Tag Archives: silva

Granit Xhaka – Surplus to Requirements?

The term ‘luxury player’ is one that was coined only recently, but only swims in the smallest of circles. It isn’t a phrase that is used across footballing circles, it is primarily implemented towards Arsenal.

It is used to describe a member of the squad that serves no purpose regarding the team, and their skills are outside the desired set that is utilised in the eleven. To put it simply, the team can operate without them.

Granit Xhaka is our new luxury player.

The phrase is derogatory, and unfairly brings to mind visions of Mesut Ozil, after the German fought off the tag for the better part of three seasons. Now, we’re all privy to the fact that Ozil is crucial to the hopes of our team on the pitch, and his recent decision to extend his stay at London Colney was met with joy amongst us all.

Granit Xhaka is still in the stage where he must fend off the slings and arrows delivered by experts, pundits and every rent-a-mouth the media can get their hands on.

We all have a tendency to cultivate scapegoats at Arsenal, but Xhaka is copping it fiercely from all corners. This article is being written on the back of two consecutive 3-0 defeats at the hands of champions-elect Manchester City, and Xhaka played in both.

The Swiss star was pitted against Ilkay Gundogan on both occasions. Xhaka’s partner was Aaron Ramsey, which demands a defensively-minded performance. Whatever your opinion on the Welshman, we can all agree that his strongest suit is in attack.

That meant Xhaka was mano-el-mano versus Gundogan. Both players are quite similar – excellent passers of the ball, good vision and plenty of miles in the tank. Yet Gundogan bossed the centre of the park, and Xhaka was left grasping at shadows.

Why?

Gundogan obviously benefited from being in the ascendancy as part of the dominant City team, but should he have given Xhaka the runaround? Not really, but the German midfielder has more of a defensive bent to his game, and as such, knew when he could rove forward.

Xhaka, as cultured as he may be, is anything but what we’re trying to mould him into.

Xhaka is a deep-lying playmaker. Yes, that does sound a tad pretentious, but it’s true. Think of Jack Wilshere in his last England stint. That role is perfect for Xhaka, as long as you don’t require him to track runners.

Keeping an eye on the attack of the opposing team is not Xhaka’s forte – and since he joined, it has been the same story. This weakness in his game has showed no sign of abating, and it gives our midfield an imbalance that astute managers can maximise.

Xhaka is the epitome of a luxury player. He can link play with the swipe of one boot, but a modern midfielder must perform all roles adequately, unless given license to run amok, a la Pogba.

A central midfield partnership needs one to sit back and one to attack. If the team is under the cosh a little, then both can bed into the trenches.

The problem with having the Swiss star in the side, is that whenever defending is needed, then we’re at a disadvantage. It isn’t Xhaka’s fault to a degree. His strengths lie elsewhere. We aren’t privy to what training he has had on the role, and if we’ve attempted to coach the defensive arts into his game. Xhaka hasn’t improved this side of the game since he joined though.

His passing stats are amongst the best in the league, but it has been pointed out time and again by pundits that his consistent failure to see to his defensive duties costs our team time and again. That is partly his blame and also Wenger’s.

This isn’t an attack on Xhaka, nor is it saying our woes are down to him alone. It is merely highlighting what we can all see – Xhaka doesn’t fit our midfield in the way we need him to – as a defensive midfielder.

We haven’t replaced Gilberto since he left. We’ve been chasing the elusive lynchpin in our midfield for quite some time. Xhaka is not the player we need right now.

Alexis and the possession problem

Published originally on Goonersphere.

This blog is born from a startling stat.

Stay with me. I know some are less than fixated with numbers, but this is quite the eyebrow-raiser.


Our 3-1 loss to Manchester United had many moments of interest. The joint-record high of 14 shots saved by the mercurial David De Gea. The two ironclad penalties denied us by referee Andre Marriner. The red card rightly given to Paul Pogba that was argued by many so-called experts.


