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Mikel Arteta backs ‘mature’ Granit Xhaka for interview while Arsenal invincible Martin Keown says timing was ‘wrong’ and stands firm on left-back claim


Martin Keown believes the timing of Granit Xhaka’s interview was ‘wrong’ as he continues to question the midfielder’s ability to fill the Gunners’ left-back role.

The Swiss midfielder made headlines this week after speaking about his struggles with the Emirates faithful, as well as slotting into his side’s backline amid their injury crisis.

Xhaka and Arsenal fans clashed two years ago as the midfielder was booed after reacting to teasing while being substituted.
Getty – Contributor

Earlier this week, Xhaka admitted he was ready to leave the club after being booed by fans in 2019 during their 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace.

Speaking to The Players’ Tribune, Xhaka said: “My bags were packed. The passports were out. I was done with Arsenal. Completed.”

He added: “When I close my eyes now, I can still see their faces. I can see their anger.

“It’s not that they don’tto likeme. No, it’s different. It’s hate. Sheer hatred. I’m really not exaggerating that.

Xhaka later changed his mind and has remained at the club ever since.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has thrown his support behind his side ahead of his side’s game against Southampton, saying the Swiss international was “mature” to speak out.


Mikel Arteta backs 'mature' Granit Xhaka for interview while Arsenal invincible Martin Keown says timing was 'wrong' and stands firm on left-back claim
Arteta supported Xhaka
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“I wouldn’t want to go into the details of what happened,” Arteta said, “I think the importance of how things have evolved is Granit’s with his personality and his way of being. .

“Having the ability and feeling that the environment is right for him now to open up and show his vulnerability, show the feelings he had and talk about them loudly – ​​and openly.

“I think it’s a huge decision, and to do that you have to be emotionally very well, and you have to be prepared and mature to do it – and not a lot of people are able to do that.”

However, talkSPORT’s Keown disagrees with the timing of Xhaka’s statement.

Mikel Arteta backs 'mature' Granit Xhaka for interview while Arsenal invincible Martin Keown says timing was 'wrong' and stands firm on left-back claim
Arsenal’s top four prospects have dwindled in recent weeks
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Speaking on Friday’s White and Jordan show, the Arsenal legend said: “I think Jim, what we need to do is sort of a timeline of what the player has been through and how there has been an accumulation of this process.

“Okay, it’s a number of years after that. I don’t like the timing. Of course, I like when players want to come out and explain themselves and we hear more of what they have. to say.

“But it’s a tough time for Arsenal right now where I think they’ve lost three of their last five games, they’re in a tough time. And then it comes back.

“And like when he was booed back then, where he kind of responded to that, took his shirt off and everything, he’s probably just responding at the wrong time now.

Mikel Arteta backs 'mature' Granit Xhaka for interview while Arsenal invincible Martin Keown says timing was 'wrong' and stands firm on left-back claim
Xhaka had his armband removed by Emery after the game against Palace
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“I think it would have been better said when he leaves the football club.”

When asked if the timing mattered given it was about Xhaka expressing how he felt, Keown stood firm with his opinion.

“It’s important because it’s becoming a major talking point again,” he insisted, “There’s a bit of animosity between the players, well, that’s still there.”

He continued: “I try to explain the anger of the fans. They saw the director at the time [Unai Emery] giving the captaincy to a player who was struggling to make the team.

Mikel Arteta backs 'mature' Granit Xhaka for interview while Arsenal invincible Martin Keown says timing was 'wrong' and stands firm on left-back claim
Star left-back Tierney is set to be out for the rest of the season with a knee injury
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“He’s done an amazing job of being there for so long, he’s been there six years in total. But there are big moments where Xhaka still lets himself down – sending offs, penalties, moments when you think ‘could this be his fault?’

The Gunners have been injured and lost a lot of ground in their race to the top four, with Mikel Arteta left with just one natural left-back in Nuno Tavares.

However, with Tavares having been substituted at the start of his last two appearances, the Spaniard opted to start Xhaka in the depleted area instead against Brighton.

Last week, Keown suggested starting Bukayo Saka at left-back rather than Xhaka.

Mikel Arteta backs 'mature' Granit Xhaka for interview while Arsenal invincible Martin Keown says timing was 'wrong' and stands firm on left-back claim
Xhaka started at left-back for the Gunners in their 2-1 loss to Brighton
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And the release of Arsenal’s No.34 statement prompted Keown to raise Xhaka’s unsuitability for the role again, citing Arsene Wenger’s comments about the Swiss midfielder.

“Now Wenger has said something very telling… And he told us in the first few weeks: ‘I bought a player who can’t tackle’.

“He actually told us at a press conference. ‘I think it’s something you develop when you’re very young, it’s too late for him now. I told him to stay standing “.

“Maybe it’s all been said. There’s a mobility issue for him, and he really shouldn’t be playing left-back in the most recent games because you’re exposing him again.

“But he puts in a performance and he is vital in terms of leadership. But to take it to the next level, we need a higher quality player.


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