Arsenal face defining period, says Xhaka

LONDON: Granit Xhaka admits Arsenal’s Premier League clash with Burnley on Sunday marks the start of a defining period as the Gunners battle to get back in the title race. Arsene Wenger’s side have fallen eight points behind leaders Chelsea and can’t afford many more stumbles if they are to catch their London rivals. After Burnley’s visit to the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal face an FA Cup fourth round trip to Southampton and a home league game against Watford before a must-win showdown with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. It is a crucial period that Switzerland midfielder Xhaka believes could determine if Arsenal will be in the hunt for silverware at the end of the season.

“I think firstly it was important to win at Swansea and the way we did with the 4-0 win there,” Xhaka said. “Then we have the two home games coming up against Burnley and Watford. “To be honest, I see it in the same way as the boss, these next three games could really tell a lot about what direction we are going to go in this season.” If Arsenal are to win the title for the first time since 2004, they will need focused performances from Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, but Wenger has so far offered no updates on the apparent impasse over the duo’s proposed new contracts.

The pair both have 18 months remaining and are believed to be seeking parity with the Premier League’s top players to extend their spells in north London. However, Xhaka believes Sanchez, who was visibly frustrated after being substituted during Arsenal’s 4-0 win over Swansea last weekend, is the perfect example of how a player should approach the game. — AFP