Xhaka Urges ‘Let’s Speak about Football’

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar June 5, 2019 15:10


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Xhaka Urges ‘Let’s Speak about Football’

By Satish Sekar in Baku © Satish Sekar (May 28th 2019)


Granit Xhaka, no stranger to political controversy is fed up of talk about the political tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which resulted in his Armenian team-mate, Arsenal’s influential play-maker, Henrikh Mkhitaryan deciding not to come to Baku for the Europa League Final.

Xhaka, was strongly criticised, along with Swiss team-mate Xherdan Shaqiri for making an eagle-gesture, which is associated with Albanian nationalism at the World Cup. Both have Kossovar-Albanian roots and the gesture offended their opponents Serbia – they were fined, but not suspended.

Now, Xhaka is again thrust into a political situation, but he wanted to talk about the football, despite supporting his team-mate.

For Mkhitaryan

“He [Mkhitaryan] made a decision,” Xhaka said. “It’s disappointing because he’s a great player, on the pitch, off the pitch, but we’ll give everything to take the trophy for him as well, to make a nice party afterwards.”

Xhaka and Sokratis Papasthapoulos confirmed that they supported Mkhitaryan’s decision, and that they wanted to win the trophy for him too.

“We speak with him, not a lot, because the position is not ours, it’s him. He made the decision. We have to accept that, and we have to do everything to win for him.”

It’s still a blow, but his presence still looms over the final. Both Xhaka and Papasthapoulos claim Mkhitaryan will still play a part as they want to win for him.

“He’s very important for us, and we want to give him a trophy tomorrow,” Xhaka said.

But there was more he wanted to say.

“Of course we are disappointed he’s not here, but I think we spoke a lot about Mkhitaryan, and a lot of political things, and it’s time to speak about football, ” Xhaka said.

Other Matters

Okay, so let’s talk football. It’s especially difficult as Arsenal; it’s their only route back into the Champions League after falling short in the Premier League, so did they need it more?

“Maybe,” Xhaka said. “But if one team goes to the final, they don’t think about being in the CL or not. They want to take the trophy as well. It’s one game – 90 minutes, maybe longer, but we have to give everything to take this trophy.”

The imperative was, however clear.

“We’ve been twice in a row in the Europa League, and a club like Arsenal has to be in the Champions League.

“It’s an amazing and important game for us, because we want to give the club and the fans the Champions League back.”

Arsenal have an advantage as there new coach Unai Emery is a Europa League specialist, having won it three times in a row with Sevilla, but this is his first season at Arsenal. He’s following a club legend Arsène Wenger, which brings its own problems, what to change, and how quickly?

“If you come to a club and come after a coach who was at this club for 22 years, you are new here, you have to change little things, big things, it’s not so easy,” Xhaka told journalists.

“If you see his first season, it was great, in my opinion, and if you can win a trophy and go back to the Champions League then I think it’s the perfect season.”

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar June 5, 2019 15:10