Unai Emery credits Granit Xhaka’s goal for confident-boosting win

Arsenal boss Unai Emery has indicated that Granit Xhaka’s goal during the second half was influential the Gunners’ triumph over Newcastle United on Saturday. The north Londoners endured a tricky first half where they were pressurised from a number of set-pieces from the Magpies but they managed to hold on without conceding until the break.

Thereafter, Emery’s men showed their class with Granit Xhaka netting a 49th-minute with a neat free-kick and the lead was doubled before the hour mark after Mesut Ozil scored in what was his 200th appearance for the club. The Magpies were never in the game during the second period but they managed to provide a nervy ending for the Gunners after scoring a consolation two minutes from time.

Speaking after the 2-1 triumph, Emery was pleased with the performance of the team and reserved special praise for Xhaka’s opener which gave them the confidence to secure a third-straight league victory, he said: “In the first half we didn’t control the match like we wanted to. Also, we needed that control to input our ideas. We conceded a lot of chances for transitions and counter-attacks, but not giving away major chances.

“They had a lot of corners and a lot of possibilities to arrive in our box. In the second half, the balance “on the pitch was better – our positioning and when we were attacking we didn’t make the transition easy for us. I think the key is the first goal [from Xhaka].“ This goal gave us “ the confidence to continue to improve in the match. We finished the match with the result.”

Xhaka has come for plenty of criticism from the supporters over the past year and they have even been suggestions for him to be dropped to feature both Lucas Torreira and Mateo Guendouzi from the starting lineup. Nonetheless, the Switzerland international has got himself some breathing space with the performance at St James Park and hopefully, he can build on this in the forthcoming weeks.