Swiss international veteran Granit Xhaka has long been a divisive figure among the Arsenal fanbase ever since he arrived in north London from Geran giants Borussia Mönchengladbach in the summer of 2016 during the waning days of Arsène Wenger’s reign.
A star in his own right for Die Föhlen, Xhaka came with a reputation comprised of leadership, creativity, and red cards.
Despite entering his seventh season with the club, the Basel native is still in the midst of repairing his image and connection with many Arsenal fans after the former club captain stormed off the pitch against Crystal Palace while coming to verbal grips with angered Gunners supporters after being taken off by Emery before throwing his kit to the ground in frustration.
Since the arrival of Mikel Arteta, Xhaka was given a new lease on life under the Spanish headmaster and through the end of last season has remained a key facet in the first-team set-up, despite nearly moving to AS Roma last summer.
ESPN’s James Olley sat down with the Swiss midfielder during the club’s US tour, asking Xhaka to elaborate on the move that nearly was.
When the 29-year-old was asked just how close his switch away from the Gunners was and if he thought about the possibility of moving to Italy, Xhaka replied “It was something, yes. Very close. It didn’t happen because Mikel was the guy with Edu, they didn’t let me go because they wanted to keep me here. Of course, my first reaction was to stay at the football club, but they opened the door: ‘If something comes, I can leave.”
Speculation will no doubt continue to swirl this summer after Arsenal has already brought in Portuguese midfielder Fabio Vieira, while the club remains heavily linked with both Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans and Olympique Lyonnais’ Lucas Paqueta, while officially sealing a deal for Oleksandr Zinchenko.
With Arsenal stocked to the brim with central options and potentially needing to jettison a handful of players before further pursuing Tielemans or Paqueta, Xhaka could potentially be on the chopping block before the window closes despite his record of service at the club as well as the faith shown in him by Arteta throughout.