken his game to another level this season at Arsenal with three goals and three assists in 14 league matches.
Much of it has to do with Xhaka playing a different role in the side with Arsenal boss Arteta revealing that he warned him that he could lose his position if he failed to adapt his game.
When asked on Sky Sports About the change in Xhaka since moving to a more advanced midfield role, Arteta replied: “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 score more goals. We needed to make that change.
“I spoke to him at the end of the season and he said, ‘I need to unlock something in your brain because you’re so comfortable and confident playing in this area that you’ve forgotten 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’.
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 had 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 threaten 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 practices, 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 fulfill the talent he has.
“He’s made some mistakes and he’s learned from it, but he has always faced adversity and difficulty and he’s never run away from it.
This is what all managers want from their players. You know you can count on him, he will fight and break down walls for you. This is what we expect from our players.”
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