Well Gooners, let’s tackle it straight away: Granit Xhaka is a hot tempered lad. He is very passionate, he has a proper fighting spirit and he doesn’t hide when things heat-up. Yet, it doesn’t mean he’s a liability to the team and someone always on the verge of being given the marching orders.
It’s been years since we had such a tough bastard in the middle of the pitch and ’m enjoying every minute of it.
He isn’t a violent player, he doesn’t fly into tackles for the sake of it but he’s not one to mess with, either; he said already that being aggressive and tough is part of his game and he won’t be the same player, had he changed his style over the years. Personally, I’m glad he’s the player he is today.
With him and characters like Mustafi, Koscielny, Lucas, Gabriel and Coquelin in the team – all players who certainly won’t shy away from a confrontation, let alone a 50/50 tackle – I feel we’ve finally turned the page on the nice Arsenal.
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After years spent reading the nauseating narrative of “kids v men”, of “soft Arsenal”, of “naïve Arsenal”, it’s quite refreshing to see that we’re no longer the drama queens (well, Olivier is still here…) we used to be but we finally decided to man up.
I was fed-up of seeing our boys play the nice guys, be bullied at almost every ground and – possibly the most infuriating thing – be laughed at by a certain Patrice Evra.
Football-wise, we were a joy to watch when Cesc Fàbregas, Alex Song and Denílson were pulling the strings in midfield but we were also desperately fragile, both mentally and physically.
We were regularly outmuscled and intimidated at Blackburn, at Wigan, at Stoke, at Bolton and at many other grounds across England, always coming out of games with zero points, a lot of bruises and ridiculed by the media.
In the last few years, though, the main theme has changed and it has not been so easy for opponents to play the hard guys against us, because we started to fight back; of course this brings a few more cards and some disciplinary issues but it also gives the team a different aura, a different image.
During our most successful years, we had plenty of hard men, who constantly picked-up red cards for being too aggressive or too outspoken: we had, among others, Patrick Vieira, Martin Keown, Sol Campbell and Lauren, each of them ready to “kick the sh*t” out of anyone who kicked a teammate, as famously said by Freddie Ljungberg on MOTD.
Granit Xhaka surely needs to improve his tackling and learn how to be as efficient but much less blatant and clumsy, when stopping an opponent; his first read card was quite self-explanatory, in this sense: he spotted a dangerous counter-attack and did what any midfielder should do in that situation, but the way he fouled the Swansea man was so cynical and showy that the referee decided to dismiss him.
Had he been a bit slyer, he would have got a yellow card instead and plenty of credit for his intelligent, selfless action; same for the latest red card, he should have stayed on his feet and avoid offering Defour – such an experienced and smart player – the chance to make the tackle look much worse that it was.
Do not forget he hasn’t been sent-off for violent conduct or anything like that, he’s been dismissed for two clumsy tackles he made; as a former creative midfielder, it’s rather natural the he doesn’t possess the fouling skills that somehow allowed Claude Makélélé to avoid a red card in his whole Premier League career or Darren Fletcher to pick up one yellow card every EIGHT fouls, in average.
As Granit Xhaka is a very intelligent player, he will learn quickly and soon become accustomed to the league and its referees – who are more and more deceiving, to be honest; in the meanwhile, we could stop going over the top for a couple of red cards and overlook the balance, discipline and technical security he’s offering to the team.
Prior to his latest dismissal, the Swiss midfielder was controlling the game and dictating the play from the middle of the park, allowing his partner in midfield to roam forward and breaking the lines with his incisive, sharp passes to the final third.He’s still the Arsenal player with the most passes and most tackles this season, despite not featuring in the opening games, which speaks loud about his involvement and importance in the team.
Soon we will see day when he’ll mix his aggressive style with a silkier way of stopping opponents, he’ll be one of the best midfielder in England and in Europe; at 24-years of age, he has plenty of time to find the correct blend and become Arsenal’s X-Factor in the race to trophies.
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.