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ARSENAL boss Unai Emery has been labelled a “freak” by Gunners midfielder Granit Xhaka.
Switzerland international Xhaka is enjoying his best season for Arsenal since joining from Borussia Monchengladbach for around £30m in 2016.
He has formed an effective partnership alongside Lucas Torreira in the engine room.
And Xhaka believes his improvement is down to Emery, who succeeded Arsene Wenger in May.“
It’s definitely my best season so far,” he told Aargauer Zeitung. “Without doubt, I think I’ve taken another step forward.
“It’s the best I’ve felt at Arsenal since I came to the club and the coach has had an enormous influence.
“He prepares us all and we have a plan. We know how to do it with the ball and without the ball. We know how and when to stand where.
“Emery is like Lucien Favre [who Xhaka played under at Gladbach], a freak who pushes us back and forth, 10 times, until everyone understands.
“I never had contact with him [Emery] until after the World Cup. When I got back to training, the first thing he told me was: ‘Granit, you’re one of my five captains.’
“I’m at one of the top 10 clubs in the world, so that makes you proud and gives you confidence.
“It was a great sign of the club to extend my contract until 2023. For me that’s a huge sign of appreciation. I knew then I was very important to the club.”
Arsenal legend Ray Parlour believes Torreira deserves credit for restoring balance to the midfield.
He told Starsport: “I think in midfield, Xhaka weren’t really a proper holding midfielder.
“I’ve seen the difference now, they’re a lot more hard to break down now than they was at the start of the season, because Torreira wasn’t playing.
“You won’t believe how important those players are, the two in midfield.
“Gilberto Silva, he done a wonderful job in that unbeaten season.
“And them sort of guys, again you won’t see them a lot during the game, but he does a great job.
“So it looks a lot more balanced now with Torreira playing.”