Granit Xhaka reveals Mikel Arteta convinced him to stay at Arsenal after he'd packed bags

Sean Walsh
Xhaka came close to leaving Arsenal
Xhaka came close to leaving Arsenal / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/GettyImages

Granit Xhaka has opened up on how Mikel Arteta convinced him to stay at Arsenal, after he had packed his bags to leave London.

The midfielder's Gunners career looked to be over after he was booed off by home fans in a disappointing 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace in October 2019. As he left the pitch, Xhaka cupped his ears and goaded the supporters, throwing his shirt on the floor and subsequently being stripped of the captain's armband.

Speaking to The Players' Tribune, Xhaka revealed that the events of that day still haunt him.

"When I close my eyes now, I can still see [the fans'] faces. I can see their anger," Xhaka said. "It’s not that they don’t like me. No, it’s different.

"This is hate. Pure hate. I am really not exaggerating this."

Xhaka revealed that his father advised him to leave the club later that same evening, and this was a message he conveyed to Arteta when he replaced Unai Emery in the dugout in December 2019 - but his new boss convinced him to change his mind.

"When Mikel was appointed in December, I told him that I wanted to leave. He understood completely. We had a second chat a few days later, and when I went in, I had talked it through with my wife. Our suitcases were literally placed by the door," he added.

"When I have made a decision like that, it is very difficult to change my mind. But then Mikel began to talk about how I was a big part of his plans. I liked his warmth. He was honest, straight. Clear plans. I felt I could trust him. He told me to give him six months to prove me wrong, and then if I still wanted to leave, no problem. 

"Normally I spend a lot of time making these decisions. I talk to everyone around me, I weigh up the pros and cons. But that day I broke my own rules. I told Mikel, 'OK'."

Xhaka added he felt completely settled again at the club six months later and did not ask to leave again. Since then, he has re-established himself as a key figure at Arsenal, forming a strong midfield partnership with Thomas Partey this season.