Happy Friday friends. Hope you are well?
Let’s talk about Xhaka, shall we? After all, he’s been talking to the press in Germany, which has handily been transcribed by the good people over at Arseblog News. The article makes for quite interesting reading actually. I really like Xhaka. He comes across as open and honest, with a bit of a brain about him so when there are interviews, you actually feel like you’ve been given some proper content. Nothing of this media trained English player “yeah, y’know, 110%, play for the shirt, give my all” crap. Just a normal guy who sounds like he’s talking to someone else. That’s the kind of shizzle you used to get when I first started watching football in the 80s and 90s. Real people acting like…well…real people.
I like how he’s talking about the adaptation period, about how he’s settled in and also being so honest about the way he’s been treated by some people who have perceived power – like the whole Heathrow nonsense that he had to deal with.
I like the way he plays football too. He has a grace about him that is something I believe we should be embracing. His passing range is brilliant and there’s no doubt that with more games and more time acclimatising to this league he’ll only get better. Which is why I’ve wondered lately whether we should start thinking about building more of the team around him.
When you hear that phrase ‘build a team around x’, you often think of a number 10, an Özil or a Fabregas type player and that’s been the mouldy for us in recent iterations of Arsenal teams. But we all know that it hasn’t worked. Perhaps that’s because in that position players are seen in a more favourable light. Everyone talks of the Özil’s, Hazard’s, of this world, but the deeper-lying midfielders are rarely mentioned in such glowing terms. An exception could probably be the way people are talking about Kante this season, but I think that this perception of him has been sugar-coated somewhat. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a fabulous player who has added industry and engine in to the Chelski team this season, but some people are talking as though he is the reason their season is so different. It isn’t. It’s one cog in a machine that includes Hazard, Costa, Moses and a back three that is working well and getting its rest in every week.
Perhaps the answer isn’t to build a team around any player. Perhaps you just need a unit that has all of the right pieces that fit together. After all, you can hardly say that the Invincibles were built around a single player, can you? They were a well-oiled collective of physically imposing professionals who reached the zenith at the same time.
But Arsenal can’t see to hold a collective of class players together without the key parts wanting out with one year left to go, so it’s difficult to build a collective of 11 quality players, I suppose. By the way I’d like to point out that in no way am I exonerating Wenger of the blame in this – he’s the chief protagonist along with the board as to why we can’t keep these players together – so if that is the case, I can see why one might want to pick a single player and then have players around him to compliment his abilities.
Ramsey is too hot and cold and besides, I’m not convinced that in a passing team you can have a player who’s passing range is so limited, that you build your players around him.
The Ox is another option, but he looks to have been broken by Wenger over too many years, and now it sounds like he wants out.
Arsène tried with Özil but he looks like he’s had enough.
Jack was one player that you could consider and I do think he’s quality, but even now having played a lot of the season, he’s being ‘managed’ by Bournemouth. That suggests to me that he’s a guy who may never play a full season. Which would be a real shame. But again you can’t build a team around a player that you know will only play 60-75% of the season.
Which is why I think considering Xhaka as the fulcrum wouldn’t be a bad idea. Yep, he’s immobile, so you buy somebody with extreme levels of mobility and the ability to win the ball and distribute. Somebody with a better technical game that Coquelin, mind, because we’ve seen that doesn’t work.
Assuming Özil is gone in the summer, you then have yourself a box-to-box runner or dribbler. Ramsey seems to fit the bill there. But perhaps Jack could be a good foil too. He can link play between the midfield and attack and be a good player to operate in that mouldy I believe.
Xhaka’s immobility and lack of defensive ability are therefore countered and we can look at making the most of what he does have: a fantastic passing range. Having him playing as our quarterback – if you like – would give us the ability to utilise more pace on the attack but would also give players a clear opportunity to retain possession. Teams that sit back and are difficult to break down rely on the counter. Retention of the ball – real selfish, ‘we’ll have 100 touches before you get close’ type stuff – can be useful when you always have a player sitting deeper who can spot a gap. I think that’s where we could effectively utilise Xhaka.
But right now it looks like Arsène has a player that he doesn’t know how to use. He’s bought Fifa 17 on the PS4 when at times it feels like he has an Xbox360 sat at home. Great game, feels a little pointless unless you buy the right console.
So I am hoping that whoever is manager next season – not Arsène, hopefully, but I think we all know what’s coming – will look at Xhaka and see what he could potentially bring that could mesh this team together somewhat.
Until we know what the current manager is doing, however, I guess all of that is up in the air.
Catch you tomorrow.