Granit Xhaka gave an interview in German. He was asked about the difficult situation of a year ago, Mikel Arteta and the Arsenal team. I did my best to translate it, but maybe I still made a few mistakes. Hopefully though there won’t be anything lost in translation.
Almost ten months ago, he was facing an unfriendly end in London. Mockery and ridicule, personal humiliations; Xhaka suffered, Xhaka doubted. “To the outside world, I never said how much it hurt me,” he said, looking back on the gloomy November days. Times long past, the 27-year-old sets the pace again, he sets the direction – in England as well as in the national team. On the pitch for years, since Stephan Lichtsteiner’s retirement also in the dressing room. “That’s me, I’m not pretending!”
Granit Xhaka, at the most recent appearances in the national team you seemed like a conductor. You determined the rhythm, the tempo.
Granit Xhaka: I had many one-on-one conversations with Vlado (Petkovic). He involves me, he gives me input on how I should perform. I like my task. The trust is based on mutuality. We appreciate each other very much.
Are you growing as a Captain?
I’m orienting myself on my predecessor. I experienced Steph Lichtsteiner in the national team and in the club. He gave me an incredible number of things that I am now trying to implement. On and off the pitch, I feel the acceptance of my colleagues, even if I verbally harshly touch them at times. This is me, I am not pretending.
What is true for the national team is also true for FC Arsenal. The game concepts are tailored to you in both places.
At the moment it’s working. I can get fully involved. In both teams, the coaches have one hundred percent confidence in me. That helps, and you can see that.
In London, however, an irrevocable disruption between you and the club was temporarily looming. The coach at the time, Unai Emery, exposed you, you lost the captain’s armband and were threatened with a total withdrawal of love.
What happened last November was tough. On the outside, I never really showed how much it hurt me, how disappointed I was by certain people. For the first time in my life I was completely caught on the wrong foot.
Your new coach Mikel Arteta obviously picked you up at the right level?
For me one thing is certain: without him I wouldn’t be in London anymore. He was the decisive factor, with his philosophy, with his manner, with his idea. I am really grateful to him for that!
The fans’ criticism of your person reached hurricane force a year ago. How did you come back from that?
With performance, with hard and honest work. Of late I went into the city to get a cup of coffee. Then an Arsenal supporter came up to me and congratulated me. He was deeply impressed by my comeback under the most difficult conditions. Many people would have fled, but not me. He paid me personal respect. Such encounters open my heart.
Are you more mature and mentally stable than ever?
I have never suffered from a lack of self-confidence (laughs). But the low a year ago definitely took energy away from me. Now it’s back again. I’m very proud of how I came back, that I met the challenge.
At the end of the complicated last season, you lifted your second FA Cup trophy.
This victory I especially grant Mikel Arteta. It gives him confidence and a certain security. We players saved a strange season with the last possible qualification for international business. I can’t imagine how the reactions would have been if we had missed the Europa League.
How do you assess the potential of the team for the near future?
We have made a very good start. With Willian and Gabriel, Arsenal has brought a lot of quality and mentality to the team. Willian knows how to win titles. And the new contract for Aubameyang was an important signal for all of us – we want to return to the Champions League!