Arsenal dropped points against Southampton at the weekend as Manchester City closed the gap at the top of the Premier League.
Arsenal icon Nigel Winterburn believes Granit Xhaka has had a ‘new lease of life’ at the Emirates Stadium and has highlighted two summer signings as the key difference makers so far this season for the Gunners.
Mikel Arteta’s side remain top of the Premier League but failed to maintain their four point gap to Manchester City after dropping points against Southampton on Sunday. Gabriel Jesus has not scored in his last five games but has vowed to end his goal drought and return to his brilliant form that has seen him score five goals and provide five assists so far this term.
Granit Xhaka was convinced by Arteta to stay in north London and has been influential in helping Arsenal stay top of the table, scoring crucial goals against PSV Eindhoven and the Saints last week. The Gunners chose to stick with Arteta after missing out on a top four spot last term, a decision which looks to be paying off this season.
Jesus completed a £45million move to the Emirates Stadium in the summer and was soon followed by Oleksandr Zinchenko from the Etihad Stadium as Arteta reunited with two of his former City colleagues, but it’s Xhaka who has been the standout performer for the Gunners this season. Speaking to Paddy Power, Winterburn said: “A lot of Arsenal fans used to be unhappy with Granit Xhaka and his performances, but he’s a player who does a lot of work that goes very unnoticed and there’s always one or two players in a team that do that.
“At times he was a little bit rash, but he changed positions slightly towards the end of last season, and now this season, he’s playing slightly more advanced. He can also drop back in at times to make it a back five, particularly when Ben White presses high up the pitch. He [Xhaka] has a new lease of life and he seems to be enjoying his football.
“Did I ever think he would be captain again? No, I didn’t. But that shows great courage from the manager and from Xhaka. He’s really shown his worth to the team.
“There will still be some that will prefer not to see him with the armband. But he’s a huge player within the squad and he seems to have a big influence on a lot of players.
“At this point in time, I’m absolutely delighted for him that that he’s shown he has great mental strength to turn things around and it’s great that we are talking about him in such a positive way.”
Winterburn believes a mix of Arteta’s coaching methods and the arrivals of Jesus and Zinchenko have taken the Gunners to a new level this season. The Arsenal icon added: “Arsenal’s form this season is down to combination of Mikel Arteta’s coaching, as well as the signings of Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus.
“Last season, not being in European competition was ideal. It gave Arteta a lot more time to work with his players and now we’re seeing the benefit of that.
“Arteta now completely has a team that he wants. Add in Zinchenko and Jesus signed from Manchester City as well as William Saliba, who has also been sensational then in essence, we have three news signings playing regularly.
“Obviously, there is Fabio Vieira as well but he’s not playing regularly at this moment in time. We’re now seeing the benefits of three quality players coming in, but also seeing the benefits of the time Mikel Arteta has had to work with the team as well.”