The fact that Alexis lost possession of the ball 34 times however, got lost amidst the drama.


34 occasions, our Chilean gave the ball away. More than once every three minutes, the ball was gifted to our opponent.









We all know the talismanic effects that Alexis can have with the ball, he is capable of the unthinkable at times.


At what point though, does the negative outweigh the positive?


At the time of writing, Sanchez has 4 Premier League goals from 12 games. We can all see though, that he is far removed from the impactful player we have had in the past.


We can all surmise the reasons for this, but it is clear that Alexis is not the ‘get out of jail free’ card we had in the past.


Perhaps this was an anomaly though? Maybe this game was just an off day for Alexis? Surely he can’t lose the ball that often all the time?


I’ve delved deep to find out if this is just a one-off, or if it’s endemic of the player. We are a team that is built on possession, so to have a part of the system that frequently breaks plans down, that requires a fix, no?


So I set up a comparison matrix on Squawka. It offers in depth stats on a myriad of things. I used Eden Hazard, David Silva and Dele Alli as comparisons, and I looked at possession score, successful take-ons, tackles lost and pass completion.


This season, Alexis has a negative score for possession. To offer contrast, Alexis registers -11.69, and Eden Hazard and David Silva have a possession score of 75.56 and 272.20 respectively.


Hazard and Silva also have a higher take on percentage. Alexis is taking on players with a success rate of around 70 percent – not that bad really.


It is his passing that seems to lose him possession so frequently though. The Chilean has a 73 percent success rate, the lowest of the quartet of players.


It isn’t just this season either.


Last season, Alexis registered a possession score of minus 243. To offer perspective, Silva had a score of plus 443, and Hazard plus 333. Even Dele Alli had a higher score than our man. 


In fact, Alexis was the worst player in the entire league last season for losing the ball, according to this stat article. 


So, Alexis has a problem with losing the ball. We have to offset this with the fact that Alexis is so often the man to unlock tight defences because he tries something audacious. He crafts the key that opens defences. In order to do this, he is going to lose the ball.


This offers some clarity to proceedings. Alexis needs to have a bit of slack offered to him, as we need players who try different things in order to break down stubborn backline’s. Alexis is exactly this type of player.


Still, the stats and the Manchester United game particularly show him to be – in brutal terms – a liability with the ball.


So often he is our saviour, grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck and changing it in our favour. When he isn’t doing that though, we are left with a player who is trying, but regularly breaking down our attacks and gifting possession back to our opponents.


At what point does a player’s negatives outweigh his positives?


I think in the case of Alexis, this season is the tipping point.


We can get a player who can grab us 15-20 goals and 10 assists without giving the ball away so often. We know this is a byproduct of being a creative player, but the stats show he is losing the ball far more than his artisan brethren.


Alexis is no longer making the difference. 

Watford Vs Arsenal Preview

The Premiership returns for us Gooners with a match that is far harder than it looks on paper.

Travelling to the home of Watford is a real test for our team, and our injury list means it is that little bit tougher.

Shkodran Mustafi is part of the trinity that has earned four clean sheets on the spin. The German has injured his hamstring during the international break and is set to be missing for at least 4-6 weeks. This means a shuffle that could have ramifications for our defensive record. Nacho Monreal and Laurent Koscielny will be looking to either Rob Holding or Per Mertesacker to fill in. 

Then Arsene Wenger held his press conference and admitted that Laurent Koscielny is doubtful for the game. If the Frenchman does miss the game, we needn’t worry about the personnel coming in to replace him, but we should carry a little fear regarding the rhythm of our backline. A shuffle means this is sometimes lost and we cannot afford to be missing anything.

Especially with a resurgent Watford lining up against that. Marco Silva has overseen a large improvement, so much so that his side have only lost one game so far. Quite impressive. They sit just one point behind us too. They are the real deal, but they can be gotten at.

