I recently noticed an article that was articulate and compelling on behalf of Arsenal misfit Granit Xhaka.
It’s no secret that the majority of Arsenal fans feel he isn’t the creative midfielder the team need, nor is he the holding midfielder they have craved for so long.
Statistics don’t win trophies but I have to admit, on paper at least, they look impressive.
In terms of pass completion rate (87%), successful passes (73.41) and average pass length (18.53m), Granit Xhaka calmly recorded better numbers than the likes of Paul Pogba (85%, 60.45, 16.67), Mesut Ozil (86%, 63.36, 15.23m), Gylfi Sigurdsson (76%, 18.34, 17.25m) and Aaron Ramsey (85%, 50, 15.38m) – all highly rated midfielders.
[Stats are presented in per 90 minutes ratio. Source: Squawka]
It is also reasonable to suggest that Xhaka has had various partners who prefer to attack than defend including Aaron Ramsey and Matteo Guendouzi. Yet it’s a cheap shot to suggest that Guendouzi is partly responsible for Xhaka’s short comings because the Swiss international has had time to settle and establish himself but has simply failed to do so.
Fans will have noted that the Swiss is unable to dominate in the middle and that there are areas of his game that he has failed to develop.
His spacial awareness in defence and ability to snuff out the oppositions advances is poor. His mistimed tackles are a one way ticket to the infirmary, and although he is aware of these faults, they reoccur like Bill Murray’s death in Groundhog Day.
The fact is that no one really knows where Xhaka fits in to the current Arsenal side and that’s not entirely his fault. Arsene Wenger may have secured his services believing that he could easily adapt to the holding midfielder role, and at the time of his arrival, Arsenal’s midfield was already chockablock with available players.
He wasn’t going to get a central role and too many other players want to go box-to-box , including Aaron Ramsey and more recently, young Guendouzi.
His big weakness is his inability to assume control and dominate, he flits in and out of a game and does nothing worthy of being demonised for, but nor does he astonish with his elegance or brilliance.
Despite the statistics, the fans see things entirely differently. They want a mixture of passion , aggression and quality, but in Xhaka’s case it’s hard to see those qualities separately or together.