The belligerence shown by Unai Emery regarding Granit Xhaka as Arsenal Captain is staggering. I actually like the work Emery is doing with Arsenal but he is completely wrong about Xhaka as a player and captain.
I fail to see his general value or contribution to the Arsenal side. His inclusion to the Arsenal starting 11 to face Manchester United means that someone more deserving will be left on the bench.
I’d rather see Joe Willock or Callum Chambers in the side because they add genuine quality and endeavor but no doubt ‘Captain Vanilla’ will feature in what is a critical game for both teams.
Critical from the point of instilling belief, critical from the view of adding points to close the gap on the advancing Liverpool and Manchester City and finally, crucial to the two managers that are under a certain amount of pressure early on. Emery recently said on the thorny subject of Xhaka,
“Xhaka is a very important player for us. He has a big commitment here, he is improving. I am not asking people to support him but I assure you he is going to achieve his best things if the supporters help him.”
Important to Arsenal ? In what way ? Oliver Young – Miles of the Metro noted,
“Over the past six league seasons, Xhaka has accumulated 51 yellow cards – one every 3.6 games – and a large chunk of those have been professional fouls on players who have skipped past him in midfield.”
If for some reason Xhaka gets the nod over Matteo Guendouzi (which I doubt) I would be as mad as a hedgehog on a glass of cider ! This is Arsenal’s chance to show off their potential and put some perspective on their challenge for a champions league slot.
A draw is absolutely no use to anyone but a defeat is unthinkable. Emery’s men need this and must show the spirit they displayed against Aston Villa but without the mistakes.
It’s part of a managers DNA to support players and persist with their vision, I get that but Xhaka is not an Arsenal player and will never be. He’s no Emmanuel Petit nor is he a Gilberto Silva. He can only dream of being Patrick Vieira !!! He lacks finesse, he lacks commitment, continuity and he lacks intensity.
He lacks focus and concentration, is slow to adapt and tackles like a farmers plough. Apart from clogging a missile of a shot from distance and collecting cards like a frenzied schoolboy for an album, I can’t think of what Xhaka brings to Arsenal.
Granted, he should probably play further forward in a more creative role but how can he be trusted in the playmaker role when he doesn’t appear to have the ability to work deeper. On reflection if Ozil and Mustafi weren’t perceived as the weakest players in some Arsenal supporters minds, Xhaka would have the spotlight to himself.
Against Manchester United, Arsenal have the opportunity to lay down a marker and should technically able to dominate the fixture but there are weak spots depending on the team selection.
Kolasinac will be found flat footed in the left back position against pace. Maitland-Niles is vulnerable on the right in an unnatural position, no fault of his own and Xhaka will always be in the verge of handing out a goal via a mistake or penalty.
Sokratis will also have to dispense with his occasional fully fledged, cave man style tackles to avoid penalty seekers. You do have to admire his zest for competing but it lacks a little finesse.
Arsenal will look toward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to get them out of jail if things are not quite going to plan. There’s little doubt that he will present a decent test for United new boy Harry Maguire and the Gabon striker has enough pace and trickery to win that contest.
I’d risk Bellerin and Tierney to give United extra problems going forward and if Arsenal can keep them on the back foot then defence won’t be of much concern apart from lightening counter attacks. Emery can’t afford any mistakes but Xhaka is probably his biggest so far.