Analysing Granit Xhaka's Arsenal display in the North London Derby
It was a fast-paced North London derby, with both sides setting out to try and get the three points. After taking a first half lead, Arsenal were pegged back and the match finished level. It was probably a fair result and one that keeps both sides in touch with the top four.
Although Arsene Wenger failed to beat Mauricio Pochettino again in the league, this result means that Arsenal are unbeaten in ten league matches and are well placed in the top four heading into the international break. The title race should be a good one this season with four or five teams close to each other at the top of the table and there is an expectation for Arsenal to be involved.
Granit Xhaka has had a mixed start to his Arsenal career and he is still adjusting to the physicality of the Premier League. However, he was excellent against Tottenham and gave a performance that should see him consolidate his position in the starting eleven.
As it was a derby match, there were concerns that the passion would creep into Xhaka’s game increasing the possibility of a red card. That wasn’t the case as the Swiss international remained cool and kept himself out of the referee’s notebook, which will have pleased Arsene Wenger.
The 24-year-old completed the most amount of tackles out of anybody on the pitch, as he ended the game with five successful tackles. He broke up the Tottenham play well and prevented Spurs from building many dangerous attacks. Added to this, Xhaka completed four interceptions and his ability to retrieve the ball really impressed on Sunday.
This was the player that Arsenal thought they were signing and it is a testament to his mentality that he delivered his best performance in such a high pressured game. In the past, Arsenal players have been accused of lacking the strong mentality required to challenge for trophies, but Xhaka certainly doesn’t.
As well breaking up play effectively, Xhaka was assured in possession and completed 82% of his passes. Considering that this was a derby match that is an impressive passing display from the central midfielder. Only his midfield partner Francis Coquelin (83%) completed more passes in the Arsenal side. He also made one key pass during the match, which shows that he can influence the game with possession as well.
Towards the end of the match, Xhaka was excellent in transition and moved his side up the field significantly as he pushed the ball forwards out of midfield, before playing a simple forward pass to a team-mate. He was always in the right areas to give his team-mates an option to pass with his movement in midfield areas.
As the season progresses, it is expected that Xhaka will be a regular in the starting eleven and it could benefit him to play alongside a more technical player than Francis Coquelin. Although the Swiss international did well on the ball against Spurs, he lacks the vision of a player like Santi Cazorla and that showed at times on Sunday.
The performance of Xhaka was one of the real highlights for Arsenal on Sunday and his aggressiveness in the midfield limited the chances given to Tottenham. It was all the more impressive as it came during a high pressured game against Arsenal’s local rivals.
The defensive midfield position has been a problem for a long time at the Emirates Stadium and they finally have a player with the ability to match their ambitions. At the age of 24, he will develop further and it could turn out to be a great piece of business by Arsenal, despite the high price tag.
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