It’s fair to say that Granit Xhaka’s Arsenal career hasn’t been exactly smooth sailing so far.
He was sent off for the second time this season with a straight red when he lunged on Burnley’s Steven Defour. It wasn’t the worst tackle by any stretch of the imagination, it was an act borne out of impulsion after he lost possession of the ball. However, referees,these days seem to be dishing out red cards whenever a player goes in two footed like the Swiss international did. Arsenal managed to win that game through a penalty deep in stoppage time, but Xhaka found himself suspended for four games, which sees him miss games against Watford, Chelsea, and Hull City.
Xhaka’s red card clouded what was quite an accomplished midfield performance from him against the Clarets. He brilliantly orchestrated the play, sprayed passes left, right and centre and seemed to forge an understanding with his midfield partner Aaron Ramsey – the partnership that Arsenal fans wanted to see ever since the Swiss was signed. Arsenal now have to make and do with Ramsey and Francis Coquelin for the next few games as they attempt to claw Chelsea back.
While there is no question that Xhaka has to be more sensible with his tackles, he has also been slightly unlucky. His red card against Swansea earlier in the season was incredibly harsh and gives food to the thought whether his reputation influences referees while making decisions. He came to Arsenal on the back of a successful stint in Germany, where he developed into a silky playmaker, albeit one prone to rash decision making. His numbers certainly don’t help, since the start of last season, he has had more red cards than any other player in the Europe’s top five leagues (five).
However, a mere look at the statistics doesn’t tell the whole story. He has just earned two yellow cards in the Premier League all season, and yes, he has to curb his petulance, but he is not a thug who assaults players on the pitch, as certain sections of the media would have you believe – the same media that accused Arsenal of not buying a strong tackling midfield powerhouse like Granit Xhaka for years. Players get sent off in the league every other week and far more reckless tackles than Xhaka’s goes unpunished, but the press seems bent on blowing things out of proportion when Arsenal players are involved.
Despite his recent shenanigans, Xhaka has proved to be a smart signing for the Gunners. He has brought creativity, steel, and vision to the Emirates outfit and that should not be overlooked amidst the recent incidents. His attitude has been spot on judging from Arsene Wenger’s recent comments about the midfielder:
“I can only talk about him on what I’ve seen since the start. He’s had a fantastic attitude on a daily basis since he arrived here. Sometimes you don’t know how the players will behave on a daily basis but I must say that he has been absolutely marvellous to handle on a daily basis with his commitment, focus, dedication and I’ve never heard anything bad said about him.”
He has been an excellent addition to the Arsenal ranks and he will come good. He made an indifferent start at his previous club Borussia Monchengladbach, fell out with the manager, and things didn’t look good, but he knuckled down and went on to become the captain of the German club. He will learn and that is good for Arsenal in the long-term.
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