The rupture seemed destined to end his Arsenal career in October, when the club captain swore at supporters booing him for what was perceived as a leisurely approach to his substitution during a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace. Xhaka’s act itself seemed to signal the end of three and a half inconsistent years in north London but matters were only made worse when neither side could find a resolution.
Despite Unai Emery’s insistence Xhaka did not apologise unequivocally. He offered an explanation, noting that threats to his family and himself had sent him to “boiling point”, but he was stripped of the captaincy and sent into exile for a month.
He returned to the side under Freddie Ljungberg but the acceptance from all parties seemed to be that a parting of the ways made sense with Hertha Berlin ready to offer Arsenal a significant sum to part ways with their deposed club captain. Then came Arteta, who had proposed signing the Swiss international when he joined Manchester City in 2016, and a lengthy conversation that radically changed Xhaka’s view of his Arsenal career.
“You probably know better than me what happened and how much it affected both sides when the issue occurred,” the Arsenal head coach explained. “When I arrived I had a really high opinion of him, I knew him really well.
“I tried to convince him he could have a place here where he could enjoy his career, that his family could be happy here. He’s a player that when he commits he goes 100%.
“He worked really hard, he won everybody’s trust and started to enjoy it. You could see that. When you have those two aspects together that’s when normally players perform at the highest level.”
It was more than just hard work that won Xhaka redemption. Under Arteta’s tutelage he has indisputably improved as a player.
He now functions in rather a similar way to that which Arteta did in his prime years at Arsenal. Xhaka has to defend less, receives the ball more and is louder than ever before. He is the conductor on both ends of the pitch, organising his defenders behind him and constantly looking to release the wing-backs or wide forwards when the ball comes his way.
Meanwhile the all too familiar lapses of concentration that would cost Arsenal dearly all but eradicated. A player who once lost runners all too easily now seems to have his head on a constant swivel, he is always aware of what is going on around him.
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It is those errors that drew the ire of Arsenal supporters and it is easy to imagine how much more forgiving and supportive they would be of Xhaka now if only they could get into the stadium to cheer him on.
“For a football player when you’re on that pitch and you feel the fans supporting you, you hear their love and support, it’s an immense amount of energy and drive that produces in a football player,” Arteta said.
“To be fair since I joined I saw that towards Granit, the atmosphere was completely different and they were clapping him, they supported him. Hopefully he can enjoy that when the fans are back at our stadium.”
Xhaka has changed but he has equally not lost the honesty and bluntness that perhaps prompted that outburst at Arsenal supporters.
That was in evidence after Tuesday’s defeat at Aston Villa when the 27-year-old, a second half substitute, questioned his team-mate’s mentality as they slipped to a defeat against a relegation-threatened side just days after beating Liverpool and Manchester City.
It is an assessment that Arteta echoed after a season in which his side have dropped points against all of the bottom five.
He said: “Look how simple I’m going to put it for you: if we are able to do the same next season against the top teams and improve a little bit against the other ones we’re going to be right up there with the best teams.
“It’s not as simple as that but one of the stats about the difficulties we have creating the chances is related to that and it’s something we have to focus on in order to improve and be more consistent in results against any opponent.”