It’s no longer news that Granit Xhaka is just about the most “disliked” Arsenal player right now.
His horror tackle against Son in the North London derby was a rash one too familiar time and time over the previous years.
The Arsenal captain is right there in a League of his own – one nobody would be proud of.
Granit Xhaka has given away five penalties in the Premier League since making his Arsenal debut in 2016, no player in the competition has conceded more in that timeframe.
Not his finest display in an Arsenal shirt. 😬 pic.twitter.com/SLbjVUhGhd
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 1, 2019
And while the debate is still ongoing as to whether or not he should be axed from the Arsenal lineup, it would appear there’s another area of concern not many have paid attention to.
For all of Arsenal’s summer, the talk was about getting new centre backs, Tierney, Pepe and yet more centre backs.
In a nutshell, the Gunners defence was calling for a major overhaul and Emery did just that – to a certain extent.
Fast track to the fourth game of the season and it still looks like the same old story, a disorganized backline. And with this disorganization comes the risk of not qualifying for Europe – Arsenal are currently 8/1 with most leading bookmakers to qualify for the Champions League next season so you’d be better off playing online casino games for real money than wasting it on backing the Gunners.
While it’s important to note that two key players in Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney still remain sidelined and are expected to lead the line when fit – it pretty much seems like the Arsenal defence still looks uncertain.
Could it be Luiz simply being Luiz? Sokratis unnecessary display of marchioness? Or perhaps because the last line of defence is the goalkeeper and there’s a weak link there?
Yes, the first two are obvious but an area Emery will now need to take a keen eye on is the man in between the sticks.
Bernd Leno has had a decent Arsenal career so far but a closer look will show he needs to improve as well.
You have to sympathize with the German as anyone in goal behind Mustafi in his first year and Xhaka further upfront would have gone through a lot of mental stress worrying about staying alert for errors.
But then, the 27-year-old’s individual capacity for errors is quite worrying as well and stats even show Arsenal did better with Petr Cech than with the German in between the sticks.
Firstly, Leno leads the EPL charts for most errors leading (6) to goal since his arrival last season. Not assuring at all.
The Arsenal defence will happily concede for fun but to then add a keeper with a tendency for errors doesn’t help the narrative at all.
13 – Arsenal have recorded 13 errors leading to goals in the Premier League since the start of last season; the most of any club in the competition. In fact, Bernd Leno has made the most of any player in this period (6). Setback. pic.twitter.com/UFDLqWaLdF
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 1, 2019
Even Xhaka who is fast becoming the S.I unit for errors had fewer errors (5) than the German in the same time frame. That tells a lot! Note that penalties conceded are not counted as errors or the Arsenal captain will easily have double figures of goals given away.
Granit Xhaka has now made more errors leading to goals in the Premier League (5) than any other outfield player since the start of last season.
Awful clearance. 🎁 pic.twitter.com/H0pORtXJHW
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 12, 2019
Since the arrival of Leno at the club, it would seem he’s been more steady and “reliable” than Petr Cech was but in actual fact Arsenal’s defensive numbers plunged even more negatively since he made the position his own.
A look at Arsenal’s goals expectancy and goals conceded for the 2017/18 season and comparing it to that of last season tells the story.
As illustrated in the image above, Arsenal in the 2017/18 season (with Cech uncontested as the goalkeeper) conceded 12 more goals than the expected goals ratio and faced a total of 564 shots.
Now let’s take a look at the goal expectancy from last season.
Comparing the image above to the previous one from Arsenal’s 2017/18 season, it would appear the Gunners last term conceded four more goals than the previous season, despite having a lesser goal expectancy and conceding 94 fewer shots.
That all but shows a decline and unfortunately it tallies with Leno’s arrival at the club. Although Petr Cech did play some games at the start of last season but it only amounted to six games at the start of the season.
In those six games, Cech conceded nine goals, with five of them coming against City and Chelsea in the Gunners two opening games of last season. Meaning Cech still left a decent enough slate for Leno to come into since his Premier League debut in September last season.
Earlier in the summer, pundit Tony Cascarino still voiced out that he was worried for Arsenal ahead of the new season because of Leno.
“The one position I’m a little bit concerned about with Arsenal, and it worried me watching them last season, is the keeper,” the former Chelsea man told talkSPORT.
“I think Leno is a big player for them this year, he’s got to be better.
“Last season, he was punching balls that were quite easily catchable and I was thinking, ‘Wow, you’ve got to be better than that, you’ve got to be more commanding’.”
Lamela’s shot on Sunday for instance was easily catchable and quite a number of times we’ve seen Leno struggle to get contact on the ball especially in corner kicks.
A defence is only as good as the goalkeeper and with that in mind, it’s no surprise the Premier League’s two best goalkeepers play for the top two clubs.
Bernd Leno can not in any way be considered a flop since his arrival but it’s now certain he must improve to further fortify Arsenal’s defence and get more credit for his efforts.
For all of his shortcomings, the 27-year-old is still criminally underrated. Compared to other goalkeepers, he plays in front of a backline that always leave him severely exposed and open to shots from all over the place.
But then, the numbers don’t lie and his personal game, sense of positioning and confidence needs to improve as well.
Leno, on a good day, is one of the top goalkeepers in the League but if he continues to make errors, it’s only a matter of time before a “currently ruthless” Arsenal start looking out for a new shot-stopper to add to their ranks.