It’s hard to think of any other Arsenal player that not only divides opinion, but whose performances are dissected in the minutest detail, or whose contributions vary in their ratings according to fans. Granit Xhaka has seen his Arsenal career from just about every angle. He’s seen it all and been labelled most things – villain, hero, hot head, dependable performer, valued asset, crazy man, captain, risk-taker, liability, consistent and dependable.
It appears that it depends on the day of the week, your vantage point and whom you listen to but to his credit, Xhaka just rolls on and even though I hate to say it, he’s been in good and tidy form since his return from injury.
Before you explode in disbelief, let me just say that I’m not a Granit Xhaka fan, I find he plays too negatively for Arsenal. He slows the game down to a crawl and is prone to the occasional rush of blood which leads to a flashpoint and includes a red card in a vital match.
Yet, one has to admire his durability and Teflon like qualities, especially after his infamous shirt stripping and the swearing incident at Crystal Palace. As he headed down the tunnel waving his arms under a shower of abuse from his own fans, you sensed he was a dead man walking and that the hastily removed shirt would never be worn again.
Granit Xhaka was despised by some for a while and we waited to see if it was even possible to be considered for the bench, let alone the Arsenal first-team, but the 29-year-old Swiss midfielder has redefined the comeback in his own image.
His character is probably the most impressive trait available to him. Where others would have given up in the face of adversity, Xhaka picks himself up and just carries on. Say what you like but thats impressive because it doesn’t seem to matter what befalls him, he’s more than equal to the task.
He’s also strong, determined and fearless, but sadly, all those redeeming features are undermined by his footballing limitations and there’s nothing he can do about that. When wearing his national colours, he resembles a really good player, better than good sometimes, but for Arsenal, he just isn’t that impressive.
I’ve never been convinced by Xhaka and those doubts are always present. In fact, many pay more attention to the Swiss midfielder than any other player, awaiting the latest incident or indiscretion and I’m as guilty of that as anyone.
Yet, every manager he has played for at Arsenal has depended on him and included him regularly in their sides. Wenger, Emery and Arteta are all fans and it was curious to note that even Jose Mourinho was knocking on the door to secure his services last summer. What am I missing here, what is it they see that I can’t? Even Thomas Partey likes playing alongside the Swiss midfielder and the Ghanaian’s best performances have been with Xhaka at his side.
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Even I thought that his inclusion into the side that lost to Forest in the 3rd round of the FA Cup might have helped a saggy and inexperienced midfield. I have been disgusted with myself ever since, or has he finally worn me down to such a degree that am starting to like him. Steady, let’s not go mad.
There are better, more balanced and technically-gifted players out there that know how to tackle and that can resist the temptation to be sent off but, what will they cost and will they fit with Thomas Partey. At this rate, Granit Xhaka could be at Arsenal until he retires but sadly, he won’t obtain the same status as a great many others.
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