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A defiant Granit Xhaka insisted Arsenal displayed the “togetherness, spirit and character” they had been accused of lacking as they secured a crucial 2-0 win over AC Milan at the San Siro.
First-half goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey put Arsenal in control of their Europa League round of 16 tie ahead of next week’s second leg at the Emirates Stadium.
A series of leaks from the dressing room over recent days painted the picture of a squad struggling to find its way back to the level they showed against Milan.
“A lot of people spoke about us from the outside, but nobody knows what is inside the team,” Xhaka told the club website. “We showed togetherness today, we showed spirit and a lot of character.
“Everyone knows that we lost the last four games and that was difficult for us. It was important to be together and to show the people on the outside that we are a team. We showed a good game today.”
Xhaka was among Arsenal’s best performers in a convincing win against a Milan side that struggled to exert any pressure on the Gunners after slipping into a two-goal deficit.
The Swiss midfielder, so often ranked among the chief culprits when Arsenal lose, kept the Gunners ticking over with accurate passing – completing 94.8 per cent of his attempts – and made several crucial clearances and interceptions.
“At the start it was a little bit difficult for us, but after that we made it our game and we scored,” Xhaka said. “I think 2-0 here in Milan is a good result for the first leg.
“Now we want to finish the second leg and to win as well again at home.”