Granit Xhaka claims Arsene Wenger was a massive part of the reason he chose to join Arsenal, with the Frenchman convincing him during a phone call that the Emirates is where he belongs, as reported by ESPN.
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As the report suggests, Xhaka became our first summer signing when we lured him away from Borussia Monchengladbach for £30m. The 23-year-old was swayed by Wenger when the Arsenal boss phoned him up nearly a year ago, making it clear he wanted the midfielder with him in north London.
Xhaka has spoken about the conversation he had with Wenger, highlighting the respect he has for the manager and the way in which he was convinced to make the switch to the Premier League.
“It was madness, he’s a legend for me,” Xhaka said.
“He suddenly is on the mobile and wants me. I will never forget his first sentence. He said: ‘If you want to enjoy football, you have to join us. Here is the paradise.’ He has an incredibly calm but convincing manner. It makes me proud to work under such a coach.”
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Arsenal have become synonymous with good football over the years, with Wenger determined to maintain a certain style at the club despite results not always going his way. Many have called for a change in tactics and a change in manager, but the 66-year-old has remained both devoted and stubborn when faced with adversity and fan unrest.
What many fail to realise is exactly how much pull Wenger has with world class talent, and the respect he commands from players around the world. Many of the signings we’ve made over the last few years have put their arrival down to a personal conversation with the manager, and Xhaka is no different.
While it’s hard to deny that the lack of Premier League titles and our inability to challenge for the Champions League over the last decade has been disappointing, there’s really no telling where we’d be without Wenger. Without the Arsenal boss keeping us in the Champions League and his ability to bring in top talent even when we were nowhere near challenging for the highest honours, we could have spiralled downwards like Manchester United and Liverpool. We don’t have the hundreds of millions to invest each season like United either, so it could have been a slippery slope.
During his interview, Xhaka did suggest there was one area of the transfer that didn’t go quite as smoothly as he would have liked. Many believed the Swiss star would take the No.34 shirt when he arrived, but with Francis Coquelin already filling that spot Xhaka opted for the No.29.
“My favourite No. 34 was already taken, so I’ve picked my year of birth, 92, and switched the numbers around,” Xhaka said.
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We’ll get a chance to see Xhaka in action for Switzerland during the Euros this summer, but it won’t feel real until we see him take to the field in an Arsenal shirt.