'Xhaka loves Arsenal' - Emery considering return for midfielder after training ground talks

Unai Emery has softened his stance on Granit Xhaka and could bring the midfielder back into the fold against Southampton this weekend.

The Switzerland star has not featured for Arsenal since telling fans to ‘f**k off’ as they jeered him from the field following his substitution against Crystal Palace on October 27.

Xhaka has since been stripped of the captaincy by Emery - who prior to the international break had admitted that the 27-year-old may have played his final game for the club and that talks had taken place about possibly moving him on in January.

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“I don’t know if he’s going to play again,” said Emery. “If he is available in his mind to continue helping us and continuing defending the Arsenal shirt, I think time gives us that solution.

“The club knows my idea about that situation and the circumstances.”

But ahead of Saturday’s game with Southampton, Emery has hinted that it could be time for Xhaka to return and will make a decision on whether to include him in the squad on Friday.

The pair held talks at London Colney after Xhaka had reported back from international duty and Arsenal’s head coach was impressed by the midfielder’s mindset.

“He told me he is very convinced to help the team,” said Emery. “Our first game is Saturday and I am going to decide if it is a good moment [to bring him back] or if we need more time to help him.

“At the moment it’s important how he feels. Now he is feeling better and he feels he can come back and help us and also come back and connecting with the team and with the supporters.”

Xhaka played both games for Switzerland during the international break, even scoring in the 6-1 win against Gibraltar.

And with Dani Ceballos now ruled out until next month with a hamstring injury, his availability could come as a boost for Emery - who is under increasing pressure following a run of five games without a win.

Granit Xhaka Arsenal 2019-20
Granit Xhaka Arsenal 2019-20

But Arsenal’s head coach is aware that Xhaka’s relationship with the fans will not be easily repaired and it could be easier to bring him back into the squad for an away game.

“Maybe, but it depends,” he said, when asked whether it would be better for Xhaka to return away from the Emirates. “If we can show good performance collectively and individually, we are going to do better. In this situation, it is better to do it with him on the pitch.

“But I am going to do it progressively, I am going to do it also giving him good feeling being with us.

“It could be at home, it could be away. For me the most important is to achieve the performance collectively.”

Emery was also keen to highlight Hector Bellerin as an example of a player who has managed to get the fans back on his side.

The right-back found himself as a target for the boo boys during a defeat at Crystal Palace in 2017, but is now one of the most popular players in the squad.

“Hector told me he struggled here with the supporters sometimes when his performance was not the best,” said Emery. “Sometimes playing at the Emirates or away.

“Also we have had some other players who have had that situation. They have come back and with Xhaka I want the same.

“The first question is don’t forget his mistake, but he can come back showing his commitment, his good behaviour and good performances, helping and defending the Arsenal team.

“That is the objective. He is a good guy, a good player and he loves and respects Arsenal a lot - but knows he made a mistake.”

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