Fabrizio Romano confirmed that Granit Xhaka will leave Arsenal this summer, which has come as a huge shock to fans after such an impressive season.
The Switzerland captain is currently having the best campaign of his career with five Premier League goals and seven assists, which will leave a hole in the Arsenal midfield and the dressing room.
How will Granit Xhaka be remembered at Arsenal?
During his seven years at Arsenal, Xhaka has been a key figure on the pitch and in the dressing room, with his ever-present readiness seeing him record 295 appearances for the club and win two FA Cups, becoming one of the leading figures in north London.
Upon signing in 2016, he quickly became a popular figure after scoring a last-minute thunderbolt away at Hull and drew comparisons to Emmanuel Petit for his tough, all-action displays at the base of the Arsenal midfield.
However, after Santi Cazorla picked up an injury that would effectively end his Arsenal career and Xhaka became the main man in the midfield, things started to get slightly rocky.
Despite impressive performances in the club’s FA Cup run, Xhaka had a mixed first season, with Arsenal finishing outside the top four for the first time in 20 years.
The following season led to him coming in for individual criticism in Arsene Wenger’s last at the club, as the high expectations around him were simply not being delivered on the pitch, which, in hindsight, probably had more to do with the lack of quality around him.
With Unai Emery taking over in 2018, Xhaka quickly formed a partnership with Lucas Torreira, whose dogged performances as a traditional ball-winning DM freed him up to play and give him more time on the ball, which he hadn’t previously had.
However, Torreira’s rapid decline in the second half of the season meant Xhaka was once again asked to do more, and his own form suffered. However, again with hindsight, it shows just how willing he was to put the team before his own needs, and still managed to play a crucial role in Arsenal’s route to the Europa League final in Baku.
But, things continued to go downhill for Xhaka as Emery lost control of the dressing room, and the team looked lost on the pitch. Things eventually came to a head in October 2019 when he was booed by the Emirates crowd to which he responded with a foul-mouthed barrage and a shirt toss in disdain, resulting in him being stripped of the Arsenal captaincy.
With Emery departing soon after, Mikel Arteta made it clear that Xhaka was central to his plans, and convinced him to stay despite Hertha Berlin all but wrapping up a move for the Gunners midfielder.
The decision was controversial, and Xhaka made several mistakes in the coming seasons such as his ill-advised pass against Burnley which led to a Chris Wood goal, and his red cards against Man City and Liverpool last season. However, it was his inexplicable red at Anfield that ignited his current resurgence.
With Arsenal’s top four dreams very much in the balance, Xhaka was one of the key players to step up and lead an extremely young team through the toughest period of the season, putting in some incredible performances in the process.
Things didn’t work out, but his commitment on and off the pitch was echoed by the young players, and his interview post-Newcastle will be one of the defining moments of his Arsenal career, as he once again showed that he wasn’t scared to say it as it was.
And, in 2022 he took that disappointment and channelled it into his new left-eight role, looking fitter and hungrier than ever as Arsenal sought to overcome the disappointments of the previous season. His willingness to adapt, reinvent himself and prove to Arteta that he was the right man for the position was an incredible insight into his character, as few 30 year old, international captains would feel the need – or have the desire – to do that when moving on would have been the easier option.
But, it paid off. To date, it has led to his best season in an Arsenal shirt, with his professionalism, leadership, commitment, energy and intelligence winning him widespread praise, and making him central to everything good that has happened over the last 12 months.
That is how he will, and should be remembered at Arsenal. He is a warrior who has given everything for Arsenal even when the club has been at its lowest points, and he has used those experiences to become a shining example for the new generation of players at the club, making it a real shame he is not leaving with a Premier League winners medal.
Replacing him in the Arsenal midfield this summer will be extremely tough on a personal level, the impact he has had on the likes of Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel will live on as they take on the roles of leading the team in their individual ways.