Rio Ferdinand picks out ‘inspirational’ unsung Arsenal hero after Chelsea draw

Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand working for BT Sport prior to the FA Cup Third Round match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester United at Molineux on January 04, 2020 in Wolverhampton, England.
Ferdinand hailed Xhaka (Picture: Visionhaus)

Rio Ferdinand hailed Granit Xhaka for his ‘inspirational’ performance in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea, praising his fighting spirit.

Xhaka was forced to move to centre-half after David Luiz was sent off for a challenge on Tammy Abraham – who had been put through on goal courtesy of an error by Shkodran Mustafi – with Arsenal a man and a goal down after Jorginho slotted home the resulting penalty.

Gabriel Martinelli got the Gunners back on level terms after a lung-busting sprint from inside his own half but Cesar Azpilicueta seemed to put the game out of reach for Mikel Arteta’s side with just six minutes of normal time remaining.

Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin had other ideas, curling in a left-footed strike from the edge of the box, but Ferdinand picked out Xhaka – a player he’s been critical of in the past – for special praise for his ability to adapt and show leadership in an awkward situation for his side.

‘I’ve criticised Xhaka,’ Ferdinand told BT Sport: But how he showed that desire, the maturity, the mentality to slip into the back-four and hold it all together was amazing.

‘That’s inspirational for other players. I’m shifting position and making sure we get this result. Fight, spirit. It was there for Arteta to see there.’

Arteta said of Xhaka and Bellerin’s contributions: ‘When you are willing, when you have the spirit and you have the attitude to play anywhere on the pitch and step up rather than compalining. They stepped up and tried to help the team as much as possible.’

Granit Xhaka shouts at his Arsenal team-mates during the 2-2 draw with Chelsea
Xhaka put in a shift (Picture: AMA/Getty)

Xhaka added: ‘We played very well after the red card. So difficult, but we showed great team spirit. We were speaking at half time that we can do it and we came twice back so I am very proud of this team.

‘After this game nobody will have to speak about us. We showed big character. A lot of people say we have no character in the team, so after this game we showed we have.

‘I hope centre-back is not my new position, but the gaffer knows I can play there. I tried to help the team, and the guys around me made it easy for me today.’

No comments