Superb Xhaka Just Needs a Behrami-type to further Flourish at Arsenal

A few more days of WC football have past and not many games reached the WOW-level of club football. The defences of teams have the better from the offences of their opponents: quality moves in and around the box are hard to come by and goals are often scored from set pieces. But there still were some very good games to watch and they were typified by high intensity of play and good passing round of the ball.

The pick of the bunch was the highly charged battle between Switzerland and Serbia, with a great Swiss come back in the second half turning a losing position into a winning one through sheer desire and individual qualities. Our very own Xhaka played a crucial role in this. He made himself constantly available and passed the ball crisply to whomever was available to receive it. He makes it look simple but it’s far from it.

To be fair, he and the rest of the team did not start great and at half time they could be more behind than by just the one goal. But they kept their calm and came out with renewed determination in the second half. Xhaka masterfully led the team in midfield, playing a key role in moving the game into the Serbs’ half with good vision and precise passing.

Of course the game will always be remembered for Granit’s wonderful diagonal thunderbolt, which levelled the game and gave the Swiss the much needed momentum to clinch victory. A certain mini-Orc from Stoke did just that at the closing stages of the game from a quick counterattack, instigated by Granit of course. But GX also showed what he is capable of if he is supported by a solid fellow midfielder. Behrami, with a great engine, healthy aggression, excellent reading of the game and some very fine interceptions, was a very good partner for Xhaka v Serbia.

I can talk and talk about Xhaka’s calm and effective brilliance, but I suggest you just watch the video:

With Granit we have a very fine deeper-laying midfield and we just have to support him with a Behrami-like partner. Torreira will fit the bill rather nicely, I reckon.

By TotalArsenal.

31 thoughts on “Superb Xhaka Just Needs a Behrami-type to further Flourish at Arsenal

  • Agree T,
    I think we actually have two very high quality players who performed well below their potential in the last two years. Xhaka firstly was overall misused according to his talents shown pre – arsenal. Deep lying playmaker with incredible passing skills, especially long range passing.
    It seems to me that Wenger encouraged him to venture forward more, and doesn’t have recovery speed good enough for the premier league.
    If I’m wrong and he just wasn’t disciplined enough to stay back, the new regime will hopefully be tougher on him to be responsible. I think it’s more down to Arsene, because he seems a better player for his previous club and country.
    I put Mustafi in the same category. Needing proper coaching. He has pace, strength, tenacity, but zero discipline. If we haven’t already given up on him, I think Unai and his tough assistants may be able to drill him properly. We invested almost 70 mil in these two players, and haven’t seen nearly enough in return.

    As much as I enjoy them, I personally wouldn’t mind if Granit never scored another screamer for Arsenal, as long as he fulfills his proper assignment the way we know he can.

  • Hi Johnnie,

    Cheers and mostly agreed. I actually thought Xhaka did play really well for us and that is why he started so many games last season. However, he did not have the right player(s) next to him in the double DM pivot and that made him look less effective at times. I am hoping the Torreira deal goes through as Xhaka and him are likely to make an awesome combo next season.

  • Well said there, TA. Contrary to the popular (?) view, Xhaka wasn’t brought in to be that “beast of a DM” most fans have (rather ignorantly) craved, seeing as Wenger has preferred play maker type CMs, working collectively with other midfielders, to keep the side always tuned to the offensive side of the game. Xhaka uses space intelligently, supports the defenders when defending set pieces, makes himself an available outlet for our defenders when they want to give an out ball, keeps track of opposition attackers as well as he can, intercepts passes, transitions into attack as fast as possible, etc. He, generally, just keeps things ticking over. I keep stating the fact he played ALL 38 league games for us last season. It isn’t because Wenger is a fool. It is because he has deserved it and has become an important part of our play. It is the same reason he has signed an extension under the new coach. He plays for Arsenal the same way he’s played at Munchengladbach and same way he plays for Switzerland. Which is the whole point of wishing we had a tigerish player by his side, who will do the running and ball winning and allow him to flourish in the play maker role.

    Xhaka’s biggest weakness is his obvious lack of speed and quick reaction to dangerous situations. No coach can make a player suddenly quicker; but it is possible to give him conditions that will help him thrive, like the one you’ve described, TA. I believe that’s the precise reason we are said to be after Torreira (hope he starts a game for Uruguay, so we can get a good assessment of the man), who can help cover for the need for speed and tenacity in front of our defence. With the power in his left boot, he can stray forward at opportune times to unleash those shots at the opposition goal a lot more often. I feel we would see a more influential player in the coming season, but he has to join pre-season, somehow early enough, to earn the place.

  • Eris, on the contrary, Xhaka’s decisive pass to Behrami for the assist to Xherdan’s goal is anything but slow. He can move like an overweight tank sometimes, but at times he sees space in front of him he will take advantage of it.

  • Jnyc, agreed on Musti and Xhaka. Emery is a good coach and one that can bring the best out of his players. Excited on what the new look core will bring to us. Torreira next since his friend posted arsenal’s hashtag?

