A few months ago, we were certain Granit Xhaka would leave Arsenal. A tumultuous season for the midfielder after his widely criticised reaction to being substituted off against Crystal Palace. Our article on it HERE if you needed a reminder. Hertha Berlin were in talks to sign him in January and it looked like his time at the Emirates was done. A time you’d say was unsuccessful since his £35 million move from 2016. But since his reaction to being subbed off, the Swiss international hasn’t looked back.
Redemption under Arteta
The 27 year old has become a mainstay in the Gunners’ starting XI since Mikel Arteta’s appointment. As aforementioned, many of the Emirates faithful thought his time was done. Inconsistency and rashness on the pitch coupled with how he disrespected the fans were the main reasons. But credit to Xhaka, he’s got his head down and is now an integral part of the side.
It’s often hard to see the impact that a midfielder like Xhaka has on a team if you don’t watch Arsenal regularly or you just look at the stats on. He doesn’t score many goals or get many assists. He isn’t the fastest or has exceptional defensive output. The Basel youth product plays deep in midfield and has the unique role of being a deep lying playmaker.
Granit Xhaka – Style of Play
The video highlights how technically gifted Xhaka is. His range of passing and the accuracy with which he delivers inch perfect passes with such ease is remarkable. Particularly long passes, he’s averaging a staggering 5.1 long balls per game in the Premier League. The Switzerland international pings these balls from way back in his own half, demonstrating the incredible vision he has. Switching play to the wide men to start attacks or meet the runs of Aubameyang and co perfectly.
The role of the midfielder in Arsenal’s build up is underrated and far more important than given credit for. With an 88.2% pass accuracy in the top flight too, he hardly gives the ball away with these balls. It’s more so his moments of recklessness or frustration that cause the mistakes.
Defensively too, Xhaka isn’t as bad as he is made out to be. Yes, he has given away penalties and poor free kicks with stupid challenges. But he works hard, covering more distance than any other Arsenal player against Newcastle (10.8KM). 1.8 tackles per game is decent too, considering it’s not his primary role to be a ball winning midfielder. With Lucas Torreira alongside him, this helps the 27 year old do what he does best: Start attacks from deep in his own half.
Mikel Arteta wants to play possession based, exciting and free flowing football. For that, he needs Granit Xhaka. He’s a deep lying playmaker, facilitator and key for Arsenal’s attack. The aggression and passion he has is now shining through and the relationship between himself and fans is on its way to being fully repaired. Reckless on occasions and capable of losing his temper. But in my opinion, the Swiss midfielder is underrated.
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