Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka has revealed that being stripped off the captaincy role earlier this season was the toughest phase of his career, while also stating that should he be asked to lead the side again, he will reconsider thinking before accepting a potential offer.
Football is a funny game. Things change in the blink of an eye, as a single moment can make or break careers. Xhaka's story with Arsenal in recent months has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride.
The midfielder was guilty of tactical errors in the Gunners' early-season issues before the north London cult itself turned its eye away from the 27-year-old. In a sequence that involved him throwing abuses at one section of the Arsenal supporters who booed him constantly as he went off, Xhaka saw his captain's armband taken away from him alongside a temporary absence from the matchday squad.
However, he has turned the situation around since Mikel Arteta's arrival at the Emirates, forming a steady partnership with the likes of Dani Ceballos and Mesut Ozil in the centre. He recently starred in his side's 4-0 win over Newcastle, as well as in the pulsating 3-2 victory against Everton.
In an exclusive with the Evening Standard, when asked if he feared that his Arsenal career was done and dusted, the Swiss international said:
“Of course, I don’t lie. There was a moment, because it was not easy for me and my family. I hope people understand this. But I think I showed my character. I am not a guy who runs away. I always say to the club, 'When I [am] here, I am ready to give everything.' It was like this always. I train very hard and that things turned around is the key. This [has given me] the most happiness.”
Further adding on what he feels about a return to captaincy, he iterated:
“I know with or without the armband what I can give the team. But in this moment [against Palace] I don’t want to take the armband back, but Sokratis [Papastathopoulos] and David [Luiz] told me I have to take it. If one day the club asks me about the armband, I have to think twice.”
Xhaka also mentioned that this was the most tumultuous period in his career, drawing comparisons with his early days at Monchengladbach.
“I had not so good a time when I was in Germany for the first six months because I didn’t play, but this one was something else. This one was not about a player, this was more about a human."
Following consecutive wins in the Premier League, Xhaka and Arsenal will turn their attention to securing a place in the Europa League Round of 32, where a home fixture against Olympiakos awaits. They hold a key 1-0 lead heading into the game.