Xhaka reflects on ‘painful day’ for Arsenal as Arteta’s men chase Newcastle revenge

Jason Soutar
Granit Xhaka applauds the Arsenal fans after a draw against West Ham

Granit Xhaka feels Arsenal are growing in confidence but thinks they will need a little bit of “luck” to win against Newcastle United.

The Gunners’ saw their top four hopes ended by the Magpies last season and could see their title challenge put to bed should they drop points at St James’ Park on Sunday.

Newcastle were on a high this time last year and celebrated their final home game of the campaign with a win against an abject Arsenal side.

Both teams have come on leaps and bounds since then and Sunday’s encounter promises to be a very good one.

Reflecting on the 2-0 defeat last year, Xhaka told Arsenal’s official website: “It was a very painful day, I hope we’re a different team now.

“We’re in a different position as well – we have respect for Newcastle because what they’re doing is amazing and nobody would have expected that from them, but maybe [the same for] us as well before the season.

“We know how strong they are, they’re stronger than last season, that’s for sure. At home when we played against them, we had the better chances and were the better team, but they are very organised.

“They know exactly what they are doing with a great coach as well, and we have to be 100 per cent focused. Hopefully with luck, with our intensity and with our level, we can beat them.”

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Arsenal were the favourites to win the Premier League this time last month, but have surrendered their advantage after drawing against Liverpool, West Ham and Southampton, before a heavy defeat away to title rivals and reigning champions Manchester City.

Mikel Arteta’s side were able to bounce back on Tuesday with an emphatic 3-1 victory against Chelsea, and Xhaka believes there is confidence throughout the squad once again.

“If I’m honest it’s crazy how quickly football can change,” he said.

“After the four games we didn’t win maybe confidence was a little bit down, but then you have a great chance to play against Chelsea and show a reaction and I think that reaction was very good.

“Straight away, the next day you see the confidence is back but it is just the first step after the four games we didn’t win. Hopefully we can do that for the next four games as well.”

Xhaka also reflected on his change of position. He had previously played as a deep-lying midfielder but has excelled this term in a box-to-box role.

“It was not easy for me in the beginning when I needed to change my position,” he said. “I had never played there before in my career, but I had a really good conversation with Mikel about it.

“Step by step and game by game everything got better. I started to score and started to get assists and show I can play a different role.”

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