  • Hi Eris 🙂

    All good points. The so called lack of speed was never an issue in both games he played in the WC. It is only a weakness if it is required to be used. I also reckon that some fans over-focus on the so called weaknesses rather than the enormous quality on display for everyone. Especially in the UK and USA athleticism/speed is often overvalued in football.

  • Going to agree with nearly all that J posted above– regarding both Mustafi and Xhaka. But I’m going to stick to Xhaka topically– at some length.

    Think all need to take a deep breath before proclaiming Granit Xhaka the ‘next-best-thing-to-sliced-bread’. Myself? I was highly critical of his play early last season– when it was definitely warranted. He seemed to better understand his role as the season progressed– with far fewer errors of consequence as a result (IMO those early errors were not of the physical variety– but in decision-making. The resulting inability to overcome them athletically? Is what persists in mind for many.).

    Where I’m seeing a paradox within agreements here on Xhaka? Have to do with weighing Granit’s two performances in the WC– as if correlative next season for Arsenal in the PL.

    Correct me? But the one aspect all seem to agree upon– is there is only one role which Xhaka can fulfill– for any team. Deep-lying playmaker. With that? He requires to be paired with an individual who can ensure his lack of athleticism isn’t exposed. Or, if it is? Rendered inconsequential.

    Unai Emery needs to leverage the balance– where Xhaka’s qualities become greater assets. Availing them more readily, when he is supported by good, consistent play of others. Good managers know talent. (Credit to AW bringing him to Arsenal). Great managers know how to blend (multiple) talents. By approving the long-term deal for Granit– Emery seems keen to perform the alchemy required, to accentuate the skills of both Xhaka– and Mesut Ozil. An alchemy transferring their skills into fluid and up-tempo transition, creating quality chances for clinical, opportunistic finishers. It’s what those two do best. Suits Arsenal best– to find the right group to surround them.

    Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil will shine– when those around them play more consistently. The players that SIRE are signing this Summer aren’t stars– but role players. Ones that do the routine jobs– to give GX and MO the time and space to shine. Might be a bit much to expect SIRE– Emery in particular– to get the mix right straightaway. But sense the short-term plan is fairly solid.

    As for Granit’s WC performances– I’ve enjoyed them. But I’m not going to read much into them regarding Arsenal and the PL. Just a different equation altogether.


  • Nicely argued, JW. Disagree with almost everything but that is what blogging is for. It seems quite obvious to me that if Arsenal also play a more conservative/defensive midfielder next to (Captain) Granit then, like the Swiss currently, we will see the very best of him and he will be an even more key player in the spine of our team. So not sure where the different equation comes from for you, but there you go. 🙂

  • That’s was a game and a half by Japan and Senegal there. I knew it will be exciting and well fought; I even predicted the exact scoreline. Now, Colombia Poland have to play to remain in this World Cup. Fairly balanced group.

  • Think all need to take a deep breath before proclaiming Granit Xhaka the ‘next-best-thing-to-sliced-bread’. Myself? I was highly critical of his play early last season– when it was definitely warranted. He seemed to better understand his role as the season progressed– with far fewer errors of consequence as a result (IMO those early errors were not of the physical variety– but in decision-making. The resulting inability to overcome them athletically? Is what persists in mind for many.). – jw1.

    No (not much) arguments there, jw1. No one is making him out as the “next best thing to…” whatever. I was also critical of his early displays. So, you should appreciate the sense of satisfaction with how he improved and cut out some of the errors and proved to be a key man for Arsenal. I maintain that no player gets to play all the games in a league season without having the trust of the manager. Speaking of his pace, I won’t make much of it but I have seen him catch up with players making runs with the ball, and foiling moves to our goal. Rare, but it happened a few times. I am sure he will be as quick or even quicker than the average player.

  • What is Xhaka? The answer depends on what is put around him. Double pivot with Ramsey as the partner is always a recipe for disaster. Xhaka becomes excellent in a 3 man midfield. Xhaka with an athletic, defensively aware partner in a double pivot is again an excellent player. His positioning offensively is very good which buys time for him when with the ball. I think he is also impoving with his defensive positioning.

  • Eris–
    Believe I mentioned athleticism as opposed to pace. And see those as separate qualities. Xhaka, when he’s on the move? Is, as you say, ‘quick or quicker than’. Athleticism, more his response in reaction– that, actually, can be improved upon. Training techniques which can help improve what are known as fast-twitch muscle fibers. Focused training can improve burst and sprint times. Would not be surprised if this type of regimen has been incorporated in his workouts.


    Spot-on with your description of the Senegal-Japan game. Speed of the action was ‘near league level’. Which is what I’ve been missing most in this WC.

    So– like, did you get a copy of a newspaper from next week? 😉
    You’ve been smoking hot on exact scores!


