When Granit Xhaka arrived at the Emirates in the summer of 2016, many Arsenal supporters thought he would be the final piece of the puzzle in their club’s pursuit of a first Premier League title since 2004.
The argument that often came up when the post-mortem of Arsenal’s latest failed title bid came out was that the team lacked a spine, with particular attention paid to the absence of a genuine holding midfielder.
Quite simply, £36m-rated (via Transfermarkt) Xhaka was meant to be — or at least seen as — the man to fix that problem, but that has been far from the case.
Xhaka’s arrival to north London was misunderstood by supporters, and arguably even by Arsene Wenger himself.
Playing in front of the back four or three often alongside Aaron Ramsey, there was an expectation that Xhaka would act as a shield in the same way as N’Golo Kante does for Chelsea and Nemanja Matic at Manchester United and during his time at Stamford Bridge.
However, Xhaka, defensively, does not come close to the pair. His tackling is reckless with the 25-year-old having a tendency to go to ground unnecessarily, while he also tends to get magnetised to the ball and, ultimately, dragged out of position.
Where Xhaka’s strength lies is in his passing and long-range shooting meaning, in essence, he never was and never will be this defensive midfielder many people imagined him to be.
Nevertheless, Unai Emery appears to be a fan of the Switzerland international, having started him in all of Arsenal’s four opening Premier League fixtures.
That being said, it may be only a matter of time before the former Borussia Monchengladbach man is reduced to a lesser role in the team.
19-year-old Matteo Guendouzi has been a bit of a revelation since joining the club in the summer, making a tonne of tackles and interceptions in the middle of the park, while fellow signing Lucas Torreira has also made Arsenal look a bit more sturdier in midfield when he has played.
With Guendouzi and Torreira both now at the club and assessing what they have brought to the team so far, a few good passes and the odd long-shot that goes on target will not be enough for Xhaka to retain a regular spot in Emery’s starting XI.
Unless he can add more to his game and ditch some very poor habits on and off the ball, Xhaka is destined for a peripheral role in the team.
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