Granit Xhaka hits brace as Arsenal end season with big win over Wolves

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Granit Xhaka Hits Brace As Arsenal End Season With Big Win Over Wolves
Granit Xhaka, Š PA Wire/PA Images
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By George Sessions, PA

Granit Xhaka marked his farewell appearance for Arsenal with a brace to help the Premier League runners-up finish their fine campaign with a 5-0 thrashing of Wolves.

Xhaka is set to depart the Emirates this summer to join Bayer Leverkusen and signed off a rollercoaster seven years in north London on a high with a first-half double, although he did later miss a great chance for his hat-trick.

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It failed to spoil the perfect goodbye for the previously much-maligned former Arsenal captain with Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus and Jakub Kiwior also on target to ensure Mikel Arteta’s men regrouped from their title disappointment at Nottingham Forest last weekend to secure a 26th league win of the season.

While Xhaka’s impending departure had yet to be confirmed, the huge cheer that greeted his name before kick off played into the narrative this was his final Arsenal outing.

It was the latest evidence of his own remarkable turnaround with the Emirates crowd, who he had clashed with so memorable in the winter of 2019 during a match with Crystal Palace – an incident that saw him stripped of the captaincy and on the verge of leaving before Arteta’s intervention.

Xhaka immediately set about living up to his lead role with a strong tackle on Matheus Nunes a matter of seconds into the contest.

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While Nunes saw a fierce effort headed away by Gabriel Jesus during the opening exchanges, it did not take long for Arsenal and their number 34 to open the scoring after 11 minutes.

Unorthodox right-back Thomas Partey passed out wide to Jesus and his whipped cross was headed home by Xhaka from close range to begin his farewell in style.

After a group celebration with his team-mates, the Swiss international held his hands out in a thank you gesture to the home fans in the Clock End.

Three minutes later and Xhaka made it 2-0 to Arsenal.

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Saka dribbled past Hugo Bueno before Martin Odegaard flicked on his pass, which Wolves captain Max Kilman sliced into the path of Xhaka, who side-footed beyond Jose Sa from six yards.

Xhaka celebrated his ninth goal of the season, the best tally of his career, by running over to embrace injured midfielder Mohamed Elneny, the only player still at the club from when he joined in 2016.

Arsenal were not ready to take their foot off the gas and Arteta watched his side move into a three-goal lead in the 27th-minute.

Odegaard and Leandro Trossard exchanged passes before the latter found Saka, who checked back inside Kilman brilliantly and curled into the corner to mark his new contract with a 15th goal this season.

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It should have been 4-0 soon after.

A one-two between Saka and Odegaard on the right saw the goalscorer scuff an effort across the face of goal, but Xhaka fluffed his lines from 10 yards and sliced wide with a hat-trick at his mercy.

Wolves were able to avoid any further damage before half-time and Julen Lopetegui introduced Ruben Neves and Rayan Ait-Nouri but it failed to stem the tide.

Partey had the ball in the net for Arsenal in the 52nd minute but his joy was short-lived with the goal ruled out after Ben White had barged into Wolves goalkeeper Sa.

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The Gunners faithful did not have to wait too much longer for the fourth goal.

Arsenal hurt the visitors down the left this time with Trossard able to chip in for Jesus to power home a header at the back post in the 58th minute.

All that was left was Xhaka’s farewell with the midfielder substituted to a standing ovation in the 75th minute, which was followed with chants urging him to stay.

Kiwior grabbed a fifth with 12 minutes left when he lashed home from a corner that Sa should have saved before Arsenal’s season ended to the backdrop of a partisan atmosphere at a sun-soaked Emirates with the home fans hoping this is just the beginning for Arteta’s young team.

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