Let’s Show Granit Xhaka Some Love Before it’s Too Late

We love a scapegoat we do. And the Gunner-goat of the summer is without any doubt Granit Xhaka.

I reckon you can judge somebody’s football intelligence on their views re Xhaka. If you don’t get what Granit brings to the team and the role he is playing for us, but rather like to focus on his occasional brain-fart, then I seize being interested in speaking to you. The problem, however, is that I cannot ignore you because I run a blog and can see that this collective digital Xhaka-goading could well lead to our Swiss Maestro leaving us this summer. Time to put the record straight and fight the Xhaka-ignorance all the way!!

Laca xhaka

Granit is in the top-four of the entire PL for average passes per game, only behind LaPorte, Jorginho and Van Dijk. He is, no doubt, the fulcrum of the team – everything revolves on making Granit tick like a Swiss wristwatch. If Granit is buzzing, the team is buzzing.

Our deepest laying midfielder produces 1.4 key passes per game, as many as LaPorte (0.4), Jorginho (0.8) and Van Dijk (0.4) combined; the Swiss is second re this at Arsenal (behind the other ‘misunderstood’ Gunner… Mesut). Xhaka is The Key Player in our team and, no doubt, first on Emery’s team sheet. He was also this pivotal to Arsene. Furthermore, Granit leads the team in terms of average number of long balls and crosses. He also is our joined-MOTM for the season (four times), together with the much more openly loved and appreciated Laca and Auba.

Because so much is expected of Granit and he is receiving the ball constantly, and often in dangerous areas, he will make the occasional mistake… and some have cost us. He has also made some painful unforced errors which have cost us. There is room for improvement, but guess what, Granit is only 26 and his best years are yet to come. He will get better and better at avoiding these mistakes, and a more solid defence behind him would also help tremendously. Key is also to partner him more ‘horizontally’ with Torreira, so they can be a joined-up wall all over the midfield (something Unai just doesn’t seem to value as a constant requirement).

Granit is always looking for moving the ball forward intelligently. He makes himself available by moving into the available space and has already clocked what he will do next before he receives the ball. He does that for 90+ minutes and it gives the team purpose, momentum and structure. It must be said that the lack of quality wingers (and having to play without the very important Bellerin for most of the season) has not made it easier for Xhaka to play his quality long and through balls this season. Yet he strutted his stuff game after game and was our fulcrum for most of the season (he struggled with injuries at times and only managed to play in 29 PL games – and let’s not forget he played a lot of games during the World Cup last summer).

So let’s give it up for Granit Xhaka and show him our love before it is too late. Let’s make him our permanent captain, improve our defence/defensive play behind him and give him some good wing-players to be able to stretch opponents again. If you want us to get out of our current predicament you  better start openly appreciating Granit. I am sure they will lift him up where he belongs, and it would be sad and painful if that were not to be at the Home of Football.

By TotalArsenal. 

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22 Responses to Let’s Show Granit Xhaka Some Love Before it’s Too Late

  1. Dexter says:

    Hahaha! This is guaranteed to get hits!

    He is shit, a liability and totally unfit to play for Araenal.

    What is his position? He ain’t a defensive midfielder, he hasn’t got the energy to play box to box, he cant tackle, his positional sense and awareness are non existent.

    Oh he can pass a bit and shoot from long distance with varying degrees of success.

    Get rid, there simply is no debate on this one.

    I remember when Gilberto was a scape goat, mainly due to thick sky fed glory hunting fans.

    Xhaka is no escape goat, he is pants.

  2. Pony Eye says:

    TA, that’s a convincing defence of Xhaka. I agree he’s got many things going for him. Maybe the most interesting and possibly the most difficult to appreciate is how he seems to naturally have space and time to play with. It doesn’t just happen. It’s a skill. It’s magic because that is what a skill that can’t be farthomed is.

    But …..

    He needs a particular kind of player as you said .. horizontal to him. That player is not Torreira. That’s not saying that Torreira is not good but that they dont make a good combo. Torreira is good there when we are playing deep and compact with only little spaces available. And that’s not our default style.

    Imo, Holding who is such a good passer of the ball and a good reader of the game alongside Xhaka would be what the doctor ordered.

