Granit Xhaka insists he won’t change the way he plays despite receiving the fifth red card of his Arsenal career in their Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Liverpool last week.
The Arsenal midfielder’s last-man foul on Diogo Jota earned him a straight red card at Anfield, meaning he was suspended for Thursday’s second-leg defeat at the Emirates Stadium.
Xhaka faced fierce criticism and apologised on social media following the dismissal, his second of the campaign after he was given his marching orders for a foul on Manchester City’s Joao Cancelo in August, but he insists taking risks is part of his game.
“It’s not like I’m planning this,” he told Sky Sports in an exclusive interview for Soccer Saturday. “It’s not like I’m doing this on purpose.
“But sometimes, I am in a position where I have to take a 50:50. It’s risky, of course. Now people will say, ‘Yeah, but why do you always [take] risks?’
“This is who I am. I can’t change myself from today to tomorrow. Of course, I need to improve and I know I need to improve.
“But in this moment, if Jota takes the ball and he scores, they will say again, ‘Why didn’t you stop him?’ Now, I stop him, they say, ‘Why do you get the red card?’
“In the end, after the game, everyone is smarter than in the moment – myself as well. Of course, when I see it back now and say, ‘Do I need to go into the duel or not?’ No.
“But it is a moment, a second, where I have to make a decision and this time I made the wrong one and I feel sorry for the team, I feel sorry for the supporters, but thanks God they did an amazing job after that.”
Xhaka, who was speaking before Thursday’s second leg, had no complaints about his sending off at Anfield but expressed frustration at the Premier League’s use of VAR, particularly in the decision to award Manchester City a penalty against him during Arsenal’s 2-1 loss to Manchester City on New Year’s Day.
“If you if you look in slow motion, every duel, every foul looks too much,” he said. “[Against Manchester City], he [referee Stuart Attwell] had decided already it wasn’t a penalty.
“But after, they go to VAR and check and check and check. The thing is, they are checking two pictures, three pictures, and they are not seeing all the action.
“I hope that in the future the referees can make their own decisions. Don’t let the people from outside look in slow motion and stuff like this because I believe in a slow motion, everything looks harder than it is.
“In the end, they are human beings as well. They make mistakes as well. This is part of the job. Everyone makes mistakes. We have to accept decisions and look forward.”
Xhaka on Spurs postponement: I loved Micah Richards’ comment!
Xhaka also defended Arsenal’s decision to request the postponement of last weekend’s north London derby against Tottenham, insisting the club attract an unfair amount of criticism and thanking Micah Richards for pointing that out on Sky Sports.
“I just feel like, when it’s Arsenal everyone wants to lump in for some reason,” said former Manchester City defender Richards. “Arsenal have been in great form and, by the rules, they have done nothing wrong.”
Xhaka said: “It’s nothing new for me. Every time this football club does something, everyone has to say something.
“I love the comment from Micah Richards, what he said about it. He said every time Arsenal does something, everyone has to speak about it, but nobody speaks about what other clubs did.
“So thanks, Micah, for the comment. I love it.”
Xhaka on Arteta: He’s a freak – in a positive way
Arsenal face fierce competition from Spurs, among other clubs, to secure a top-four finish but they have already turned their form around this season and Xhaka believes manager Mikel Arteta has been key to their improvement.
“We had a very, very bad start. We were hoping to start much better than we did. But how we came back, how we believe in ourselves and how we believe in the philosophy of Mikel, is amazing.
“Mikel is a freak but a freak in a positive way. He sees football with different eyes and in different ways.
“He is so focused on the job he’s doing and I think he has improved all the players we have in the squad.
“I think in the past, our problem was always when we lost a game, we lost the second and third and fourth and fifth, and after that we start to win.
“That has changed this season. We don’t concede any stupid goals anymore – or a lot of goals.
“We were struggling in the beginning to score but now we are doing much, much better.
“I have a feeling that we have a very good balance between defending and attacking and this makes us strong at the moment.
“We’re in a good position and we want to keep going. Let’s see what happens after 38 games.”