Granit Xhaka: Arsenal need leaders after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang exclusion

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Granit Xhaka admits Arsenal’s senior players need to step up in the wake of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s expulsion from the team.

Aubameyang has been stripped of the captaincy and dropped from the squad following a breach of discipline.

But the Gunners have coped well in the striker’s absence, beating Southampton 3-0 at the weekend before goals from youngsters Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe secured a 2-0 win over West Ham on Wednesday.

“We have a lot of young players, and you can see the hunger in them,” said Xhaka.

“But as well, the experienced players like me, like Thomas (Partey) for example in the middle, we have to take them to the side, we have to speak with them.

“They are making our life very easy, because they are playing very good. They are scoring and we are enjoying playing with them.

“But, of course, we need the leaders in the team and at the moment we are doing well.”

Arsenal’s victory moved them into the top four for the first time in 14 months, and midfielder Xhaka believes they can stay there.

“Of course, if not we don’t need to go on the pitch,” he added. “At the moment we are very strong, very solid. We are not conceding a lot of goals and we believe in ourselves.

Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka celebrate a goal
Emile Smith Rowe, left, scored for Arsenal on Wednesday night (Nick Potts/PA)

West Ham dropped out of the Champions League spots and lost Vladimir Coufal to a red card for bringing down Alexandre Lacazette.

But goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, who saved Lacazette’s resulting spot-kick, says the Hammers still have their sights set on a top-four finish.

“There is a strong belief,” he said. “We lost the game and, as always, there are bad emotions after losing a game and not performing well.

“But then we’ve played against some really good teams this season and we’ve managed to beat them, so we can take confidence from that.

“You’re always going to get setbacks and I believe that sometimes setbacks like that help you to put your mindset back on the right track.

“Every team’s going to go through this. It’s not always nice. There’s always ups and downs and the teams who finish high in the table are the ones who have less of them, so I hope we’re going to stay consistent.

“It’s still quite early in the season. You shouldn’t really be worried about looking too far ahead. I think we have to focus now on coming back against Norwich on Saturday.”

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