Mikel Arteta raves about 27-year-old Arsenal star
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says he didn't hesitate to use Granit Xhaka in an unorthodox centre-half role after David Luiz's sending off
Mikel Arteta says it was no-brainer to use Granit Xhaka at centre-half following David Luiz’s sending off in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw at Chelsea FC on Tuesday night.
Arsenal were reduced to 10 men when Luiz brought down Tammy Abraham in the first half after Shkodran Mustafi’s misplaced pass fell to the Chelsea FC striker.
Arteta had to adjust his tactics following Luiz’s red card and Xhaka was moved into a centre-half role alongside Mustafi for the rest of the London derby.
Xhaka acquitted himself well in the unorthodox role as Arsenal twice came from behind to secure a point against fourth-placed Chelsea FC to keep their slim top-four hopes alive.
The Switzerland international has endured a difficult season after he clashed with Arsenal supporters in a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace last year before Arteta’s predecessor Unai Emery stripped the midfielder of the captain’s armband.
His time at Arsenal appeared to be up but Arteta has given Xhaka a lifeline at the north London side and the Swiss star looks to have recovered his best form.
Speaking at his post-match media conference about Xhaka’s performance in a centre-half role, Arteta said: “From day one, I spoke with him.
“Obviously his mind was a little bit varied after a lot of things that happened to him in his life and his family. I tried to convince him that it was the right place for him to play.
“I wanted to try to give him the opportunity to try to enjoy playing football again. Everything I ask him to do, every training session, he’s like this and is willing to do it.
“Today, I knew the moment I put him there, I don’t know how well he was going to do but he was going to put everything in. He was great.”
Arsenal are in tenth place in the Premier League table and 10 points adrift of Chelsea FC in fourth spot in the race to secure a Champions League place.