Tag Archives: Granit Xhaka

Where do Arsenal need to strengthen in January?

We have to be realistic when it comes to the January transfer window.

History shows that not much business is done in January. That sides will not go out and buy 5 it 6 players. Arsenal have notoriously done little business in January, and I do not expect that to change.

I would be surprised if Arsene Wenger signed kore than a single player.

So what should we buy in January?

Central Defender

After 3 clean sheets in a row in the Premier League, Arsenal conceded 3 against Manchester United.

This follows conceding 3 against Manchester City and 4 against Liverpool.

Whilst we got clean sheets against Chelsea and Tottenham, we have conceded 19 goals in the league this season. That is 10 more than Manchester United and Manchester City. It is more goals conceded than bottom of the table Swansea.

We have conceded 25 goals in 23 games in all competitions. A statistic which is simply not good enough.

With Shrokdan Mustafi limping off against Manchester United, he looks set for a spell on the sidelines for the second time this season.

More worrying is Laurent Koscielny.

The senior centre back made key errors against Manchester United and looked off the pace.

At 32, he has been managing a long term Achilles problem, and playing 3 times in a week looked to be a step too far for him. Maybe he is on the wain?

A commanding centre back will take the pressure of Koscielny to play every game, and improve a problematic area of the pitch.

Defensive Midfielder

How long have we needed a commanding defensive midfielder for?

We have not had a world class player in this position since Gilberto Silva left in 2008. And not had a specialist in that position since the first incarnation of Matthieu Flamini at Arsenal.

2 seasons ago we had the straight choice between Granit Xhaka and N’Golo Kante. At the time we picked Xhaka due to his superior passing. It looks like a massive mistake.

Back then, I thought Xhaka was an inspired signing. He had the grit and aggression, but could also play a bit.

In hindsight – and Football is very easy in hindsight – we went for the wrong man.

Xhaka has not settled in the Premier League, and looks slow and ponderous on the ball. Signed for his Ball playing ability, he gives it away too much and has been at fault for many goals due to his poor passing.

He is clearly not suited to the deep lying position in the Premier League and is struggling with the pace.

I imagine in Spain or Italy, where you get more time on the ball, he would shine. He should also potentially play higher up the field, like he did for Borussia Monchengladbach and for Switzerland.

Out poor defensive performance this season is not just down to the defence, but also down to the midfield.

Xhaka does not give the defence enough cover, and his sloppy play has led to many goals conceded. He is not the solution to our defensive midfield problem.

Sanchez / Ozil Replacement

Both will leave us this summer.

Sanchez has been awful recently.

Getting one replacement in January reduces the pressure in the summer and means one player has been at the club, in English Football, for 6 months.

Not much else to say on this one as we all know both need replacing.

So which position do you think we need to strengthen in January?



Arsenal’s square pegged midfield

Arsenal have massive problems in the middle of the park.

Even after beating Everton 5-2, the problems are clear to see for everyone – bar Arsene Wenger it seems. Our midfield is extremely unbalanced.

This season, a lot of goals have been due to errors in the middle of the park. Players either giving the ball away in dangerous situations, or not tracking their man. A lot of the blame can be put on Grant Xhaka. But the problem is deeper than one man, it is the fact we are playing midfielders in positions that are unnatural to them.

Grant Xhaka

When we signed Grant Xhaka, I was excited about the prospect of him joining the club.

A man who I had rated for some time, he was brilliant on the ball, but also had a bite in his challenge. He looked to be the ideal man to sit in front of the back 4.

At the time, we had a choice, Granit Xhaka or N’Golo Kante.

Kante was clearly stronger defensively, and the ability to cover more ground, whilst Xhaka was a better footballer, better with the ball at his feet.

Having chased Xabi Alonso a few years back, Wenger went for Xhaka, a man who could win the ball and start the attacks. But it is clear now that he is the wrong sort of player.

A few years after missing out on Alonso, we signed Mikel Arteta. Another deep lying midfielder known more for his ability on the ball, rather than his defensive strength.