    Arsenaldom should learn how not to be so vitriolic on our players. We always forget that they are like us .. fragile. I dare to say the king is naked. I don’t want Mustafi sold. Bellerin is not available for the beginning of the season. He can hold fort there while AMN is moved to the MF before he becomes another AOC.

  3. jw1 says:

    Thanks TA– and I would not have posted if I didn’t see the positives Xhaka brings to the pitch.

    First half of his first season (2016-17) was his most difficult period with Arsenal. Often not put in positions to take advantage of his best attributes. I was hard on him in my commentary week-to-week. Second half of that season the errors were reduced– and his contributions made the team flow much better. His second season (2017-18) was somewhat static. Then, no one really thrived that season– it was a death march TBH. This last season might have been a good one– for all involved– had Mesut been played more/handled better by UE. Ozil was the connection Granit was missing most in the middle of the pitch. We did well enough, with a pair of strikers in Auba (22G 5A and Golden Boot) and Laca (13G 10A)– who both obviously got the ball in proper situations to score and assist. That doesn’t happen at nearly those levels without Xhaka.

    But therein lay a conundrum– when we speak in terms of ‘placing the right player’ next to Granit. If Xhaka is to be the linchpin– Arsenal will need ‘two of those type players’. Xhaka will likely miss at least 3 PL matches per season for cumulative YCs– with 10 this season. But if he’s going to play 35 matches– his partner will likely be out for some– or more. If we’re betting on #34 to drive the team in nearly every league game? He needs to be matched with ‘that type of player’ in every one of them.

    ===

    And so sorry PE. Mustafi must go. Sell him on today– for whatever is offered. I’ve documented the 7 points he personally gave to our opponents in the course of 3 matches. Not with physical errors. But plain stupid decisions you coach out of players in Youth Leagues.

    It’s an easy equation really.
    If I had asked you before last season:
    If we sell Mustafi now? And buy a nearly comparable player to replace him? And Arsenal will finish in 3rd place in the PL and make the Champions League (+ £40M minimum)?

    Would you still say you wouldn’t sell?
    Well… we’re back at that juncture again this for this next season.
    Mustafi? Or Champions League (+ £40M minimum)?
    What’ll it be PE? 😉

    jw1

  4. Pony Eye says:

    jw, I know am the last man standing …. by Musti except maybe for the technical crew.
    MotM:- Auba, Laca, Xhaka 4 times. Next Ozil and Must 2 times. Next 5 others once each.
    Tackes: Musti 2nd @1.9
    Interception Musti 1st @ 1.9
    Clear Musti 1st @ 5.2
    Blocks Musti 4th (800mins or more)
    Own goal: Musti zero.
    Unsuccessful touches:Kosh 0.2, Sokr 0.3, Hold 0.4, Musti 0.4, Naco 0.5, Litch 0.9, Bel 1.1, Kola 1.3, AMN 1.6
    Aerials: no stats but Musti should be up there.

    He’s no way captain fantastic, but imo he gets far too much stick.
    Maybe am captain merciful cause over the last 2 seasons Xhaka leads the stats on errors leading to goal.

    jw .. am just soliloquising 😂😂

  5. TotalArsenal says:

    Great comments JW and PE.

    PE, good point about Xhaka and Torreira’s partnership. I reckon it does work but only if they are instructed to stay together ‘horizontally’. This is something Emery only allows in the big games, it seems. I do like your thought of Holding next to Xhaka a lot. I reckon Rob is mostly needed at the back but it would be good to see how it would work. I also believe that the combo of Xhaka and AMN is a mouthwatering one, but that is for a future post. 🙂

  6. TotalArsenal says:

    JW, I reckon AMN can be Granit’s stand in and there is also Guendouzi who, although a work in progress, has some of Granit’s key skills… WDYT?

  7. 17highburyterrace says:

    Hey TA, an interesting post… And, of course, interesting comments…

    I’m a busy boy today so I will only start with your tag-line about scape-goatism…

    Liverpool have an acronym–YNWA, You’ll Never Walk Alone… A(nother) European trophy is on their shelf… (And they did OK in the PL, too…) At this point, they are MILES ahead of Arsenal, and I think there’s something about the way their supporters, you know, support their club, that is part of it…

    Arsenal “fans”–at least on the internet, even here on a blog noted for its attempts at positive approaches–should sing to their players You Will ALWAYS Walk Alone…And let us point the finger at you as we jeer you off… Please note, I didn’t use the term “supporters.”

