Granit Xhaka is a player whom I like. I think under both Wenger and now Emery, he is not being utilised properly.
There is a podcast I watch/listen to a lot named Cheeky Sport, and in a recent show one of the hosts called Xhaka “the Swiss Charlie Adam….” Now, this was intended to be crass, and in fairness I found it (and still find it incidentally) pretty funny.
Charlie Adam naturally was an emerging talent, who with a stellar season at Blackpool, went to a bigger club in Liverpool, and failed. He then played for Stoke, without much note.
Xhaka in a way has followed a similar path, in that Borussia Moenchengbladbach. Is not a big club, but he thus far is not hacking it at Arsenal. Xhaka has the potential to be the Swiss Pirlo, since he possesses many of the same traits, albeit not at Pirlo’s level (who is, frankly?) But is Xhaka closer to Switzerland’s Pirlo or Adam?
Let’s look at some key points, and also see if Xhaka has much to add to Arsenal:
Andrea Pirlo must stand as one of the greatest deep lying playmakers of all-time. He attained great success with AC Milan and Juventus, as well as winning the World Cup in 2006 with Italy.
Comparing Xhaka with Pirlo is moot at best. And to some disingenuous. However, both certainly are pretty much similar in base terms. Neither are quick, but they both enjoy supplying players further forward, and being the creative influence in their teams. It’s why Xhaka called himself a “false number 10”.
Pirlo at AC Milan/Juve had various players who were more advanced than him, or who were more suited to defensive work. Gattuso is an apparent example, and Inzaghi was a forward who able to latch onto his runs.
Both AC Milan and Juve were configured to get the best from Pirlo, who initially was stunted at Inter due to his comparative lack of pace. But at AC Milan, he could do this effectively, as he played just in front of the defence.
Similar is true in the Italian national team, and the Azzuri’s 2006 World Cup win. Gattuso held a similar role for both club and country, and his club and national teammate provided the security for him to progress and supply the forwards.
Pirlo in this case is an archetype, given his pre-eminence in this mould.
And Xhaka may more resemble the “Swiss Charlie Adam”, since he’s not being utilised properly.
Aubameyang, Lacazette, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, etc. are all players who can gain from his long-range passing.
However, we haven’t seen him in this role very often. It could be that he has not been utilised in the proper role, and that he needs to play in a midfield three.
We know he is not a combative DM. But he needs runners ahead of him to get the best of his creative potential.
If there is another player that Xhaka can aspire to, it’s Kante.
Now Kante is combative, but he’s not an old-fashioned destroyer by any stretch.
He can pass, dribble, and shoot from range, and whilst not necessarily a creative presence, under Sarri at Chelsea he may gain the skill to improve as a more mobile and all-rounded midfielder. Jorginho’s role as a regista also can help him, and he also provides another template as to what Xhaka can be.
So I hope Xhaka can be the Swiss Pirlo, and not the Swiss Adam.
Our new head coach needs to find a system to enable he can be this, and I hold faith he can.
Until then, criticism of Xhaka is more than valid. But we can hope that Senor Emery will grant him the scope to improve.
MarbleHallsTV is an Arsenal social media account on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. Been a Gooner since the 90s, inspired by Ian Wright, then Bergkamp, Vieira, Henry, Pires, Campbell, Rosicky, Koscielny, Ozil and Sanchez. A digital marketer/entrpreneur by profession, born in UK living in the Americas now.