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Granit Xhaka happy to fill left-back void if Arsenal taste Europa League glory

Simon Collings
·2-min read
 (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Granit Xhaka says he is happy to keep filling in at left-back if it helps Arsenal win the Europa League this season.

The midfielder started there on Sunday for Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Sheffield United and he was asked to deputise again last night for the Gunners’ Europa League quarter-final second leg with Slavia Prague.

Xhaka put in a solid performance, helping Arsenal keep a clean sheet for the second game in a row as they ran out 4-0 winners and booked a reunion in the semi-final with their old boss Unai Emery - who is now managing Villarreal.

During his career, the 28-year-old has at times filled in at left-back but has never had an extended run there.

However, speaking after last night’s win in Prague, Xhaka said: “If we win the Europa League like this, I don’t care which position I play!

“I need the team-mates for this because everyone knows it’s not my regular position. I try my best and in the last two games it was a good performance.

“If I have to help the team there, I have to help. I’m the guy who will do everything for the team.

“Of course, everyone knows it’s not my regular position but with the team-mates, they help me and coach me as well, in front and behind. I’m so happy I helped the team in this position as well.”

Getty Images
Getty Images

Given Arsenal currently sit ninth in the Premier League ahead of Sunday’s clash with Fulham, the stakes last night were extremely high.

Winning the Europa League is their best hope of playing European football next year, with the prize on offer a spot in next season’s Champions League.

Arsenal have played European football in every season since the 1995/96 campaign and last night’s thumping victory kept alive their chances of extending that run.

Arteta’s side raced into a three-goal lead thanks to goals from Nicolas Pepe, a penalty from Alexandre Lacazette and one from Bukayo Saka. By the time Lacazette grabbed his second in the 77th minute, the tie was well and truly dead.

“After the game at home, we knew we had to score the first here or the minimum of one goal,” said Xhaka.

“The character of the team was excellent. To win here 4-0 is not easy but like I said before, we showed over 90 minutes today a great performance.

“The game plan that the boss gave us was excellent and we showed a big game today. I think we deserved to go through after the two games.

“It’s a difficult game [against Villarreal in the semi-finals]. It’s nice to see our ex-coach, Unai, but we have to be focused over 180 minutes to go to the final.”

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