An embittered Granit Xhaka has hit back at the criticism he has faced this season and says his mistakes are ‘deliberately made into a bigger issue’.
The 28-year-old was stripped of the Arsenal captaincy after an angry confrontation with his own fans at the Emirates back in 2019 and his poor disciplinary record has repeatedly come into question throughout his five-year stay in north London.
A pair of horror-show performances in the Gunners’ home and away clashes with Burnley in the Premier League this season have done little to help Xhaka’s attempts to get back in the supporters’ good books.
Xhaka was sent off for violent conduct against the Clarets in December – the third red card of his Arsenal career – before gifting Sean Dyche’s side an equaliser with an bizarre lapse in concentration in the reverse fixture at Turf Moor earlier this month.
And while Xhaka apologised for his costly errors at the time, the midfielder feels he is too often the scapegoat for Arsenal’s failings and has owed to ‘come back stronger’ in an interview with Swiss publication Blick.
‘You have to live with criticism in football, but there have to be limits,’ he said.
‘There are other players who get red cards, but they don’t get criticised as much as I do.
‘I sometimes feel that with me it is deliberately made into a bigger issue than it really is.
‘But it won’t break me. I overcome it, and this time it has made me come back stronger – no doubt to many people’s surprise.’
Xhaka believes Arsenal find themselves in a far better place after a miserable start to the season but acknowledges the club are still ‘a long way off the European places’ with just nine matches remaining of the Premier League campaign.
‘This has been an up and down season for Arsenal. We began well, but then failed to pick up points in a string of games,’ he added.
‘Things are clearly better once more, what with our win over Tottenham and reaching the Europa League quarter-finals in style.
‘In the Premier League we are once again a long way off the European places. We’ll need quite a run to get in on the act.
‘So it will be absolutely vital for us to reach the Europa League final.’
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