Granit Xhaka has been treading water at Arsenal for a long time. Signed to be the main man in the midfield, the Swiss midfielder didn’t quite have the Patrick Viera-like impact that the Gunners needed.
In truth, for most of his time at Arsenal, he’s been pigeonholed into a position that, clearly, hasn’t suited him. He’s not a particularly efficient tackler, nor is he a sitting midfielder. He’s best utilised as more of a more classic central midfielder, dictating play with passes whilst also helping to contribute at either end of the field.
Fortunately, under Unai Emery, he’s managed to find some form, and it’s easy to see why. Emery has been able to use him in a far more natural position, and much of the reasoning for that comes down to Lucas Torreira.
Torreira has come in and donned the role that Xhaka has been tasked with over the last few years. The little midfielder is a willing and energetic runner and tackler, and so he’s served as a ball-winning midfielder in the Arsenal team. Breaking up play and moving it forward is his remit, and that’s allowed Xhaka to focus on what he does best.
Xhaka has been able to play slightly further forward and help make more of an impact in front of goal, with far less pressure on him to ensure that he’s back in the right position when a team counters against Arsenal.
It’s proven to be the making of him in the Arsenal squad, as he’s started 14 league games so far this term, and he’s looked good. He’s been a leader and, in many ways, he’s been the glue that has held the team together. He’s brilliant with the ball at his feet, and he’s been able to show that this term.
So, Xhaka has Torreira to thank for his rise at Arsenal. Over the summer, most fans likely would have been happy to sell him, but now? That’s unlikely to be the case. He’s found his role, and Emery clearly rates him highly.