Morning all from a cloudy Algarve, in which i’m typing today’s blog whilst overlooking the sea and wondering why the sky isn’t blue, which is most irritating. And as I sit here and tap away I am thinking about Granit Xhaka and the way in which he polarises opinions amongst our fanbase. After he made that pretty shoddy pass on Sunday which led to the goal I got a couple of texts and WhatsApp messages telling me that he’s sh*t, that he should get out of the club, etc, etc, and I found it so intriguing because aside from that silly mistake Xhaka did ok.
So much of our football has him involved in key parts of the game. He’s there when a ball needs to be fed back, when we are building up our possession, he enables us to control the game at times and he has vision when trying to move the ball forward. I lost count of the times that he picked the ball up and then was able to look at creating space out on the wings against Cardiff.
He’s a good player and I’ve always thought that he adds something to our team. But like many players down the years his flaws seem to be magnified and that also results in so many Arsenal fans feeling that he doesn’t add value to the team.
I think it is because he isn’t the defensive midfielder we all thought we were getting when he signed. The summer we picked him up from Monchengladbach we had a deep lying playmaker in Jack, we had Santi, we had Rambo, so the general consensus was that we needed a destroyer in front of the back four. Chaka was signed and despite the access to information we all have these days through YouTube, etc, everyone hoped that he would be ‘That Guy’ who was able to screen our back line. But as we know now he clearly was never going to be that and we even found out that Arsene Wenger didn’t really know what he was either, calling him a number ten, a box-to-box player, as well as a defensive midfielder, all in the space of a season. So because of what we thought we were getting and because of what we wanted Xhaka to be, I think that is where a lot of the irritation in the player comes from. Basically people get annoyed with Xhaka because he’s not the player we thought we were getting in the first place.
What doesn’t help, however, is these high profile mistakes that he makes, which seem to often lead to goals for the opponents and because of that, it does make him look poor to many people, because if you make a big mistake and are punished that often overrides everything else. We all do it. I did it whilst watching the Cardiff game. I spent half the game lamenting why he makes these mistakes, whilst not realising the good he does for the team and on Sunday he had a much better second half, that’s for sure.
I think what we all need to realise with him is that he’s never going to be the player who has energy and an engine that gets him about the pitch in double-quick time. He’s never going to be a blood and thunder player who is steaming in to tackles. He is going to make mistakes if put under pressure and facing his own goal. But what he’s going to be is a player with whom our play runs through and what he is going to be is a player who has a passing range that is smart and will help us get many of the goals we score this season. How do we solve a problem like Xhaka? As fans I think it is to accept his limitations, accept the value he adds, then appreciate the good that he does. It doesn’t mean we can’t all throw our hands in the air when he f*cks up, but it does mean that we can appreciate that he adds something to our side, which is why I can see that Emery will persevere with him.
My other hope is that we see more of this partnership with Torreira as the season starts to unfold because I think he could be the perfect foil for the Swiss international.
Catch you all tomorrow.