The solitary loss was a hammering against Man City. Watford’s defence is probably the weaker of the parts that compromises the team, and our attack can crack them, if they are on song. 

It is good news then, that Danny Welbeck and Mesut Ozil are both fit. Welbeck will probably be on the bench, but can Ozil get his place back in the team? Alex Iwobi has played so well since playing in the German’s stead, and if form sits above reputation, then Ozil will have to wait to get his place back. The probability is though, that Ozil will be back in.

We are sitting outside the top4 on goal difference. We have recovered from the Liverpool debacle, but a mere recovery isn’t enough. Top sides go on and continue to build momentum, and that is something we must do.

This game looks to be a tight one, and very much in the category of those types of game that is won even under duress. It is said to be the mark of a true team, so the result could either fill us with confidence or remind us of our frailty. 

Watford won the last fixture between us, and it was at The Emirates. In fact, they have won two from the last five games against Arsenal. They have real talent in Troy Deeney, Roberto Pereyra, Etienne Capoue and especially the young Brazilian Richarlison, so it is lucky that we have the ever-reliable Nacho Monreal still fit and firing. Anything is possible with the Spaniard in the team.

Now the international games are over for a while, the games for our side will come thick and fast. We have a midweek game and a Premier League game every week until after our game versus Manchester City on the 5th of November. Seven games in just 24 days. 

Our squad must be looked after. Every injury could cause huge ripples. Time to bust out the cotton wool. 

Good thing Jack Wilshere is fit….

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Holding, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Ozil, Alexis, Lacazette.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

Watford Vs Arsenal Preview

The Premiership returns for us Gooners with a match that is far harder than it looks on paper.

Travelling to the home of Watford is a real test for our team, and our injury list means it is that little bit tougher.

Shkodran Mustafi is part of the trinity that has earned four clean sheets on the spin. The German has injured his hamstring during the international break and is set to be missing for at least 4-6 weeks. This means a shuffle that could have ramifications for our defensive record. Nacho Monreal and Laurent Koscielny will be looking to either Rob Holding or Per Mertesacker to fill in. 

Then Arsene Wenger held his press conference and admitted that Laurent Koscielny is doubtful for the game. If the Frenchman does miss the game, we needn’t worry about the personnel coming in to replace him, but we should carry a little fear regarding the rhythm of our backline. A shuffle means this is sometimes lost and we cannot afford to be missing anything.

Especially with a resurgent Watford lining up against that. Marco Silva has overseen a large improvement, so much so that his side have only lost one game so far. Quite impressive. They sit just one point behind us too. They are the real deal, but they can be gotten at.

The solitary loss was a hammering against Man City. Watford’s defence is probably the weaker of the parts that compromises the team, and our attack can crack them, if they are on song. 

It is good news then, that Danny Welbeck and Mesut Ozil are both fit. Welbeck will probably be on the bench, but can Ozil get his place back in the team? Alex Iwobi has played so well since playing in the German’s stead, and if form sits above reputation, then Ozil will have to wait to get his place back. The probability is though, that Ozil will be back in.

We are sitting outside the top4 on goal difference. We have recovered from the Liverpool debacle, but a mere recovery isn’t enough. Top sides go on and continue to build momentum, and that is something we must do.

This game looks to be a tight one, and very much in the category of those types of game that is won even under duress. It is said to be the mark of a true team, so the result could either fill us with confidence or remind us of our frailty. 

Watford won the last fixture between us, and it was at The Emirates. In fact, they have won two from the last five games against Arsenal. They have real talent in Troy Deeney, Roberto Pereyra, Etienne Capoue and especially the young Brazilian Richarlison, so it is lucky that we have the ever-reliable Nacho Monreal still fit and firing. Anything is possible with the Spaniard in the team.

Now the international games are over for a while, the games for our side will come thick and fast. We have a midweek game and a Premier League game every week until after our game versus Manchester City on the 5th of November. Seven games in just 24 days. 

