Immediately after the game against Burnley you could tell that Arteta’s blood was boiling, after the potential for another desperately needed 3 points was thrown away by Granit Xhaka. A man who many seem to think is a leader and prospective captain of the club. We have seen plenty of Arsenal players let their emotions get the better of them during matches; it is football after all. Guendouzi arguably received the worst treatment for this. After his spat with Neil Maupay of Brighton, Guendouzi was frozen out of the team and sent to Hertha Berlin. However, now via the club’s website Arteta has opened up and defended the Swiss international.
Any Arsenal fan wishing for Xhaka to be subject to the same exile as Guendouzi will be disappointed. Arteta said “he’s not the only one. There’s a lot of players who have had rocky moments”.
“What I can say about Granit is that his professionalism and his commitment with the club and with his teammates is maximum. He knows and we know that he had a moment where he lost it…but what I cannot do is just throw everything that he has done away just because he made a mistake.”– Mikel Arteta
It appears clear that once Xhaka is again available for selection, he will play some part in Arteta’s plans. However, you have to ask the question, does he really deserve it?
It is not the first time Xhaka has let the side down with a red card. Nor is it the first implosion on a football pitch that we have seen from him. He was rightfully stripped of the captaincy last season under Unai Emery after turning on the fans. He has always been a player who seems to be one of the most passionate on the pitch. However, when things start going wrong for the team, he also has the worrying habit of letting his passion boil over and taking things a step too far. The situation against Burnley was brought about by his pretty terrible challenge to stop a Burnley counter-attack. The foul itself was a blatant yellow card, and even if you could somehow argue that the reaction only warranted a red, he still would have ended up being dismissed. What makes it worse is that he created the situation himself through his terrible challenge. He was literally antagonised by the fact that the Burnley players were antagonised by his original challenge. For someone who is so often talked about as a potential captain and experienced player, both for club and country, this strikes me as horrendously childish and unprofessional (contrary to the assessment of the player made by Arteta). Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of players who have let this side come out every now and then. But you have to really question whether, with Xhaka, it is worth it.
For example, I quickly came to terms with Pepe’s sending off at Leeds. It was a moment of madness, but I know that on his day, Pepe wins games for us. I knew that it would be worth standing by him. However, I can’t really say the same for Xhaka. By now, I think we all know what we are going to get from him and that he isn’t likely to change that any time soon. For me, he clearly works hard for the team, but most of his passes are the way he is facing. Arsenal, because of a poor high press, are generally forced to create their chances by getting everyone behind the ball, eventually winning possession and then building from the back on a counter. To do this effectively requires central midfielders who are willing to turn (rather than just playing the safe pass) and they need to have an ability to move the ball decisively and quickly. From my point of view, Xhaka is often too afraid to turn and takes far too long on the ball, making it very difficult for Arsenal to consistently pose a threat in this mode of attacking. Even the forgotten Mo Elneny, who don’t get me wrong has his flaws and is far from an ideal midfielder, can pull out the occasional quick turn and drive forwards.
Let’s even compare him to Guendouzi who for a similar incident, hasn’t played a game for Arsenal in 6 months and counting. He works as tirelessly as anybody on the pitch and has the passion to match. Furthermore, he has such a positive and inventive approach to the game. He is always looking to beat his man, play an inventive forward pass and generally get Arsenal up the pitch. I sincerely hope that this youngster really is just being taught a lesson at Hertha Berlin, because I think he is worth holding onto for the long-term future.
So, what is the solution? I’m not saying that Xhaka should never have anything to do with this Arsenal team ever again; the manager and players clearly like and respect him. But perhaps it is time we start listening to some offers for Xhaka. He is still a player that could offer a lot to a league with a different style, where he might have more time on the ball. Conte is apparently a big fan of Xhaka and wants him at Inter, with recent reports suggesting a swap-deal involving Christian Eriksen could be on the cards. This would surely be the perfect deal for all parties involved. Arsenal will finally get our hands on a creative midfielder, Eriksen can return to London, Inter get rid of a man who so far in Italy has not proven to be worth his high wage and Xhaka can play in a team and league where stylistically he will be much better off.
So then Gooners, what are your thoughts about the Xhaka situation and is this the final straw?
Photo Rights: Fanny Schertzer