    Mustafi “lost” us CL football. And, in the cup final too, probably (from the bench). Sell him and our troubles disappear. That’s some magical thinking… But it makes also makes a certain sense. For a decade, Wenger Out was the answer… With (A.W.-LL) our troubles gone, why do we still have, er, troubles?…

    Ours is a culture of blame…And, I think, I’ve just about reached the end. Where is the pride in being an Arsenal supporter? The team is (spiraling) down. Even at low points for Liverpool, they sang the song. At least they could take pride in the way they tried to support their club. Can we?

    So, to address the post, I agree, Xhaka (and everybody else wearing the shirt) should jump ship as fast as they can…

    OK, gotta run, but before I do…

    Maybe WE need a song…

    Hell, you don’t even have to sing it… Just move your lips… 😦

  8. TotalArsenal says:

    Ahahahaha Milli Vanilli!!! 😀

  9. 17highburyterrace says:

    Back from running…It’s nice out there, but soon days will be getting shorter and winter will be coming…

    A couple of positive statements (as a precursor to a lot more negativity)…

    I thought one of Emery’s best–or at least more flexible or novel–moves this season was using Mustafi as a wing-back. I AGREE with JW that Scrodum’s time at Arsenal should end (but the same could be said about guys like Ozil, Mkhi, Laca, PEA, Bellerin, Iwobi, Koscielny, Monreal, etc–i.e., all the players who could get a contract anywhere else…) BUT, if we’ve got him and he must play, keep him as far out of our penalty box as possible, where his poor decision-making re: shoves and tackles will not result in PKs.

    And, I think he should’ve probably played there once Bells went down. The less said about Xhaka’s countryman (Lichtsteiner) the better, which leads me to Ainsley Maitland-Niles…

    And the idea that he might play as a deep-lying midfielder. Please dennis no…

    Talk about bad decision making…Well, there are the endless crosses to no one (but that could be a factor with our forwards and the fact that Emery abhors a #10 to whom a pull-back might be played) and then there are the senseless yellow cards. The first one I can understand, the 2nd…Well, even Mustafi knows that it brings out the red card and your team is down a man the rest of the game (on the plus side, you do get to take the next match as a holiday)… And (please) don’t get me started on his being very (very) one-footed…or about his first touches…

    More positively, AMN does have pace and athleticism and a couple of times he came up as a good target at the far post for a headed goal. He can also do the kick-into-space-and-beat-your-man-to-it move, which (I might point out…) is the extreme when it comes to positional indiscipline (or, trying to do it all on your own). That’s OK if (in Emery’s system) you’re a wing-back. If you’re a midfielder, however, you get your contract offer rescinded and you’re on the next train to Torino…

    Which leads me back, full circle to Milli Vanilli and Blame it on the Rain…

    Emery didn’t like Ramsey’s positional indiscipline and pig-headed style of play…and I sorta have to concur, being a fellow (myself) who prefers a good team player (passer, position holder) over a glory seeker who leaves his mates stranded or outnumbered when the (or his…) move breaks down. Of course, Emery’s first instinct is his worst BUT he was able to change his mind (just like at half time in nearly every match…) and Rambo got his playing time and the team did better. (How could they not? All he had to do was be better than Guendouzi…) But then Rambo got hurt and the team imploded…

    And what did Emery do, he blamed it on Ramsey(!!!) I’d find the quote and paste it but I can’t be arsed… Sorry…

    If the fans (again, I didn’t say “supporters”…) are gonna rain down the blame, Emery, I guess, is wise to do so too. Wenger lied to protect his players–and maybe he shouldn’t have–but (believe it or not…) he also took responsibility for results. I miss him…as others maybe (ought to) miss the money (10 million quid, or thereabouts) we paid him NOT to manage us lass season.

