Granit Xhaka’s redemption arc at Arsenal this season has been one of the most intriguing substories of 2022-23 in the Premier League. The Swiss midfielder has looked destined for the exit door in previous transfer windows, including last summer, due to the extremely rocky path of his Gunners career.
We all remember seeing the former captain throwing away his shirt and telling the supporters to ‘f*** off’ when he was substituted in the second half as his side threw away an early 2-0 lead at home to Crystal Palace in the Premier League under Unai Emery.
Xhaka was hounded with abuse all around the stadium and it caused him to snap and start giving it back. That game took place in October 2019 and back then you felt that was going to be the end of his Arsenal career.
It has taken time but he has more than repaired his reputation with the club after playing a starring role for Mikel Arteta in this year’s surprising title charge. The 30-year-old has played a more advanced role in the side rather than the defensive midfielder he was brought in to be back in 2016. This transition has seen him score five goals and register seven assists in the top flight this term.
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He has been a revelation in the middle of the park and certainly a worthy contender for a Premier League Team of the Season inclusion. Xhaka has contributed goals and assists, but more importantly has been a leading example on the pitch. His performances have not gone unrecognised. The supporters who used to slate him on the terraces have been serenading him this year - singing ‘we’ve got Granit Xhaka’ to the tune of Glad All Over.
Although Arsenal’s unexpected title charge has come crumbling down in recent weeks, the season has still been a very successful one as they have ensured their qualification for the Champions League for the first time since 2016-17.
The north London club have made significant progress and the media reports are already talking about their summer business, with midfield targets the most frequently mentioned. Arsenal have been linked with Premier League stars Declan Rice and Moises Caicedo, with the Gunners having tried to sign the latter from Brighton & Hove Albion last summer.
Arteta is expected to be a very busy man and while there is predicted to be several incomings, it looks like Xhaka is going to be calling time on his seven-year stay at the Emirates Stadium. It is being reported that the former Borussia Monchengladbach star could be heading back to the Bundesliga to join Xabi Alonso’s new-look Bayer Leverkusen.
It may come as a surprise to see Xhaka leaving now when he has become such an integral player to their current system, but this actually feels like the right time for him to bow out after being able to redeem himself in the eyes of the supporters.
Had he left before this season, he would’ve likely gone down as one of the most forgettable players in their history. Whereas now, he will depart as a redeemed man and will receive the best wishes from the fans after his standout campaign in 2022-23 leaves them with some fond memories.
He has helped his club get back into Europe’s most prestigious competition and that is what the club has desperately needed over the past six years. There is no better way for him to close this chapter of his career.