There is a video doing the round of Arsenal fans abusing Granit Xhaka. I am not a fan.
I understand fans are frustrated, and that Granit Xhaka has put in some very mixed performances in an Arsenal shirt since joining, but I am a little confused as to why fans would spend £500 on flights, accommodation and tickets to Spain, to then stand in a square abusing one of Arsenal’s players before the clubs most important European game in years.
The video has been picked up by many of the “lads banter” social media sites. It is videos like these that lead to some saying Arsenal are the most embarrassing set of fans about. The “chant” is up with the majority of Arsenal Fan TV videos for causing embarrassment to the majority of the fan base.
Those fans argument will be that they “paid their money, they can do what they want”, and I do understand that. But why spend £500 to not support the club?
The thing is, Granit Xhaka can play.
Like plenty of other players under Arsene Wenger, Xhaka has been hamstrung from being a square peg in a round hole. Like others around him, the tactics and positioning employed by Wenger simply do not suit him.
Xhaka is expected to play defensive midfield, but throughout his career, he has never been THE defensive midfielder.
Like Mikel Arteta before him, Xhaka has never been the deepest midfielder in the team. For Borussia Monchengladbach, he always has someone behind him, for Switzerland the same.
We often point to Patrick Vieira as the best defensive, but at his best he always had someone behind him – Emmanuel Petit, Gilberto, Edu. That gave him the chance to drive forward at will.
The issue surrounding a lot of Arsenal is balance It is the same with Shkodran Mustafi. You can not change the centre back partnership ever single week and expect everyone to look great. We need to perhaps write of Laurent Koscielny as a first choice and put someone reliable next to him, then judge the guy.
Football is about partnerships and we do not have many partnerships throughout the squad.
Xhaka can play.
Look at N’Golo Kante. He does not sit and cover the back four like Gilberto or Claude Makelele did. He presses and covers ground.
Xhaka can play from deep, but next to him you need someone who can press for him and cover that ground. Asking Xhaka, who I actually do not think is as bad defensively as some of the others we have had in there, to provide a one man protection for a team who totally vacate the midfield is never going to work.
The issue is we have with the way Wenger sets the team up is that they are not set up as a team.
We have centre backs who play 50 yards up the pitch without pace. That would be fine if we had an Ederson or a Manuel Neuer standing 25 yards off his touchline, sweeping. Yet we have Petr Cech.
We have full backs who bomb forward causing the centre backs to split. We then expect Xhaka to press the opponents number 10, whilst also sitting between the centre backs when the split.
It is as if there is no thought in the way we are playing.
If you decide to squeeze, to press high up the field, you buy centre backs like what Laurent Koscielny was 5 years ago, or even Gabriel. You buy athletes. You buy players to fit your style.
Jordan Henderson suits Jurgen Klopp, Ederson suits Manchester City.
A few years ago, we had Olivier Giroud. Due to his lack of pace, we had to press high, he was never going to run in behind a defence. But at the other end of the pitch we had Per Mertesacker. He could not defend high because of his lack of pace.
This resulted in either Giroud being too deep, Mertesacker too high, or a massive gap between the two for the midfield to cover.
We are a little lost in style. It is as if we do not know what sort of side we are, what sort of players we need.
A lot of this comes down to transfer policy. We seem to constantly end up with “who is available” rather than “what we need” and end up trying to put players into Wenger’s formation and tactics that do not fit it. And Wenger has to take the blame for it.
With a new manager coming in, a new transfer policy headed by Raul Sanllehi and Sven Mislintat, hopefully we see a change in our recruitment policy. Hopefully we buy the right players in the right position.
Xhaka is a good player. We get someone alongside him and play a midfield 3 of Xhaka sitting deep, a Kante (Seri? Gueye?) type player pressing, then Aaron Ramsey doing his Superman impression, we then have balance.
We have players who defend, can press, can pass and score.
Do not blame Xhaka for Wenger’s failure to use him properly.