Granit Xhaka has thrown some shade at Arsenal legends who have criticised the club in the past by saying Patrick Vieira is a “proper legend” by not doing so.
The Swiss midfielder has had a difficult time in spells since joining the Gunners in 2016.
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Often criticised for his lack of discipline as well as overall play, Xhaka was close to joining AS Roma last year but ended up extending his contract by a year.
He has been one of the best players in the Premier League in 2022, thriving in a more attacking role in Mikel Arteta’s midfield.
Speaking in the Arsenal matchday programme for Saturday’s game against Tottenham, Xhaka said he joined the club as he ‘loves a challenge’.
He went on to describe former captain Vieira as a “proper, proper legend”, unlike others who have openly criticised the club.
After Patrice Evra stuck Thierry Henry in it by saying the Gunners icon turned off his television when he saw Xhaka walk out for a match as captain, it instantly came into my head that the 30-year-old was referring to him.
“When you go back in the history of Arsenal and what the club has done, it’s amazing,” Xhaka said.
“First of all the club has had so many amazing players – people like Patrick Vieira for example. For me he is a proper, proper legend at this football club.
“Still now, long after his retirement, he’s a legend here because he’s one of those who doesn’t speak any rubbish about the club which not everybody does.
“Then of course you have Arsene Wenger, who is an absolute gentleman and huge part of the footballing history of Arsenal.”
Xhaka reached 250 Arsenal appearances this year, an achievement he is “very proud” of.
“I do look at the numbers too,” he explained. “Getting to 250 Arsenal gaes makes me very proud. If somebody had told me in 2016 when I signed that I will be here for seven years or more, I would have taken that straight away.
“What I have gone through along the way, and what the club has gone through in that time, yet here I am.
“I’m still playing for the team, still very, very happy here, still working, still enjoying my game.
“It makes me very proud because I think it shoes who hard I’ve worked in that time, how I’ve had trust from the people around me, from my coaches. It makes me very happy to think of that.
“I’ve had much more good times than bad times at Arsenal. The only real down moments I’ve had were the stuff with the fans three years ago, but everything else for me has been very positive, very happy, and there’s been a lot of respect between everyone.
“During the difficult times you find out which people are behind you, and iu had a lot of people behind me still when things weren’t as good. Also I have my family of course, they are the first ones there for me.”
Xhaka was also buzzing to hear his name chanted by the fans at the Vitality Stadium this season, given the strained relationship he has had with the supporters.
“It was funny because I was joking with Alex Zinchenko in the warm up,” he said.
“They were singing his name after just three weeks at Arsenal. I told him, ‘Alex I’ve been here for six years and I don’t have a song and you have just got here and you do!.’
“So I was joking with him on the pitch beforehand, and then at the end of the game I could hear our supporters singing my name. Maybe they heard me chatting to Alex!
“But seriously, it was an absolutely amazing, amazing feeling for me, because everybody knows what I went through with the fans. That’s in the past now.
“To turn it round and be able to show them the Granit that I always wanted to show them, to feel connected and feel their love gave me much, much, much more self-belief, and slo more desire to give them something back.
“So hopefully we can stay with this connection now, not just with me, but with all the players, because it’s very important for us to feel the love from the fans.
“I was a bit surprised when I heard it, I didn’t know what to do, but I want to say how much it meant to me and how much I appreciate it.”