I was asked On Monday to write about Granit Xhaka leaving Arsenal yesterday and then he performs as he against the World Champions – What timing!
No fan likes a player to be disrespectful to the club that is paying their wages and Granit Xhaka’s recent quotes seeming to try and engineer an early resolution to his transfer to Roma risk him tarnishing his legacy. However, the simple fact that many reading that will be mouthing the two words ‘what legacy’ will tell its own story.
After five years in North London the fact that the Swiss skipper still divides Arsenal supporters is testament, in my view, that he was never quite good enough. If you are a top player for a club there would never be such a stark division, but those who don’t see his qualities at all are being highly unfair.
Xhaka has exceptional quality in many aspects, most notably his passing range and accuracy, his work rate, and his willingness to play for the team, wherever and however his is asked to play. This past season he has covered Tierney when he advanced and even played at left back in the Scot’s absence. When he is not in our midfield, we have missed his continuity and metronomic passing but still many will not be crying at his departure.
Is this lack of respect or a desire to see Arsenal competing at the top once more and believing Thomas Partey needs a different type of partner to make that possible? In five season he has helped his team lift 2 FA Cups, but his tenure, as many will swiftly point out has coincided with the club ceasing their long running association with Champions League football.
In truth, I think the fall out when he was captain under Emery, was all linked to his position on the pitch and this was perhaps the issue when Wenger brought him to the club. The suggestion was he was, finally, we had the heir apparent to Gilberto Silva which it was fast obvious he was not. It was when Emery, also expected him to play at DM, when he had bought Lucas Torriera for the role, that the fans turned and that led to the infamous storming off the pitch against Crystal Palace. To be a top player in that role in a league with the pace of the Premier League, you need to mobility and speed to complement the game reading and the Swiss fall guy has never possessed it.
Granit Xkaka is a very good footballer, but he is not a great footballer and the difference in this instance is down to three factors in my opinion. Firstly, his lack of mobility and pace across the ground to recover. Secondly his inability to concentrate for a whole match, as lapses in that key position, have too often caused us to be overrun. Lastly the game picture in the head, which allows the great players to see the pass early and play it quicky. Xhaka too frequently slows Arsenal in transition and whilst he has the passing vision, without doubt, he does not pass early often enough.
Italy may well offer him a slightly slower pace and it may well suit his ‘deep lying playmaker’ attributes and he may well get to play in a midfield three, something he has for his national team quite often, but rarely has at Arsenal. Although, at present the Swiss are playing a 343 which also offers greater protection against his frailties.
Personally, I have enjoyed watching the best of Xhaka an cringed at the worst, but he has still been one of our most consistent performers in an era of inconsistency across three managers. At this point, I believe we have a mutually agreeable, and I hope respectful partying of the ways, if Roma are prepared to pay the proper fee that reflects Xhaka’s age and ability. Arteta has invested in Thomas Partey to be the new midfield lynchpin and he feels he needs a more agile and defensive partner for us to see the best of the Ghanaian.
In short, Xhaka wants a new direction and that suits Arsenal and the current regime that wish to take the team in direction. I hope now that the player keeps quiet and allows the transfer to progress in a manner that suits his current employers, and not in a manner that suits only him and his suitors. That way for those of us who have valued his contribution, he can be remembered fondly at least.
This is the full unedited version of Tuesday’s Sun Fan Column.
Passionate fifty-something Arsenal supporter who has been making the journey to N5 regularly since the early 1980s – although his first game was in 1976. Always passionate when talking about The Arsenal, Dave decided to send a guest blog to Gunnersphere in the summer of 2011 and has not stopped writing about the Gunners since.
He set up his own site – 1 Nil Down 2 One Up – in February 2012, which he moved on in 2016 to concentrate on freelance writing and building Gunners Town, which he launched with Paul in 2014.
The objective of GT was to be new and fresh and to give a platform for likeminded passionate Arsenal fans wishing to write about their team. Dave still of course, writes for the site himself and advises the ever-changing writing crew.