Granit Xhaka made his return to the pitch for Switzerland on Friday, playing his first minutes since that moment against Crystal Palace.
Xhaka has been sidelined for Arsenal since he lost the captaincy in an angry confrontation with the Emirates Stadium supporters. If you believe Unai Emery, that’s been as much the player’s decision as it was the club’s, as he didn’t feel ready to make his comeback.
It’s a different story with his country though, as Xhaka started for Switzerland against Georgia on Friday. The midfielder completed the full 90 minutes and put in a man-of-the-match performance in a 1-0 win.
There’s no doubt Georgia aren’t one of the top footballing countries in Europe, though they were on a three-game unbeaten run in Euro qualifiers against Denmark, Ireland and Gibraltar going into the game.
So even though we should take this with a pinch of salt, Xhaka performed excellently. He completed 92% of his passes, creating six chances, more than anyone else on the pitch.
The 27-year-old won twice as many free-kicks (four) as he committed fouls (two), making three tackles, one clearance, blocking one shot and making one interception. He even had a part to play in the build-up to the goal, playing a one-two on the edge of the box before finding Denis Zakaria in space, who then provided the assist.
There was probably an element of Xhaka having a point to prove on international duty, as he was getting the blame for Arsenal’s poor performances but they’ve been doing just as badly without him.
He now needs to follow it up in his next fixture away to Gibraltar on Monday, Switzerland’s final match of the Euro 2020 qualifiers. After that, it remains to be seen whether Unai Emery will reintegrate him against Southampton next Saturday.