GRANIT XHAKA used to be a walking red card — but the Swiss midfielder has learned the error of his ways.
The Gunners star was sent off for the ninth time in three seasons when Jonathan Moss showed him red for a studs-up challenge on Burnley’s Steven Defour in January.
That took him to three dismissals last term — two straight reds for Arsenal and one for Switzerland — and he earned 14 bookings too.
The previous season, he was also sent packing three times while playing for Borussia Monchengladbach.
But he is a reformed character so far in this campaign — with only three yellows and no red cards.
He said: “With hindsight, you are a bit cleverer. There was a time in Germany where I got lots of yellow cards and some reds.
“I analysed the cards — and some were not so necessary. I analysed that a lot when I came here.
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“The two red cards playing in my first season here, one I understand against Swansea, one against Burnley less so. But I need to accept that.
“I don’t think now that football in England is softer than I thought before. I still think it’s tough and you see that every weekend.”
One of the things Xhaka worked on was the timing of his tackles after getting some welcome advice from boss Arsene Wenger.
The Frenchman had him looking at videos of various tackles and worked with him on the training ground.
Wenger specifically wanted him to stay on his feet when tackling and that adjustment has worked wonders.
Xhaka said: “You need these small tips. I’ve been here for more than a year and learned a lot from him, specifically on the mental side.
“The boss has done a lot. I’m a hard-working young man who believes in myself. I don’t think I’ve reached my limit yet — I can still learn a lot. He’s made changes, like to the system.
“It’s important for a manager to have players who can do that. I think, when a manager has been at a club for more than 20 years, he can only have a positive impact.”
Arsenal’s victory over Spurs was the perfect response after losing against Manchester City.
But Wenger knows that Burnley present a very different challenge today.
The Clarets are equal with Arsenal on 22 points. The Gunners are ahead of Burnley on most of the stats, including running, although Sean Dyche’s team get a lot more blocks in than Arsenal and have conceded just nine goals compared to the Gunners’ 16.
Wenger said: “Every game gives you a different problem to sort out, to find a strategic solution to be efficient.
“Burnley are a team who maybe play a bit deeper than Tottenham because they have a strong defensive efficiency.
“You have to keep your nerve, even if you have the ball, to be calm and accurate.
You have to be defensively strong as well because they are very efficient going forward.”