Mikel Arteta has received heaps of praise in recent weeks for managing to turn around the situation at the Emirates. While everyone recognises there’s more work to do, it’s the work that the Spaniard is doing with individual players that is even more impressive, specially Granit Xhaka.
I’m not a Xhaka fan and never have been since his arrival in 2016. Since that day, he has had three different managers, Wenger, Emery and Ljungberg, none of them could motivate the Swiss International sufficiently to extract the best out of him.
During his time in North London, he has been something of a luxury, a passenger and a waste of money for the reported fee of £35m.
His errors have cost points and games. His discipline has been dreadful and his concentration almost non existent. Forget the Crystal Palace fallout, Granit Xhaka has rarely delivered in an Arsenal shirt and that’s why fans booed him, not because he walked off the pitch slowly. He’s never shown passion, nor has he delivered to the supporters of the club.
If you want to get up the noses of the Emirates faithful, don’t put the effort in. Just stand idly by ball watching or avoiding a tackle, and after you’ve seen your team lose heavily, smile and chat with the opposition. Xhaka’s done it all.
Two months ago, the results were going against the team, frustrations were at an all time high and without warning, Granit Xhaka suddenly took the brunt of a bad situation.
He had been made a scapegoat on occasions, but he certainly didn’t deserve the level of the personal abuse he has had to endure on social media, yet he hasn’t always helped himself.
He’s not the most talented player but he is needed to perform a job and he simply hasn’t done that, but that was before Mikel Arteta arrived.
I’m not changing my opinion of the player, not yet, but I’ve seen a different Xhaka in his last two games. Xhaka has been influential, driven and committed and is unrecognisable from the thief who took his wages under false pretences for so long.
“Granit Xhaka, my usual whipping boy, actually had an impressive game for the gunners for a change. Everything seemed to go through him as Arsenal advanced and he seemed comfortable and productive in his new role.”
Arteta has obviously spoken to the midfielder at length to see what the problem is and at this early stage, he appears to have solved the problem.
Granit Xhaka was a certainty to leave in January and like many fans, I was hoping he’d be sharing the same cab to the airport with Shkodran Mustafi. Hertha Berlin apparently tabled a bid which was basically a loan deal with an option to buy, but Arteta has been talking to the player about his future as an Arsenal player.
Arteta has been a fan for sometime:
“He was one of the players on my list (at City) 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”
Yesterday, after the demolition of Manchester United, Arteta seemed 100% sure that Xhaka would remain.
“The way we want to play, there are not as many with his quality on the ball and the way he eliminates passes, and the range of his pass. I am delighted to have him.”
When asked if Granit Xhaka had confirmed he would be remaining with Arsenal during this January transfer window, Arteta said:
“He did, yes.”
If this works out as it seems likely to, Arteta will have proved himself just in that department alone. He is not only changing the fortunes of Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira and Mesut Ozil, but also David Luiz who went from zero to hero against Manchester United.
The performance was extraordinary given that the Brazilian was up against Rashford and Martial. The central defender, who looked like the worst buy of the summer, was comfortable for the majority of the evening containing and owing the pair of attackers. That contest ended with Luiz picking up the Man of the Match award. How surreal !