Granit Xhaka – Right Player in Wrong Place? Does Structure need to change to 3142 to see his best?

Right Man – Wrong Place?

Xhaka………right player, wrong place?

The title is confusing, but I’m not saying we should sell him.

I don’t think he has been stellar since he joined us.

However, he is a good player, and it’s possible that his billing has been off. He’s not the Swiss Vieira, nor the Arsenal Dembele/Wanyama/Kante. He’s his own player, person, and has his own skills.

And it’s possible that we are not utilising them to the best of our ability as a team, and a club.

Hard man saviour

When he joined, he came with the capacity to be the “hard man” in midfield that we desperately required. For years, it was said we were soft in the middle, and Xhaka was like a supposed manna from Heaven.

But was he? Or is he now? He had some sending-off incidents in the 16/17 season that reinforced his “hard man” persona. But then since then, this has abated, and he has become a football equivalent of Joe Montana.   For those who don’t know, Montana is a legendary gridiron quarterback from the 1970s/80s.

Early sendings off

The 2017 Cup Final and the recent Everton/Swansea games, (reports here at the Arsenal roundup) are sound instances of his ability to pick a pass and spray the ball around. This I believe is his true game, and via this provided a “pre-assist” to Kolasinac for Ramsey’s goal.

So then he’s not the hard man Vieira reinvigoration. So how do we best utilise him?

Midfield alterations

He’s not a box to box mid, though he is akin to Pirlo in his Juve heyday. He is a deep lying playmaker, who is strong on the ball, but not necessarily tough tackling and…well like Vieira. Vieira excelled at short passing and strong tackling, whilst Xhaka is more of a long distributor. He picks passes to provide long-distance width, to either Alexis or Ozil as the two support striker positions, or to the wing-backs.

He thus cannot play solely at the base of the midfield, and requires support. Ramsey’s place, despite his erratic form, is required due to his goal-scoring and ability to link with the attack. This may be an unpopular view for some, though I would really favour Coquelin in addition.

Does he need a?n enforcer pal

We can see here that if Coq remained in a deep anchorman role, with Xhaka and Ramsey ahead of him, we can attain a better midfield balance to ensure that all three players’ strengths can be complementary.

Coq is limited, granted. But not every player can be an Alexis, with great pace, skill, and determination. A team comprises players with complementary strengths by definition, and if Ramsey can come back in when we defend, this can help Xhaka ensure his strengths are better utilised.

It does mean sacrificing Ozil, though this is not about dissing or disrespecting him. It’s about see how well our team gels and fits.

Set up with Coq and without Ozil

An alternative is a 4321, in which Coq still occupies a deep anchor man role, though supported by Ramsey and Xhaka.

So with some slight alterations, we can get the best of Xhaka, and better enable the use of wing-backs in our system.

Granit Xhaka is perhaps then a misunderstood player, and to get the best out of him, our manager needs to ensure his strong distributive skills are maximised.

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3 Responses to Granit Xhaka – Right Player in Wrong Place? Does Structure need to change to 3142 to see his best?

  1. chris November 2, 2017 at 9:02 am #

    I agree. He is a lovely passer of the ball ….. but NOT a dmf capable of protecting the back 3 (or 4). He is a box to box central midfielder. with a good shot on him. Wenger did the same when he played Arteta there. The only genuine DMF we have is Coq and it was the senior players who told Wenger they needed him at dmf. Wenger should play defensive vs. City on Sunday but he may go back to trying to play a better team off their own park (?)

  2. Tommy Gunn November 2, 2017 at 10:14 am #

    Nice article
    I weirdly had the same thought yesterday about putting Xhaka in his best position, using Coq as a foil.
    I came to a slightly different conclusion, going back to a back 4 with coq just in front so we could still bring in ozil or giroud. Interesting to see what happens going forward.
    At the minute xhaka is covered quite well with mobile centre backs like monreal though so if it aint broke

  3. Victor Thompson January 8, 2018 at 11:14 am #

    Sorry, but in my view the very idea of adjusting the team to accommodate a man with only a fraction of Ozil`s skill is just incomprehensible. For every wide pass Xhaka makes, Ozil doubles that. For every short pass that Xhaka gives away, Ozil provides damaging blows for our forwards to capitalise on. On current form Ozil is at the standard he brings to Germany and it is mainly because Wenger has finally spotted that he has been playing him out of position. He now occupies the central midfield spot which you would allocate to Xhaka. In doing so he has widened his commitment to actually hunting the ball down even when he loses it, Ozil is the conducter of the qochestra. He pulls the strings and he tries to establish command again when he loses the ball. Sanchez, in particular has recognised that he is bringing Jack Wilshire into the game and consequently Sanchez now has a reliable partner with whom he willingly shares possession. It is no coincidence that since Ozil has taken up position in the centre of the team, that there has been a complimentary improvement in Sanchez`s game. The defensive situation was severely highlighted last night when once again a sole striker took our CBs apart. As a matter of greatest urgency, we need to sign Jonny Evans. He is as quick as Kos, better ball control than any of our CB`s, able to play at full back and is a general in defence in commanding the other defenders. He is what we have been crying out for but Wenger is going to watch as he moves on to Man City.

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