Our squad must be looked after. Every injury could cause huge ripples. Time to bust out the cotton wool. 

Good thing Jack Wilshere is fit….

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Holding, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Ozil, Alexis, Lacazette.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

Spotlight on Ozil Brighter than Most

Published on Arsenal Mania.

Football has changed inexorably in the last decade. It has made the sport far more popular as access to every singular movement of a player is now accessible with a solitary click. Social networks provide ample platform for opinions, ideas and highlights to get an airing – rightly or wrongly. 

Along with the opportunity for every fan to have their say and for everything that occurs on the pitch to be viewed from a plethora of angles, the money involved in the sport has also transformed football as we knew it. 

The Premier League now attracts the finest exponents of football, be that players or managers. They come to these shores lured by the lucre and as a result, the heat of competition rises notch by notch. Every single game now carries more significance than before, as final standings mean more money, and better performances by the players also means more moolah. It’s a cash-fest.

Money unfortunately makes the world go round, and football is no different. Just look at the Chinese Super League in the last year for the purest of proof.Arsenal have not escaped this all-enncompassing money-malaise, and the club is a tightly run business with revenue streams rising to prominence alongside results on the pitch.

With the rude health Arsenal are in, it has allowed the Gunners to flash the cash a little. Granit Xhaka, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil have all arrived at the club in recent years, and their transfer fees – whilst not record-breaking in the face of flagrant spending by others – still means that these flagship signings are expected to illuminate the stadium with their excellence. 

A judge of their worth is often made within a few games, such is the fickle nature of some. Pundits often court controversy which only serves to exacerbate readers and listeners and also greases the wheels of their own brand. It is self-serving, but it is where football is right now. 

Mesut Ozil is one who has seen his every languid move scrutinised by all and sundry. The German World Cup winner seemed to deal with the intense attention on his performances for the majority of his Arsenal career, but this season has seen a dip in his displays, and the concentration of eyes on Ozil has now become a maelstrom of ridicule, doubt and fierce judgment.

Does Ozil warrant this? He is still Arsenal’s record purchase and has been touted as one of the worlds best playmakers. When he has been on song, he has exhibited the deftest of touches and vision only matched by the Hubble Telescope. His high’s are so lofty that any fall will contrast starkly.

Ozil is also suffering from a loss of form. He isn’t merely on a plateau, he is well below what he is expected to do. This is undeniable, but does Ozil cop it a little worse than others?

Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva have at times this season gone missing. Silva especially, for games at a time, can produce no end product in terms of goals and assists. Yet, do they dominate back pages? Do their sub-par performances earn hours of talk on radio and TV?

Eden Hazard is a prime example. Last season he was a passenger for 35 games of Chelsea’s mediocre season – and the backlash from him giving Chelsea precious little bang for their buck pales into comparison when placed alongside the weekly reaction regarding our German enabler.

The one decisive factor regarding Ozil’s dip, is the loss of Santi Cazorla. When the Spaniard was fit and in the team, Ozil was firing away goals and laying chances on a plate with high frequency. Since Cazorla has been injured however, Ozil has had to shift his role to get the amount of ball he needs. Mesut Ozil and his assets of mass destruction can nulify any team – just look at his performances against Bayern last season and Chelsea this season – but he needs Santi there to transition defence to attack.

Ozil is the surgery knife, but Santi is the handle. Without him, Ozil is severely hampered.

Ozil’s class is undeniable, but we should be able to criticise when he is off of his game. There is a line in the sand though, where constructive criticism becomes lambasting to keep in with the rest. It’s peer pressure amongst pundits. 

A retrospective look at what has been written and said by ‘experts’ would help, so they could see that it really has become a witch-hunt. Especially when you consider his positional brethren who escape the flak on a regular basis.

Ozil deserves both sides of what the spotlight brings, but who could blame him if he departs?