There is no better feeling than being loved by the fans but sadly, that’s not a feeling Granit Xhaka knows or might get to know at Arsenal for quite a while now. Many fans had picked on the Arsenal captain in their last match against Crystal Palace that ended in a 2-2 draw, and fans jeered the Swiss international as he came off the pitch but he wasn’t having any of it. He showed them the feeling was mutual, responding in a not too colourful way.
His behaviour has since made people talk on social media with some criticizing his attitude and saying it was not the kind of attitude they should see from a club captain while some defended Xhaka, claiming he is human and the fans need to consider his emotion as well.
In his defence, we will like to state that only a few players can take their own fans being hostile towards them, shouting abuses and jeering as they come off. It’s sad that we almost forget that these players also feel the way we feel and it is human to react poorly to abuse.
This turn of event has brought up the conversation on whether Xhaka was good enough for Arsenal. The Switzerland international has been dragged online more than once for being slow to turn, slow to sprint, and far too rash in the tackle but most times, the fact that he can really pass compliments for those weaknesses.
Xhaka can pass up a storm. The Swiss international has completed the most passes per-90mins of any Arsenal player this season with 58.34, with a minimum of 180 minutes played.
Xhaka has been called many names by trolls and ‘backpass merchant’ is one of those but his stat says otherwise. When it comes to forward passes per-90mins, only Nacho Monreal, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Calum Chambers have more than his 19.53 (33.4% of Xhaka’s completed passes go forward). The Swiss is always advancing the ball. (Squawka)
That’s not to mention the final third where he is not even expected to dominate given his position but he has often proven that he is a passing machine, a member that can prove to be an invaluable asset when playing in a pro-active team.
What Xhaka’s problem is
Continuously but not intentionally, Arsenal has demanded that Xhaka play a position he is not comfortable with. One thing is obvious, he is a largely immobile player who can pass and dominate, so far he has someone beside him who can cover for him. Many may still criticize that style of play but they also need to understand he is not the first to play in that pattern.
Andrea Pirlo, for example, played like that but is a legend of the game. He managed to become that great because Gennaro Gattuso – or Daniele De Rossi for Italy, or Arturo Vidal for Juventus – was always around to cover for him. To do his running. Without them, he was constantly exposed and left to hang.
That was not the only player. Among many others is Toni Kroos who has built himself to be a glorious passer of the ball but is also slow to turn or run. In Germany, he has Sami Khedira and in Real Madrid, he has Casemiro to cover up for him. This has largely ensured that Kroos can play his natural game without being exposed or dragging the team back.
The Swiss can become as great as those who have played the style of football he plays. All he needs is a team that understands him enough to provide that environment for him to thrive.
All Unai Emery has to do is find a defensive warrior to help do his running for him. Someone who can cover for Xhaka, in the same way Casemiro does for Kroos and there might be someone like that in the Arsenal squad.
Lucas Torreira has shown his defensive talents and his capability to play as a single or double pivot. If Emery can pair him with Xhaka and Matteo Guendouzi in a midfield three, we could be looking at a midfield that will be the driving force of Arsenal.
Xhaka will be free to pick his passes and Torreira will focus on defending while Guendouzi can play his naturally fluid role.
If Unai Emery can solve this conundrum, then Arsenal could beat the odds being given by www.stoixima24.net and finish in the Premier League top four.
Granit Xhaka can be a midfield great with the right team, and with all the circumstances surrounding him at Arsenal, that might be hard for us to see come to life. Should he and the fans decide to move on and let the club focus on actually winning games, however, Unai Emery might want to consider giving the Swiss international a defensive player to help him perform his role swiftly.
Safe for that, we will continue seeing the immobile Xhaka and that is enough to continue bringing the fans back on his case, even harder than before.