When Granit Xhaka signed for Arsenal from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2016, fans expected the midfielder to change the team overnight.
The £35 million Bundesliga signing was seen, at the time, as the man to strengthen up an Arsenal midfield that had been looking soft for years, and it was a rude awakening a few months later when it was clear that Xhaka was not that man.
Sure, he can be seen as a hard man and is one of the most passionate players on the pitch, but his job in the team isn’t to break down attacks and shield the defence, more like control the tempo of the game and play those simple balls that can lead on to Arsenal goals.
Under Arsene Wenger, Xhaka, who is valued at £45 million (by Transfermarkt), was seen as a waste of space in the starting XI, but with Unai Emery at the helm, it has become apparent that the Swiss midfielder is easily one of Arsenal’s most important players, and a figure that the fans need to realise is no longer an accident waiting to happen.
In his first two seasons at the club, Xhaka was at times cool and composed in the midfield, except you knew there was a mistake waiting to happen shortly after he had made the perfect pass. His decision making at times was unusual, and this can be backed up when you look at the numbers.
According to Squawka, Xhaka has made the most errors leading to goals since the start of the 2017/18 season with five errors, and although this stat is something many Xhaka haters point too as a way to discredit his place in the starting XI, it’s everything else that keeps the Swiss international in the first-team.
At 76 passes on average per match, Xhaka is one of the most productive midfielders in the Premier League, with only Jorginho averaging more passes per game than the Arsenal man this season, and despite playing four games less than the former Napoli man, Xhaka has only four more backward passes than the Italian international.
As Arsenal’s metronome, Xhaka’s impact in the first-team has been irreplaceable this season, and with the Gunners now in the race for a top-four finish, his performances could be the difference between Champions League football or another season of Europa League football, and it’s something fans should be realising.
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