  • TA–
    The ‘different equation’ stems from the PL being at a higher level of play. Where teams have an extensive body of matches to analyze and plan with strategically. At the WC, you see a team once– rarely twice. A one-time tactic can work to earn a result (i.e.: fouling Neymar 10x in the second half alone). Not my style, but hats-off to Behrami, Lichsteiner, and Schar for making it work– and no one being sent off.

    Switzerland’s defenders in WC play– far outstrip what Xhaka played in front of last season in the PL at Arsenal. If Arsenal’s were to improve to merely ‘above average’? Then the equation becomes closer to similar.

    Did say the short-term moves seem solid. I’m ever the optimist.
    But it will take more than placing one player next to GX to change the equation at Arsenal.


  • Of course it will take more, JW, but Arsenal are also working on strengthening the defence as we speak. It takes a bit of imagination to translate the Swiss situation for Granit into Arsenal’s, but for me it is v clear that placing the right player next to Granit will make a significant difference. Happy to agree to disagree, though….. the proof will be in the eating of the pudding… and we don’t have to wait very long to see it in practice.

  • One thought. Extension of a player’s contract does not necessarily mean that the player can still not be sold. Maybe there is a change in policy after the mismanagement of the contracts of Sanchez, Ozil, Wilshere and now Ramsey. The club might have concluded that it’s a better risk extending earlier. Didn’t Liv have Suarez contract renewed in his last season?

  • Oh, I see your point now, jw1, re Xhaka. I’ll have to agree with you that “response in reaction” can be improved, so let’s see how Xhaka does in the coming season.

    It looks like my hot streak ended after Colombia did a number on Poland. I had thought Colombia would win, but not by 3-0; after predicting a 1-0, I ended up changing it to a draw…..

  • Am I the only non-English person here that normally pulls for England internationally, but is involuntarily sickened by them lately for their Spurs influence? Just wondering.

    On Xhaka, I’m betting on two things aside from Emery and his tough assistants influence, which I hope will be a big factor.
    First, Torreira, who I think will be the perfect signing for our needs, our coquelin/Santi all in one. I was excited about him as soon as I heard about him and researched. Will be great around Granit.
    Just as importantly, a defense that isn’t all over the pitch, and is more in position than we have been for years. Elsewhere, someone wrote that our attacking risky defenders have been used by Arsene for a while to cover up attacking deficiencies. As soon as I read it, i knew i agreed, and that it’s been in the back of my mind as i watch Arsenal the past couple of years. I just never verbalized it.

    The sad part is that we still didn’t score nearly enough as a team, despite our unbalanced defenders, high line, and aggressiveness.

    I don’t know enough about Leno, only that he has great potential. I would love if he could be sort of a sweeper. I am a fan of that type of keeper, and that could help our midfielders too.

  • Jnyc
    I am English and I don’t like it that much..I truly hate Spurs. The only good thing is the more publicity that Kane gets, the more likely he will be sold. I know he signed a new contract, but I can’t believe he will be happy on a Spurs salary.

    Of course I want England to win, but without so much Spurs influence if possible.

  • If you leave a genius like Jack at home, Johnnie, you are not making it not easy to support you… It would be nice if England do well, though.

    Panama and Tunisia are probably among the weakest top three teams in the competition, so I am not going to read too much into the England results as yet.

    Re Kane, I know he is a Spud and all that, but I really don’t like looking at him as a CF. Don’t like the style and technical skills on display.

  • I like Kane because am somebody who lives in tomorrow when Kane surely won’t still be with Spurs.

  • Third-gen US/Brit. Pull for England as my dad and grandad had.
    Kane? A crafty thief. Among thieves.
    See what happens when he gets pinched over ‘stadium costs’.


  • I want to see Xhaka performing well against the pressing game. Whenever we were facing a parked bus or a team that deployed a stand off approach, Xhaka did well. That’s why Xhaka always plays well against Chelsea but he is more or less a liablity against Manchester City, Spuds and Liverpool.

  • Anyone watching Uruguay and Russia . I didn’t realise how small Lucas Terreirsa was in the flesh. He looks like a little boy from a distance but was marking the 6 foot 4 Russian centre forward at/ the last corner. He gets stuck in though and whips in a mean cross.

  • I also have no regard for Tottenham whatsoever, but I have a sneaking respect for the way that they have conducted the construction of their squad and their manager, who although being Argentinian, has developed a very skilful group of English players.
    When the World Cup ends I will switch back to club football and become as one-eyed as I usually am but atm I’m feeling very proud that my national team is playing without fear and having a go, I can’t ask anymore than that.

    What irritates me is the obsession that the TV, radio and Press have with every triviality connected to the England squad, and if it gets on my nerves as an Englishman then it must drive every other non-English person in the UK crazy.

  • Actually hate is a very strong word I just don’t like them very much. You can’t help respect what they have done, luckily they never win anything though.

  • retsub–
    From video, I’ve noticed about Torreira– is how strong he is.
    Even when contacted by bigger players– his balance seems gyroscopic.


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