‘You must leave’ – Mikel Arteta told Arsenal star to leave if he can’t adapt to his new role –
Xhaka has played a key role in the first half of Arsenal’s impressive season as the Gunners sit top of the Premier League, five points clear of champions Manchester City.
The Switzerland international has shown a significant improvement in attacking areas this term with three goals and three assists already in the Premier League.
Arteta claims he needed to ‘unlock’ Xhaka’s full potential in order for Arsenal to improve and suggests that the 30-year-old would have found himself out of the team if he struggled to evolve.
When asked about Xhaka’s change to a more advanced role this season, Arteta told Sky Sports: ‘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 to score more goals. We needed to make that change.
‘I spoke to him at the end of the season and said, ‘I need to unlock something in your brain because you’re so comfortable and confident playing in this area that you have forgot 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 has 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 threat 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 practises, 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 fulfil the talent he has.
‘He’s made some mistakes and he’s learnt from it, but he has always faced adveristy and difficulty and he’s never run away from it.
‘This is what all managers wants from their players. You know you can count on him, he will fight and break walls for you. This is what we expect from our players.’