Mikel Arteta is the latest manager to become seduced by the mystic powers of Swiss misfit Granit Xhaka. Wenger, Emery and now Arteta have become almost bewitched by the latent talent of the massively overrated midfielder and although I’m not a coach, I can’t see where the 27-year-old’s gifts are buried.
Granit Xhaka is not a creative midfielder, he’s not a box-to-box player, nor is he the combative, defensive minded player. He’s not a leader, he’s not proven himself in the Premier League and he isn’t incredibly consistent.
In terms of the team, he is functional but no more than that, he fails to dominate, control a game or exert influence. He doesn’t contribute regular goals but when he does, it’s usually in the form of a thirty five yard Exocet missile that breaks the wrist of the flapping keeper.
Still on the negative side, Granit Xhaka is defensively oblivious, ducking out of the way of a goal bound ball or just watching in wonder as it sails into the danger area.
Then there was ‘Xhakagate’, where he plodded off the field against Crystal Palace whilst swearing and remonstrating with jeering fans. That should have been it in my opinion, as soon as the shirt came off and he headed down the tunnel, I would have called his agent to find him a new home.
It would have been similar to re-homing a troublesome pet after you have suffered continuous furniture abuse and an unruly toileting regime.
Amazingly though, he came back from that incident and Arteta has recently expressed a belief in the player after he said:
“When I was going from Arsenal to City to start coaching and we were looking in that position, he was one of the players on my list.”
“This is how much I liked him. I was happy when Arsenal signed him because I thought he was going to be a terrific player.”
“I told him how much I like him and what I expect from him, how important he is for the team. I am here to help him, I want him to feel that we are right behind him. Not just myself but the whole club.”
Yet, Xhaka’s agent, José Noguera, has been paving a way out of the Emirates and has stated a deal is in place with only a transfer figure to be agreed:
“Look, I will say it frankly and honestly, we are in agreement with Hertha BSC and would like to go to Berlin. We have told Arsenal’s club boss Raul Sanllehi and sporting director Edu Gaspar, as well as the new coach Mikel Arteta.”
Granit Xhaka has been struggling to establish himself at the Emirates and a fee of £21.5m wouldn’t be too bad a depreciation on the £30m outlay back in 2016.
Curiously against Bournemouth, Xhaka put in possibly one of his best performances in an Arsenal shirt. The Swiss normally appears as a peripheral figure but against Eddie Howes side, he seemed re energised and everything Arsenal did went through him.
If he could have played like that from the get go, myself and others wouldn’t be in the mood to hasten his exit and wave him off at the airport.
I’m personally hoping he moves on and even though I expect his performances under Arteta to improve, he’s not the player Arsenal need. They need a dynamic figure with creativity, energy and grit which wasn’t, isn’t and has never been Granit Xhaka.
Arteta’s positivity towards the player may just be smoke and mirrors to increase the fee and I suspect that unless there are major developments, the departure is almost a foregone conclusion.