Granit Xhaka assesses Arsenal’s youth vs leadership balance in top-four fight

Granit Xhaka says Arsenal's young guns are making life easy for their golden oldies this season.

Rising stars Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe fired Mikel Arteta's men into the top four with a win over West Ham on Wednesday night.

And Xhaka, who counts himself among the club's leadership group of veteran players, says it's the kids who are driving their Champions League charge.

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

"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."

Arsenal put in one of their best performances of the season, against a top-four rival, in the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Gunners boss Arteta stripped him of the captaincy and axed him from the squad over a breach of discipline.

But with Alexandre Lacazette taking over the armband, Arsenal did not miss him, and Xhaka says there is now a firm belief at the club they can go on to finish this season in the top four.

He said: "Of course, if not we don’t need to go on the pitch. At the moment we are very strong, very solid.

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"We are not conceding a lot of goals and we believe in ourselves. We know we have to improve, and the important thing is to go game by game.

"We won this game, but it is so far, we have a long season in front of us and we have to do it game by game. The next step is Saturday night at Leeds."

Arsenal have a formidable record at the Emirates this season – no other Premier League team has won more than their 22 points at home.

But Xhaka knows they muist get better on the road to have a chance of qualifying for the Champions League.

He said: "I think we are looking much, much better at home, but of course if you want to be in the top four you have to win and you have to take points away as well.

"Hopefully, this starts on Saturday against Leeds. We have to improve away, we have to be more clever, more solid.

"We can’t play every time the same game at home and away, we have to be more clever and this starts from the experienced players to the young guys.

"We knew what we had to do against West Ham. We knew it was a big game for us and if we beat them, we go above them.

"And I think from the first second to the end of the 90 minutes, we deserved to win. We know they can win the duels, the 50-50 balls, and that’s why we had to press them.

"I think our forward players did amazing."

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