Tag Archives: DM

Xhaka – Learning From Errors

It’s tough to admit when you’re wrong.

There aren’t many people out there that enjoy being shown the error of their ways or opinions. It happens to us all as none of us are flawless. You would think that we would get used to it, perhaps even take the high road and use it as a learning exercise.

But no. The majority of us either use it as a stick to beat ourselves with – a constant reminder of our flaws.

Or we brush it off and continue to be opinionated.

Well, most of us got it wrong with Granit Xhaka.

The evidence is right in front of us. We just clung onto a few observations and tried to deflect the actual truth.

Which is, that Xhaka may not be the second coming of Johann Cruyff, but in terms of making the team tick? He’s more than good enough for us.

Let’s consider the facts.

Firstly, Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery, Freddie Ljungberg and Mikel Arteta continued to select the maligned midfielder where possible. Asa a collective in terms of footballing intelligence, they far surpass the combined knowledge that we possess. They continued to select him. It may not have always been in a role that suited his skillset, but Xhaka was predominantly in the team.

Secondly, our win rate when he is in the side far outweighs when he isn’t in the eleven.

This was a stat taken from April last year.

Arsenal’s PL record when Xhaka has completed 90 minutes in midfield this season vs without.

With: 15-4-1. 75% win rate. 2.25 scored per game. 1.0 conceded per game.

Without: 4-2-6. 33% win rate. 1.67 scored per game. 1.67 conceded per game.

This season, he has a 75% win rate when on the pitch again.

He consistently appears in amongst our top runners in terms of distance covered. Xhaka is also one of the best at intercepting plays and starting us on the front foot – especially with his range of long passing.

granit-xhaka

This season, after the captain’s armband was taken from him, his normal penchant for rash tackling has seemed to simmer down a little. Which has resulted in less setplays given against us and less opportunity.

The real kicker though for Xhaka and his career at the club – is Arteta has found the ideal role for him.

Before the Spaniard arrived, Xhaka was pigeonholed as a defensive midfielder. True, his base of operations lies in between our third of the pitch and the central third, but Xhaka is far from a one-trick pony. Part of his style is to break up play, but one of the main reasons why he copped so much heat from a large swathe of our fanbase is his inefficient tracking back. Xhaka too often would let runners bypass him and make penetrating dashes into the box.

But when we give Xhaka that responsibility, it takes away from what he specialises in, which is quick turnovers and transitions. This in turn allows our pacy players like Saka and Aubameyang to run into space and know they’ll be picked out.

Arteta has come in and shared the responsibility of the defensive side of midfield across the board. We defend as a team and attack as one unit. That frees up the Swiss midfielder to do what he does best.

And it explains why we now see the Xhaka that was playing for Borussia Moenchengladbach and for his national side.

Xhaka isn’t a box to box, but true midfielders don’t really need a label.

Granit Xhaka now adds real value to the team – and the respect his teammates have for his leadership and him as a teammate makes it appear that a return to the armband after his return to the side is very much on the cards.

We were wrong – Xhaka makes us a better team and it’s time he got the credit for giving it his all.

We Need Our Torreira Back

It has gone quiet, but this season especially has shown us that our defensive midfield issues have not quite been put to bed just yet.

With the signings of Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira especially, the clamourings to sign a potent defensive midfielder were hushed, and with both players hitting the ground running, our worries were sated for a time.

Guendouzi has shown a hunger for possession that has led him to hounding the opposition in all areas of the pitch.

Torreira made a huge impact from the very start of his Arsenal career, and montages of his terrier-like tackling prowess and his never-say-die attitude manifesting itself on the pitch filled us all with absolute joy.

We had the answer we had been looking for since the departure of Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva. We had that player who would protect the backline and stand sentry, letting no enemy pass without at least a stiff examination of their credentials.

Or so it seemed.

This season has seen some strange goings on in our tactics and the way we line up.

Firstly, the sparing use of Lucas Torreira, even in the big games, really does leave us scratching our heads. When played, he always gives no less than 100%, but at least 50% of our matches he has spent on the bench.

When he does play, the tigerish displays we have come to adore have been replaced with a lasses-faire attitude to defending. It comes down to his positioning, which has been far more forward than last season, and a large amount of time he has been amongst the most forward on the pitch.

This kind of leaves us hamstrung when it comes to defending, as the aperture where Torreira should be protecting is open, and like the Gates of Thermopylae, our enemy harness it to great effect.

It leaves them streaming forward, and our defence backing off. Acres of space, and it leads to a shot. So many in fact, that we have led the way in Europe with regards to shots faced.

Guendouzi has been his all-action self – his display against Tottenham was frighteningly good – but the boy is still just 20, and needs a pivot partner to truly get the most out of what he brings, which is pretty much everything.

We need Torreira to do what he does best, and that is get the ball back, harass, breath down their necks. Instead, it looks like he has been let off a leash, and that is down to instruction.

Torreira Protest.jpg

Is Emery content with letting Torreira off the hook in a footballing sense? Are the instructions he is giving the Uruguayan to go forward and assist the attack?

If so, that means Emery is leaving us dangerously lopsided, and open to barrages of attacks.

Torreira, if disciplined, can be the lynchpin of the side, the cornerstone that holds the side together. Take it away and you have what he have seen against Watford, Liverpool and Tottenham in the first half.

A blow-away, powderpuff side that can’t stand straight under scrutiny from a decent attack.

We need Torreira to stand in front of advancing hordes and use his abilities to stem the tide.

We don’t need another Alex Song – we need our Torreira back!