We have lacked a midfielder who defends first since the first incarnation of Matheiu Flamini, and have not had someone who was World Class at that job since Gilberto Silva.

Whilst some point to Xabi Alonso as one that got away, for Liverpool he did not play as the out and out defensive midfielder – he had Javier Mascherano behind him. And at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, he played for sides where his deep lying play making ability was more important than his ability to win the ball.

In Xhaka, we got perhaps the closest thing to Alonso in the modern game. It looked ideal, but is has turned out to be a disaster.

Granit Xhaka would be more comfortable further up the field, as the box to box midfielder playing between a defensive midfielder and Mesut Ozil. Where Aaron Ramsey plays.

At the time we signed Xhaka, I made a case that we could have accommodated Xhaka and Kante. We went for Xhaka, in hindsight we should have signed Kante.

For Switzerland, Xhaka is brilliant. For Monchengladbach, he made the Bundesliga team of the year. Both times he plays next to a more defensive player.

Granit Xhaka would be more comfortable further up the field, as the box to box midfielder playing between a defensive midfielder and Mesut Ozil. Where Aaron Ramsey plays.

Aaron Ramsey

Like Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey plays better for his country than his club. And this is down to one reason. For Wales he plays in his favourite position.

Ramsey is brilliant when he plays in an advanced position, just behind a striker. He is like Frank Lampard. He has the ability to make late runs into the box, to score goals, to drift in unnoticed.

His best season to date for Arsenal was 2013/14, he scored 16 goals in 34 games. The majority of these games were playing behind Olivier Giroud. Picking up the loose ball and scoring goals. He had finally found his position.

But with Alexis Sanchez coming in, Ramsey soon found himself playing deeper once more, where he just does not have the positional discipline or passing ability to control games.

I look at the goals Frank Lampard scored. The goals Dele Alli is scoring for Spurs behind Harry Kane, and Aaron Ramsey can do this, he just needs to play further up the field.

If / when Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil leave Arsenal, playing Ramsey higher up the field is an option.

The closer to the opponents goal he is, the less of a liability he is (and more likely that he will score goals).

Jack Wilshere

In recent weeks, Jack Wilshere has been brilliant against lesser opposition. This has lead many people to state that he should be starting in the first XI instead of Granit Xhaka.

This is a case of the fans calling for a square peg in a round hole.

For the B team (is that what we are calling the Europa League / League Cup side?) Wilshire has been playing behind the striker, as the most advanced midfielder. He has basically been doing the Mesut Ozil job.

He has done well. Very well. But we still need to take things slowly with him.

Fans calling for him to replace Xhaka have failed to understand the role he is currently playing.

Now if they were demanding him to replace Ozil (or Sanchez) or maybe even Ramsey, I could understand.

But Wilshere has impressed with his creative displays, his work on the edge of the opponents box, not for his defensive work.

Wilshere has never been a defensive player. Like Granit Xhaka, he can play deep but does not defend. Put him next to a Kante and he will excel. Play him instead of Kante and we will be exposed defensively – just like we are with Xhaka in the side.

When Wilshere does come in to the Premier League side, he should be doing so to replicate his B team performances. That means playing higher up the pitch.

Arsenal’s midfield has been a problem for many years. Whilst Granit Xhaka was a good player, he has turned out to be the wrong player and is clearly facing a crisis in confidence.

Moving forward in the short term, maybe it is time to return to Coquelin and play Xhaka close to him to start the attacks. Or as Wilshere regains fitness, allow him to go a little deeper, but not full-defensive.

At Manchester City, Fernandinho has given the side great balance this season. Putting in a defensive shift allowing the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva to drift around the pitch, find space, and start attacks.

Arsenal need to find their Fernandinho. But then we have needed one for over 10 years.

To be a competitive title chasing side, we need to play the right players in their best positions


The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of Arsenal’s International Break

The Good

Mohamed Elneny

Egypt 2-1 Congo

Mohamed Elneny played the full 90 minutes of Egypt’s World Cup qualifying win over Congo which saw his country to qualify for a World Cup for the first time since 1990.

