Paul Merson has told Sky Sports that Arsenal’s defeat to Liverpool highlighted just how important Granit Xhaka is to Mikel Arteta’s side as he described the Gunners’ display as mind-blowing.
To say that Xhaka’s time at the Emirates has been mixed would be a huge understatement. There have been fall-outs with the fans, hugely costly errors and moments when he has lost all discipline.
But the midfielder has also shown plenty of glimpses of how good he can be during his time in North London.
However, Merson suggested that it was actually his absence for Saturday’s 3-0 defeat to Liverpool which showed just how crucial he is.
“The defeat to Liverpool just goes to show you how good Granit Xhaka is. He became a better player not playing against Liverpool,” he told Sky Sports. “People say to me they don’t know what Xhaka does. He doesn’t score goals, he doesn’t make goals and gets booked and all that, but give him his due, what was glaring to see in Arsenal’s defeat is that he wants the ball.
“He looks for the ball. In times of trouble he will always try and get on the ball and that’s what they didn’t have. No-one was showing for the ball and in the end, the goalkeeper was just booting the ball. Honestly, it was mind blowing.”
Xhaka is definitely a player capable of colossal performances. But it was not too long ago that he was getting a lot of criticism.
It was his mistake that led to Arsenal conceding an equaliser at Burnley a month ago. On that occasion, he provided that option Bernd Leno needed. But taking an extra touch and producing a complacent pass resulted in the ball hitting Chris Wood and going in.
It would be wrong to pretend that was anything more than a freak occurrence.
But given the pressure Liverpool can apply, Jurgen Klopp’s men may have relished the idea of Xhaka wanting to get onto the ball in those tight areas had he played at the weekend.