Arsenal's Granit Xhaka: 'I wouldn't change myself for anybody'
Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka insists he will never change his aggressive playing style and doesn't see his poor disciplinary record as a problem.
Xhaka was sent off in a win against Swansea in October, his eighth red card since 2014, and also gave away a penalty for a clumsy challenge against Stoke this month. The hard-tackling midfielder has also picked up three bookings, but said that's simply a natural part of his game.
"I've picked up quite a few yellow cards in the last few years, a few reds too. That was the case as a youth player as it is now," Xhaka told the Arsenal website. "But I don't see it as a problem. That's how I play. If you take that away then I wouldn't be where I am now. So I don't think the yellow cards or the red cards are too big of an issue."
Xhaka has been a regular starter in recent weeks after Arsene Wenger eased him into the team slowly. He also had to serve a three-game suspension for the straight red against Swansea, and Wenger has told the Switzerland midfielder to learn from that incident.
But Xhaka insisted he will not rein in his aggression and said he is enjoying the physical challenge of playing in the Premier League.
"I guess I'd say I'm quite an aggressive player. Fair but aggressive, someone who likes the tough stuff," Xhaka told the Arsenal website. "There are of course phases in the game where the line becomes blurred, but then you need to step up psychologically.
"I play with a lot of emotion because I'm a passionate guy and I play with that passion. I love playing that way. Sometimes you're late onto the ball, sometimes you're not. Sometimes you make contact with the guy when you tackle him, sometimes not. It's a sport where individual duels are vital so I don't see it as a problem."
And when asked if there was any part of his game he would change, Xhaka said: "I wouldn't change myself for anybody. I am who I am, people accept me or they don't. I have my strengths and my weaknesses which I can try to improve upon, of course. I'm still not the finished product. I'm only 24 so I've got plenty of time to keep improving."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.