    Finally, onto Xhaka. First off, the passing stat is (almost) wholly misleading. We wasted a LOT of time making needless passes around our half (usually before sending it back for a Leno punt) and Xhaka untangling his feet to make them was no pleasure (for me) to watch. (Oppposing managers of mid and bottom table teams must’ve LOVED watching us take time off the clock…) I do think that when he’s got the ball in front of him and has the time to get his head up he can stroke them quite well. His left foot is very high class and he’s not so bad with his weaker foot either. The space required and the movement need to set up such passes is not pretty (by comparison, go watch some Santi Cazorla, for example) but overall it’s worth it. Also (unlike Santi) he’s got some size and is learning when (and when not, hopefully) to play the cynic and “take a foul” (and a yellow card) for the team. (That’s about the extent of his defensive skill, however…) It would be nice if he could glide back a bit more smoothly and at least help contain the play, direct traffic, etc., but he is what he is… On that note, I wonder if Calum Chambers will get used (by Emery) as one of our deeper-mids. If so, we’d have to hope that he went away as a goose but returned as a swan, or something… All told, I think Xhaka is about our best bet going in that fulcrum role…Maybe if Arteta (who was also vilified during his time playing at DM…) came in and gave him some coaching…

    But now I’m getting wishful…

    Thanks for reading, gotta move forward… Keep the posts (and positivity) coming, TA… (Funny thing, the spell-check here on WordPress says positivity is not a word, but negativity most certainly is…Like in life itself, maybe… 😦 …)

  10. TotalArsenal says:

    Cheers 27-10
    You are making good points about AMN and could be right that he would be a liability in the centre of midfield. He is of course young and will get better over the years, and he must be tried in midfield a few times when we can afford a mistake or two. Let’s see what will happen next season.

    Agreed re Rambo and mostly re Xhaka as well.

  11. 17highburyterrace says:

    Well then, I’m glad you didn’t seize (or cease) to talk football with me… 😉

    Clearly (to me at least…), coaching in the PL is moo-ving (following the example of Mourinho…) towards this style of trying to keep the ball in front of a big mass of players in the middle of the pitch–2 (or even 3) CBs and 2 deep lying mids–with most coaches as happy as not if the other team is actually in possession of the ball.

    Unfortunately, IMO, Arsenal (under Emery) are racing into this sort of small(club?)ness that was so pointedly against the “values” of Arsene-L. It’s as simple as saying that big clubs set out to win 3 points so they are actually behind (in achieving their objective) at the opening kick-off. (And thus MUST try to establish an attack-minded sort of football.) Smaller clubs want to first avoid losing, and then, if things go their way, nick the full points. It makes a certain amount of sense when you have beer-guzzling, hormone-addled fans living so extremely moment to moment…and itching for a fight. A win is loverly but at least after a draw you can find something to feel OK about…maybe…

    But, IF you can see the bigger picture, you will know that one win (and two losses) is the EXACT same thing as three draws, even if it feels very different. In 2006, when I discovered Arsenal, I BELIEVED that sophisticated folks (i.e., my neighbors and fellow denizens of the Highbury Library) KNEW that Arsene was right on this count. Sadly, that belief is gone…and Arsenal fans seem like all the rest (if not worse)… (To me…)

    Over time, I watched as Arsene AT LEAST try to protect his players (take the blame for bad results…) in order to let them express themselves…in order to play “winning” football. In the moo-dern game, with managers on shakier footing than perhaps even the players, everybody’s got to fend for themselves, I guess and “drawing” football is probably the way forward. And it worked(!) Emery can brag to all about his point total (70–an improvement) in the league. We didn’t get promoted (to the CL) but we also weren’t relegated (out of all Euro football). Low expectations are the key to happiness, but maybe this is too low…

    Re: Xhaka… I think he’s plenty good enough (esp. now that he knows the English refs and what they will and will not call) to be a part of a REAL midfield, you know a flowing group of 3 players who can move forward and aft, wide and narrow–you know, all over the MIDDLE of the FIELD…and do a bit of tracking back and herding of the opponent when they’ve got the ball. So too is Ozil (as was Ramsey, when fit). I think little LT is on his way (if he can’t find a team back on the continent to buy him…) and Guendouzi (admittedly) has some promise too, though he might think about trimming his locks so that he can disappear (from the fans’ view) even more when he attempts to track back. And, of course, I like Elneny, though I can see why he isn’t a starter when everyone else is available…Or the sub we go to when we need goals…

