The Switzerland international redeemed himself with an influential performance for the Gunners
Mikel Arteta described Granit Xhaka’s conduct as “unacceptable” only two weeks ago, but it was a different story after the midfielder’s goal helped Arsenal to a 3-1 win over Premier League rivals Chelsea on Saturday.
Returning from suspension, there was a moment of swift redemption from former Arsenal captain Xhaka when he struck home a thumping free-kick in the first half of the London derby at Emirates Stadium.
The Swiss star had been sent off for grabbing Ashley Westwood by the throat in a 1-0 home defeat to Burnley on December 13, and it triggered a three-game ban.
Xhaka had previously salvaged his Arsenal career when it looked on the rocks in October 2019, after he took off his shirt and responded to heckles from supporters when substituted during a game against Crystal Palace.
Arteta has been struck by Xhaka’s positive attitude during his year-long reign at Arsenal, so he is treating the Burnley incident as an aberration.
Asked about the leadership qualities and determination that Xhaka showed in a young Arsenal midfield, Arteta said after the success against Chelsea: “Since I’ve been here he has always shown that. That’s why I’ve been really supportive of him.
“He made a mistake, like we all do, but his commitment and his character and how much he wants to fight for this club and this team is unquestionable, and today I feel he showed that again.”
It was a timely first goal of the season for Xhaka, who played more passes (44) than anyone else in Arsenal’s team and matched left-back Kieran Tierney (55) for the most touches among Gunners players.
Xhaka also engaged in more duels for the ball – 13 – than anyone else in an Arsenal jersey, and his strike from outside the penalty area was far from his first long-range hit for the Gunners.
According to Opta, Xhaka has now scored seven of his nine Arsenal goals in the Premier League from beyond the 18-yard box, the highest ratio of all Gunners players to have netted at least five times in the competition.
Xhaka chipped in to the conversation after the game, writing on Instagram: “Sometimes actions speak louder than words. Proud of our team tonight.”