Granit Xhaka is a captain without an armband.
The journey that the Swiss midfielder has gone on at Arsenal has been truly astonishing, rising from the point of literally packing his suitcases to re-establishing himself as one of the club’s most integral players.
Lest we forget that it wasn’t too long ago that Xhaka was linked with an exit from Emirates Stadium each and every transfer window with Arsenal fans thoroughly unperturbed about a potential departure.
The story of Xhaka’s Arsenal career
After all, the relationship between Xhaka and the Arsenal faithful infamously reached a nadir in 2019 when his furious reaction to being booed ultimately led to him losing the club captaincy.
Three and a half years later and although the armband hasn’t found its way back to Xhaka, there’s no denying that he’s one of the most prominent leaders in Mikel Arteta’s dressing room.
And now that Arsenal fans have fallen in love with him again, the 30-year-old feels like he’s coming into his own as the midfield dynamo that he’s always had the potential to be.
Marry that to him getting into trouble on the pitch far less frequently and Xhaka has completely transformed from something of a liability to a player that younger members of the squad can really look up to and learn from.
In fact, ahead of the north London derby on Sunday, the importance of Xhaka to this Arsenal squad – which finds itself contending for Premier League glory – couldn’t have been clearer.
What did Xhaka do before the north London derby?
We say that because Arsenal fans have been lapping up footage of Xhaka looking, for all intents and purposes, as though he was giving the mother of all pep talks during the pre-match stretches.
As the Arsenal players made sure that their bodies were in top-top condition for what proved to be a fantastic 2-0 win, Xhaka can be seen wasting no time at all in making his feelings and ambitions clear for such a big game.
While, of course, it’s impossible to know exactly what Xhaka was saying, he can nevertheless be seen talking and gesticulating passionately to the group as they move from stretch to stretch.
You don’t have to be a body language expert to know that whatever exactly Xhaka said that it was delivered with intensity, spirit and desire.
Plus, with Twitter user @ArsenalCreator1 posting the video to the tune of over 2,900 retweets, 20,500 ‘likes’ and 1.1 million views at the time of writing, it’s fair to say that Gooners loved it, so be sure to check it out for yourself below:
Video: Xhaka gives passionate pep talk before Tottenham vs Arsenal
🇨🇭 We’re so lucky to have Xhaka, a true leader. Arsenal through and through ⚪️🔴pic.twitter.com/7RZvL9m42g
— Gooner Chris (@ArsenalN7) January 16, 2023
How did football fans react?
Say what you like about Xhaka and there’s plenty to say, but you simply cannot deny how much he cares. He’s a born leader, isn’t he?
The seven years he’s spent in north London certainly haven’t been easy, but if the end result is enduring as one of the team’s most important and inspiring players, then maybe all the tough times really will have been worth it.
One thing’s for sure: if Arsenal do win the Premier League, then a massive round of applause will be in order for Mr. Xhaka. He truly has been a force of nature this season.