    None of those guys should be (extra) in-our-box defenders (though Elneny did some good work as a make-shift CB) but that’s probably how they will need to play if we’re going to be setting out for draws…And it seems to be what Emery (and his supporters) want(s). So, Calum Chambers to rule the roost or partner (and/or spell) Xhaka…and to be part of a third team (Boro, Fulham and now us) that gets relegated…

    more 😦

  12. TotalArsenal says:

    Yes 51/3, we want our midfield back and we do already have the players for it. For me Unai’s messing midfield up whilst having the likes of Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil and Rambo available was pretty unforgiveable. It led to so many problems both at the back and in attack, and the players will not take another season like the last one… no way. 😕

  13. TotalArsenal says:

    By the way when are you going to email me again>! 🙂

  14. 17highburyterrace says:

    Yeah, this morning, I thought my Arsenal ideas were a tad too negative…so I started on catching up by e-mail, but those ideas were also a bit sad (and whiny) too… (There’s no big or terrible news, just some delays and difficulties putting together some projects and travel plans and the like…) Anyhow, sooner than later, eh… But, since you refuse to put this blog to sleep (like you would with a good, but very old dog)… I’ll keep whipping (it)… 😉

    Easier than looking in the mirror, maybe?… 😦

  15. jw1 says:

    “BUT, if we’ve got him and he must play, keep him as far out of our penalty box as possible, where his poor decision-making re: shoves and tackles will not result in PKs.”

    Wow. A scenario where I might consider keeping Mustafi. One I’d not considered.
    Might make sense since Arsenal will be competing in the UEFA Mustafi* League once again this season.

    jw1

    *He broke it. He owns it.

  16. TotalArsenal says:

    Yes JW, there is still space for Mustafi in the squad, especially as a wingback in the absence of Bellerin. I can also see him do the Torreira role now and again.

  17. goonereris says:

    Very contemporary post, TA, as it addresses a topic that divides opinions amongst Arsenal fans and supporters alike. I am surprised you didn’t get more reactions of the kind by Dexter; normally, the “fans” would be buzzing all over the place like bees and making irritating remarks, condemning the author and player. Maybe, the summer lull has kept most at bay.

    Anyone who knows my view about Xhaka will not be surprised that I’d say this is an article “after my own heart”, quite literarily. While Xhaka is prone to those few moments of (potentially damaging) errors (who isn’t?), he offers a team a great deal more, which is the reason he played all 38 league games in Wenger’s last season and played every game, in Emery’s first season (whenever he was deemed fit). Now, if we can find another player with better athleticism, speed and who is less prone to errors, but with Xhaka’s passing range and overall presence (availability) in midfield, I will be the first to say drop or sell him (Xhaka). Until then, let’s give the man the love and respect he deserves before someone else makes advances. He isn’t irreplaceable, but he is what we have and there is a place for team spirit/chemistry already built.

    The man was in the Bundesliga team of the year in his last two seasons in Germany; captained his Monchengladbach side a number of times, as a young player; currently captains the Swiss national team and is looking the most likely to captain Arsenal once Koscielny is off the scene. That says a lot about how he is viewed as a leader. I agree he needs to be encouraged and protected by pairing him with a player who complements him well (not naming names or I would be the one on £6m a year).

  18. TotalArsenal says:

    Good comment, Erismus. I didn’t know Torreira is feeling a bit homesick. Hope that is not a big issue as I rate him a lot…

  19. goonereris says:

    I think the media has simply made a mountain out of a molehill regarding an interview he gave in Portuguese. I saw the full transcript and the man did state that his initial discomfort was normal and he expects to settle in, the longer he remains at the club.

    He has a good contract and will only leave if we let him, for any number of reasons.

  20. TotalArsenal says:

    Cheers Eris, that’s resolved then! 😀

  21. goonereris says:

    Lol, TA. What do I know? 😜

    I read that rather than the earlier assumption that Freddie Ljungberg was made Assistant Manager, he was actually only given the role which puts him in charge of a new program called PLAYER TRANSITIONS – “to make careful choices around who stays with the Under-23s, who trains (and plays) with the first team and who goes on loan; to manage development plans for each and every player to best optimise their potential.”, quoting Raul Sanllehi.

    Let’s hope it all makes sense in the end, in these times when player fees have become astronomically high.

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