Egypt to win the World Cup: 150/1

Alex Iwobi

Nigeria 1-0 Zambia

Alex Iwobi came off the bench to score Nigeria’s only goal as the Super Eagles became the first African side to secure qualification for the World Cup. A 1-0 victory.

Nigeria to win the World Cup: 150/1

David Ospina

Colombia 1-2 Paraguay

David Ospina featured as Colombia lost 2-1 to Paraguay, with the visitors scoring twice in the final minutes to snatch the three points.

Peru 1-1 Colombia

David Ospina and Colombia will play at their second successive World Cup after securing a 1-1 draw against Peru.

Columbia to win the World Cup: 33/1

Alexandre Lacazette, Olivier Giroud

Bulgaria 0-1 France

Alexandre Lacazette and Olivier Giroud both featured in France’s 1-0 win over Bulgaria. Lacazette started in an exciting front three with Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe, Giroud was an 85th-minute.

France 2-1 Belarus

Olivier Giroud became France’s joint-seventh top goalscorer as he helped France to secure their place at next summer’s World Cup with a win over Belarus in Saint-Denis. Giroud charged through to double Les Bleus’ advantage just after the half-hour mark. Giroud played the entirety of the game, with Alexandre Lacazette an unused sub.

France to win the World Cup: 5/1

Nacho Monreal

Spain 3-0 Albania

Nacho Monreal was an unused substitute as Spain hit three past Albania in World Cup qualifying.

Israel 0-1 Spain

Monreal helped Spain keep a clean sheet as the former world champions saw off Israel 1-0 in Jerusalem, courtesy of a late goal from Asier Illaramendi.

Spain to win the World Cup: 7/1

The Bad

Sead Kolasinac

Bosnia & Herzegovina 3-4 Belgium

Sead Kolasinac played the duration of Bosnia’s World Cup qualifying defeat to Belgium, where he was booked.

Estonia 1-2 Bosnia-Herzegovina

Sead Kolasinac played the first half in Tallinn as Bosnia-Herzegovina’s World Cup dreams were dashed despite them finishing Group H with a win in Estonia. Greece’s home win over Gibraltar meant it wasn’t enough to reach the play-off round.

Aaron Ramsey

Georgia 0-1 Wales

Aaron Ramsey won his 50th Wales cap and assisted Tom Lawrence’s winner in his country’s 1-0 win at Georgia.

Wales 0-1 Republic of Ireland

Aaron Ramsey was on the losing side as Wales were beaten 1-0 by the Republic of Ireland in Cardiff, ending their World Cup qualification hopes.

The Ugly

Shkodran Mustafi

Germany 5-1 Azerbaijan

Shkodran Mustafi started Germany’s World Cup qualifying win over Azerbaijan but was substituted after just 36 minutes through injury as Germany maintained their 100 per cent record in World Cup qualifying.

Germany to win the World Cup: 5/1

Alexis Sanchez

Chile 2-1 Ecuador

Alexis scored the winning goal in the 86th minute against Ecuador to seal three points for Chile, who are now on the verge of automatic qualification to the World Cup.

Brazil 3-0 Chile

Copa America winners in 2015 and 2016 – but Alexis and Chile won’t be at next summer’s World Cup. The result that saw Chile fail to finish in the top five qualifying spots in South America as a consequence of other results. Alexis played the full 90 minutes.

The Neutral

Granit Xhaka

Switzerland 5-2 Hungary

Granit Xhaka opened the scoring for Switzerland in their World Cup qualifying win over Hungary. The midfielder capitalised on goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi’s slip to slot in from close range are just 18 minutes.

Portugal 2-0 Switzerland

Granit Xhaka’s Switzerland could still make the World Cup in Russia next summer – but his Switzerland team will have to qualify through the European play-off round after losing their decisive qualifier in Portugal.

Switzerland to win the World Cup: 80/1