Sunday 23 July 2017

Granit Xhaka vows to maintain his style of play despite discipline concerns

Granit Xhaka has had problems with ill discipline this season
Granit Xhaka has had problems with ill discipline this season

Granit Xhaka will not change his approach despite his poor disciplinary record and believes he has more to show at Arsenal next season.

The big-money summer arrival from Borussia Monchengladbach has divided opinion among Arsenal fans but the midfielder was the toast of the Emirates Stadium when he opened the scoring in the 2-0 win over Manchester United on Sunday.

Xhaka has been sent off nine times in the last three years and has picked up 11 bookings for the Gunners this season, with manager Arsene Wenger questioning his tackling technique on more than one occasion.

The Switzerland international put Arsenal ahead courtesy of a deflected long-range effort before former United forward Danny Welbeck headed home a second just three minutes later.

Xhaka, who overcame a calf problem to be involved, enjoyed one of his best all-round performances in Arsenal colours before insisting he will not look to alter his game.

"In football you get criticised if you are sent off," the 24-year-old said.

"It's my style of play and nobody can make me change that. Even if I get another red card, then that happens. You become cleverer, maybe look more and since my red card, I think things have improved.

"It's not like I played my first football match in England. For me football is pretty much the same everywhere, the ball is round, but maybe tactically things are different than at other clubs I've played for."

A run of eight defeats in their last 17 games in all competitions has seen Arsenal slip from title contenders to a side struggling to finish in the top four - although they have an FA Cup final against Chelsea to come.

But Xhaka remains hopeful of Arsenal crashing the top-four party and admitted he will be looking to build upon his first season in the Premier League.

"I think in general it was a good performance from us," he said of Wenger's first-ever Premier League win over United boss Jose Mourinho.

"When everything comes together like that, you look good on a personal level too. I'm really satisfied with my performance and the performance of the team, which is most important.

"I didn't sign here for five years (to not improve as a player). This is a top club, a great club.

"We're having a season where things have been a bit more difficult but I'm convinced that in the coming years we can show another side.

"We always have hope (of finishing in the top four) - hope dies last. It's up to us, we need some luck along the way, but if we win the next four games, I'm convinced that we can do it."

United remain fifth, one place above Arsenal, but have played a game more.

Mourinho said after falling to his first league defeat to Wenger in their 13th clash that it would now be "impossible" for the Red Devils to finish in the top four.

The Portuguese made eight changes from the side which won 1-0 at Celta Vigo in the first-leg of their Europa League semi-final clash on Thursday.

The return leg comes this week but, while United midfielder Juan Mata concedes that reaching the Champions League by winning the Europa League remains the priority, he is still eyeing up a place in the top four.

"Now we play Celta Vigo and we need to focus on that from this moment," he told MUTV.

"We need to recover and focus on the second leg because we have the chance to play in a European final.

"We are fighting for a Champions League spot through the Europa League, but as well through the Premier League and we came here with this aim but unfortunately we couldn't win.

"We have a really important chance to play Champions League through the Europa League but in the Premier League anything can happen.

"We will try to win our remaining games and maybe we (will finish) in the top four."

Press Association

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