Xhaka: I feared Arsenal career would end & now I don't want to take armband back

Xhaka: I feared Arsenal career would end & now I don't want to take armband back

Granit Xhaka has revealed being stripped of the Arsenal captaincy was the toughest period of his career and he feared he would never play for the club again.

The midfielder had the armband taken off him by then manager Unai Emery in November after clashing with supporters during Arsenal's 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace at Emirates Stadium on October 27.

Arsenal fans cheered Xhaka's substitution and then proceeded to boo him as he walked off, resulting in the midfielder telling them to “f*** off”. The incident came in the wake of the Switzerland international and his family receiving abuse online.

Xhaka has since become a regular under new head coach Mikel Arteta but, asked by Standard Sport if he feared he had played his last game for Arsenal, he 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.”

It is clear to see how painful losing the captaincy has been on Xhaka, who became a lightning rod for fan criticism in the final days of Emery's reign. The midfielder has temporarily worn the armband since, coincidentally against Palace, when he was handed it in the closing stages of last month's 1-1 draw at Selhurst Park.

But Xhaka admitted he was reluctant to take it then and says he would have reservations about being captain again in the future, if asked.

“I know with or without the armband what I can give the team,” he said. “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.”

Even without the armband, Xhaka has become a leader under Arteta, but he confessed the last few months have been unlike anything he has experienced before.

“I had not so good a time when I was in Germany (with Borussia Monchengladbach) for the first six months because I didn't play, but this one was something else,” said Xhaka. “This one was not about a player, this was more about a human.

“But I want to think about the future. I know we can have a big future with Mikel, with this club and that is why I am very happy.”

Xhaka is now well and truly in favour with the Arsenal fans again, too. “On one side I understand the fans, because they always want the players to perform, but on the other side they have to understand us as well. It is not always easy,” he said.

“I think this is the biggest difference [between] Germany and England, because [here] we don't have the [close] connection with the fans. In Germany for example, you have open training sessions, [where] the fans come and [talk to you], ask you why.

“Here, everything is closed. So, for me, it would be good this time to explain to the people what is not going good or bad. But it doesn't matter now. Now we have to enjoy, that's the most ­important [thing].” Follow us on Twitter and on Facebook

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