Mistakes happen on the pitch – it is unavoidable. We see them unfold on the pitch every game and if we were to remember each one and use them to colour our judgement against a player – we would want every single player that has ever played to never play football again.
What we want to see from every man who pulls on our jersey is desire. To play for the win and to also represent our club in the right way.
That becomes tangible in the upholding of every key responsibility a player has for their required position. So a defender needs to repel attacks on the deck and in the air. A midfielder needs to win possession and to also set us on the front foot. A wideman needs to create chances for our attackers and to provide cover where necessary and a striker? Well, they need goals.
That is putting things very simply of course, but when it comes down to what a player is required to do in order to keep fans sweet, then it really is black and white.
Young players will make errors as they gain experience, and older players will make errors as either red mist or indecision in the heat of the moment will occur.
But repeated mistakes? Of the same type?
Then it isn’t a question of forgiveness. It is a case of letting the club down.
Granit Xhaka has been a real mixed bag since arriving from Borussia Moenchengladbach. The Swiss captain has been derided for his lack of defensive nous. We have also seen us suffer from his exclusion – last season saw our win percentage drop dramatically without him in our eleven – as his unique talents do offer us something.
We have also seen Xhaka lose his composure at crucial moments.
His sending off against Burnley was excruciating in its timing. Our winless run was in full effect, but we were on the front foot with an even scoreline and had a Clarets side with a lack of confidence firmly in our sights. We were in the midst of a great spell and going through the gears – you could feel us getting ready to score a goal.
And from ain innocuous moment, Xhaka grabs an opponent by the throat – thus guaranteeing a red card and his side go down to ten men and also handing back initiative to Burnley, who went on to win in an unlikely fashion.
We could even have forgiven this – but Xhaka’s prior indiscretions mean that we can’t just let this moment slide. It is the latest in a fairly hefty list of crimes that a player of his experience should have stopped making with alacrity.
We have his reaction to the crowd after being subbed against Palace last season, which led to him being dropped as skipper.
We have seen him make more errors leading to goals than any other outfield player (correct up until the end of last season). Xhaka has given away needless fouls and failed to track back so often that it has led to many positive outlooking fans building a case towards Xhaka not being a defensive midfielder – that he is a deep-lying playmaker.
Regardless of what position he is best suited to, we have heard so often about Xhaka’s leadership qualities, from coaches and teammates alike.
And this is what undermines him at Arsenal. Because if he really is the best candidate for the skippers armband, then he needs to be showing a better attitude on the pitch – and off of it. He needs to be improving and eradicating the errors we have seen from 2016 through to the current season.
When Nicolas Pepe and Gabriel were sent off recently, both players issued an apology to the fans. Their sendings-off had happened during our dire winless run and they both realised what a decent result could do for the fanbase – and therefore how much their red cards had cost the team.
So they issued apologies.
Did Xhaka? No.
We cannot rely on Xhaka. And that is why his time at Arsenal needs to be numbered.