Arsenal supporters have been in high spirits in the Transfer Tavern in recent times after seeing their team record their first win of the Unai Emery era with victory over West Ham on Saturday.
The Gunners went into their clash with their London rivals off the back of defeats at the hands of Manchester City and Chelsea to begin the season, leaving the North London heavyweights pointless ahead of the Hammers’ visit. And things didn’t look good for Emery’s men when Marko Arnautovic gave the visitors the lead, only for goals from Nacho Monreal and Danny Welbeck, alongside an Issa Diop own goal, to secure all three points for Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
Thus, there have been many thrilled Gunners fans up and down the country in recent times, several of whom have been singing the praises of goalscorers Monreal and Welbeck, while the second half performances of Alexandre Lacazette and Lucas Torreira have also earned rave reviews.
Yet it was the efforts of £36 million-rated Granit Xhaka (as per Transfermarkt), often criticised for not being the midfielder Arsenal need in the middle of the park, which helped provide the platform from which the Gunners went on to get all three points.
The Switzerland international made the move to the Emirates Stadium back in 2016, and while there have been glimpses of promise from the 25-year-old, there still remains more questions than answers regarding his long-term suitability to the midfield role at Arsenal.
Yet Saturday went some way to helping Xhaka’s cause as the former Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder was excellent in the middle of the park for Emery’s side, touching the ball more times than any other Arsenal player over the course of the 90 minutes (96), and attempting more passes than his teammates (82).
And with 72 of those completed, earning him a pass success rate of 88%, a lot of Arsenal’s play went through the 25-year-old, and while fellow central midfielder Matteo Guendouzi, who has impressed many in the early phase of the season, struggled throughout, Xhaka kept his composure to help dominate the midfield area.
And the Swiss star also did his bit defensively for the Gunners, an element of his game that has come under-fire during his stint in North London, with the midfielder winning three of his four aerial duels during the match, as well as winning three of the four tackles he attempted.
The introduction of Torreira 11 minutes into the second half seemed to further elevate Xhaka’s game to suggest that the duo could help form a solid midfield partnership for the Gunners, a midfield partnership they are going to need if Emery is to take them back to the top four.
So while the likes of Monreal, Welbeck, Lacazette, and Torreira have earned many plaudits for their efforts on Saturday, 25-year-old Xhaka was their unsung hero in victory over the Hammers.
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