Arteta thrilled by improved relationship between Xhaka and fans

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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was overjoyed to see how much Granit Xhaka's relationship with the fans has improved after his starring role in Saturday's defeat of Manchester United.

Xhaka got Arsenal's third goal at Emirates Stadium, drilling in from long range to put the game beyond the Red Devils.

United had previously threatened to wipe out Arsenal's lead, which had been 2-0 in the first half before Cristiano Ronaldo's well-taken goal.

But Xhaka's strike dulled United's momentum, and the Switzerland international enjoyed a rapturous ovation when he was withdrawn towards the end of the Gunners' 3-1 win.

It marked a significant change in fortunes for Xhaka from when he routinely seemed to be at odds with the fans, revealing recently in an article for the Players' Tribune that he nearly left the club over "pure hate" from supporters, claiming his bags were packed in December 2019.

"I was dreaming of that [ovation] because he deserves it," Arteta told reporters after Saturday's win.

"If any fan would individually spend five or 10 minutes with Granit, or even two minutes, because that's all you need, they would understand the person that he is, the professional that he is and how much he cares about the club. But the history was there.

"I think he made, I would say a risky move, when he opened up and expressed completely his feelings, but as well he's done that because he's prepared.

"He feels that environment is going to protect him. He feels loved at the club and the response I think it was great.

"Thank you to the fans for showing that appreciation to him because I know how much that means to him."

There has been a massive overhaul of players at Arsenal over the past few years, reflected by the fact Arteta has consistently named the youngest starting XI on average this season.

Xhaka, 29, is something of an outlier in terms of age and experience, and it was put to Arteta that the midfielder's longevity was somewhat surprising given his past issues.

"We need some balance in everything that we do, especially with the characters and the personalities that are in that team," Arteta said of Xhaka's continued association with Arsenal.

"With the youth academy players that we are bringing in, with the signings that we made, with the quality that we had on and off the field, Granit in my opinion was going to have a key role and he was going to have a key leadership role to achieve what we wanted."

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