Arsenal ‘tempo-setter’ was ‘really close’ to leaving last year as ‘Jose Mourinho is a big fan’

Lewis Oldham
Arsenal midfielder Xhaka

Fabrizio Romano has revealed that Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka was “really close” to leaving the club last year with AS Roma interested in him.

The Gunners paid over £30m to sign Xhaka in 2016 from Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach.

Xhaka has played over 250 times for Arsenal over the past few years and he has often been criticised for his performances.

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He was previously the club’s captain but he was stripped of the armband towards the end of 2019 following a clash with fans.

Xhaka was replaced by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and that did not go particularly well either.

The Switzerland international has been able to rebuild his relationship with Arsenal’s supporters, though.

This has been helped by him making a sensational start to the 2022/23 campaign.

His latest strong performance came in Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Brentford on Sunday. 

Ian Wright thinks Xhaka is Arsenal’s “tempo-setter” and Kevin Campbell has suggested that he has “been a plus” for the Gunners:

“With Zinchenko being at the football club, we have seen another dimension to Granit Xhaka’s play,” said Campbell.

“He has been higher up the pitch. Making moves and scoring goals in the opposition box like never before.

“There is one way to silence the fanbase and get them on your side, and that’s to play well. You play well and all the old beefs, grudges and worries that you had before, then people start to say ‘I have to take my hat off to him’.

“He’s been having a very good season. There is no way he wasn’t going to play against FC Zurich, especially with it being in Switzerland, that’s for sure. He wants to be there. Credit where it’s due.

“Do we lack some bits and pieces? Yes, but most teams do. However, Granit Xhaka has been a plus for us this season, like many others.”

His recent form comes after he was linked with AS Roma before the 2021/22 campaign. Romano has confirmed that this transfer was “really close” to happening:

“What a season Granit Xhaka is having,” Romano wrote for Caught Offside.

“He is certainly one of the most improved players under Mikel Arteta, so how close was he to moving on from Arsenal?

“The truth is, there was absolutely nothing between Xhaka and Roma or Bayer Leverkusen this summer, despite rumours to the contrary. He’s always been key for Arsenal project and his departure was never close this year.

“It was really close one year ago with Roma pushing as Jose Mourinho is a big fan, but nothing happened this summer.

“This is good news for the Gunners, because he’s taken his game to a new level and looks like being really important for Arteta’s side.”