Unai Emery’s season has only just started but the Spanish coach needs to address a burning issue that he inherited and that will NOT go away. Granit Xhaka, Arsenal captain and I have to grit my teeth when writing that, continues to be a major problem in the Gunners first team.
"I think we had a good game, I made a mistake with the penalty but if you saw the game, we could have won. We had a lot of chances, nobody speaks about the chances, nobody speaks about how many we missed."
– Granit Xhaka on Arsenal's performance vs. Tottenham pic.twitter.com/Yl7EA9Sh48
— AFTV (@AFTVMedia) September 5, 2019
Mistimed, amateurish tackles of Xhaka that cost points and put Arsenal are the back foot seem to be part of his weekly repertoire. It now seems that, for the supporters at least, enough is enough with patience becoming increasingly thin.
So if Xhaka isn’t the answer to the problem, who is ? Who could be the player to partner Lucas Torreira in the holding role. Well there are a few options to consider but let’s start with a player right under Emery’s nose, the comeback king and occasionally forgotten man, Calum Chambers.
He fulfilled a season long loan with Fulham in exactly the same position and acquitted himself well and can be considered to replace Xhaka. He’s unlikely to hold down a regular central defensive slot once Holding, Bellerin and Tierney are back from injury and the competition increases with the arrival of William Saliba next term.
He’s not a card collector, has a good mentality and keeps his head, what’s not to like. Buying another holding midfielder would cost up to £60m, so why not give him the chance he’s been looking for.
Ceballos taking liberties with that pass ? #AFC
— Gunners.com (@Gunnersc0m) September 5, 2019
Having mentioned the players returning, it may be a good call to push David Luiz into the Xhaka position. He has excellent distribution but essentially hasn’t got the legs or sometimes the inclination to get back in position as a central defender. Emery could utilise the top end of his skill range in a new role that combines defence and attack. Seems like a no brainer !
Ceballos might be another candidate to replace Xhaka because of his ability to come from deep in support of the attack. He has exceptional skills and vision and for the length of time he is at the Emirates, it would be an idea to give it a try.
I prefer him in the number 8 or 10 role because he is such a gifted and creative player but in desperation, it may be worth a try short term.
What about, Maitland Niles, who in a months time looks likely to lose his right back slot to Hector Bellerin. He has worked hard in defence but also has the attacking and creative skills of a midfielder and can replace Xhaka. These are things that should have been incorporated in pre season but sadly Emery seemed oblivious to Xhaka’s limitations. Maitland Niles needs a position that he can claim as his own and has shown great versatility.
With Ramsey gone, Arsenal are short of realistic options and although Matteo Guendouzi has played in the role, he is developing at such a rate that he will soon need to be installed in the midfield engine room.
Mattéo Guendouzi's north London derby by numbers:
30 final-third passes
3 tackles made
2 fouls won
And he was the youngest player on the pitch. ? pic.twitter.com/EPkJTZ5h6H
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 1, 2019
He showed great desire and attitude at the Emirates against Spurs, which was most noticeable when his attempt at goal didn’t find the net. He dropped to his knees and slapped the turf in frustration. The boy has heart and desire, something that Xhaka can’t exactly be accused of from where I’m standing.