Mikel Arteta has explained how he convinced Granit Xhaka to stay at Arsenal.
Switzerland international Xhaka had looked certain to leave north London this month following the total breakdown in his relationship with the Arsenal fans towards the end of last year.
Xhaka was jeered by large sections of supporters inside the Emirates Stadium when he was substituted during the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace in October and responded by clearly telling them to ‘f**k off’ while he was leaving the field.
The incident saw him stripped of the captaincy by former boss Unai Emery and many expected the midfielder to be moved on once the January transfer window opened.
Hertha Berlin were keen to take the former Borussia Monchengladbach star back to Germany, but after being appointed as Emery’s replacement just before Christmas, Arteta was determined to try and keep hold of his player.
The 27-year-old has since started every game under Arteta, aside from the defeat by Chelsea which he missed due to illness, and has turned in some impressive performances alongside Lucas Torreira in front of the back four.
And Arsenal’s head coach has now explained how he sat down with Xhaka and promised that the club would give him its full backing if he opted to stay and that he would start to enjoy his football once again.
“The first message for him was that I wanted to understand how he was feeling, why he was feeling that way,” Arteta explained while discussing how he convinced Xhaka to stay.
“I wanted him to hear from me my opinion on him, and that I was ready to support him and that I was ready to push the club to be supportive of him too, because I thought he could be a really, really good player for us and he could enjoy in this football club playing under me.
“I tried to convince him that way. He thought about it, he had a very positive response afterwards, and I think he changed his mind.”
The relationship between Arsenal fans and some of the club’s players has been well documented in recent years.
It is something Arteta has spoken about at length since he arrived, admitting that he will not be able to turn things round at the Emirates unless everyone starts to pull together in the same direction.
In recent weeks the atmosphere has been much improved during home games, and Arsenal’s head coach hopes that trend will continue over the coming months.
“Every club has its own issues,” he said. “It’s very common now.”
"Some things come within the club, some within the media, some from social media. It’s very difficult nowadays to have one full year where everything is perfect.
“It’s the environment, we have deal with that and hopefully in a few months nobody remembers those issues.
“Of course it’s not ideal when players respond and it creates an instability. So as much as we can avoid it, the better.”