‘Egotistical’, ‘irredeemable’, ‘entitled’, ‘immature and self-seeking’.

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These are not normally words you see about a player who just scored a 30-yard free-kick in a crucial derby victory.

And yet they were directed Granit Xhaka’s way on Twitter in the wake of his comments after Arsenal’s 3-1 Boxing Day win over Chelsea.

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The Swiss international put in an excellent display on his return to Mikel Arteta’s side following a suspension for a disappointing straight red card in the defeat to Burnley. But after the match Xhaka’s focus was directed at his fiercest critics.

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“There was a lot of speaking after the red card,” Xhaka said. “A lot of people started speaking again… and again and again.

“I will always show my character. I was very disappointed about my red card and I knew what I did was wrong for my side. But I am more than happy. I helped the team and I am back.”

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It is not the first time the 28-year-old has spoken out against his detractors.

Immediately after the Europa League final defeat in 2019 he claimed not to care “what the people speak about us on social media,” before going on in the same interview to criticise those who “speak too much.”

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LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Granit Xhaka of Arsenal celebrates scoring their 2nd goal with Alexandre Lacazette who scored their 1st during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on December 26, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Mark Leech/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)
Xhaka fired in a free-kick against Chelsea

Later that year he engaged in a public war of words with former Manchester United left back Patrice Evra, after the Frenchman had labelled Arsenal as “babies.”

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“A lot of people speak too much. I hear that the first time he [Evra] speaks something against us,” he said.

“I have a lot of respect about him, because he was a great player. But you have to be careful what you say in those situations as well.

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“It’s not only him, it’s a lot of people.”

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Bukayo Saka (L) and Alexandre Lacazette (R) congratulate Granit Xhaka (Image: JULIAN FINNEY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The past few weeks have been emblematic of Xhaka’s Jekyll and Hyde career at Arsenal. The lows of the Burnley red card were circumvented by the highs of his goal against Chelsea, only for him to drag opinions back down with his post match comments.

Throughout all the ups and downs the Swiss international has, in public at least, given off a sense of victimhood rather than that of someone who wants to learn from his mistakes.

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To be fair to him that is not completely unfounded. Some of the abuse he has received on social media, particularly the death threats towards his wife and new born baby, is unacceptable and demonstrate an ugly side to fan culture that is sadly becoming more common.

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Granit Xhaka was sent off in a brainless incident against Burnley

But to say Xhaka didn’t deserve criticism for needlessly grabbing Ashley Westwood by the throat at a time when Arsenal were desperately in need of some discipline would be wrong.

True leaders would have owned up to such a mistake and tried to learn. But from Xhaka’s post-Chelsea comments and his refusal to apologise like teammates Nicolas Pepe and Gabriel seem to suggest that he has done neither.

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One good performance does not change the fact that Arsenal are still 15th in the Premier League after 15 matches. Before coming out and giving his critics further ammunition, Xhaka should focus on his football and getting himself back to his top level – something he has consistently been beneath this season.

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Arsenal’s Scottish defender Kieran Tierney (C) and Arsenal’s Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka (R) celebrates at the end of the English FA Cup semi-final football match between Arsenal and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium in London, on July 18, 2020. (Photo by MATTHEW CHILDS / POOL / AFP) / NOT FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING USE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE (Photo by MATTHEW CHILDS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

He might want to look at Kieran Tierney who, at just 23-years-of-age, showed a far better mentality following the Boxing Day victory.

“It is a start,” Tierney told Sky Sports . “We needed that today.

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“We needed to give the fans something to be positive about. We have had a few bad results this season so it is a start.”

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This should be the prevailing attitude around the Emirates right now rather than one of over-exuberant jubilation. The victory over Chelsea means little if it is not followed up by results against Brighton and West Brom.

Granit Xhaka is clearly a quality player. There is a reason that Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery, Freddie Ljungberg and Mikel Arteta have all consistently picked him in their sides.

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But his mentality is what has often been in question. Consistent failure to grow from his errors means that he is likely to continue to receive criticism. At 28-years-of-age it might be a lost cause to expect that to change.


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