I may be wrong but I have a feeling that Arsene Wenger’s decision to leave Granit Xhaka on the bench for the thumping Champions League win over Ludogorets Razgrad was taken in part because of the red card the Swiss international picked up last weekend against Swansea.
Even though the boss defended his summer signing after the match, it did nearly cost us some valuable points and damage our title challenge, so perhaps Wenger was trying to make Xhaka think about his actions more in the future, but he may just have hurt the Gunners in doing so.
Instead of resting Santi Cazorla for the Premier League and using Xhaka in Europe where his three match ban does not apply, Wenger started the Spaniard but then had to replace him after Santi picked up a knock in the second half, as revealed by the boos in an Arsenal.com report.
He said, “He got a kick and I took him off as quickly as possible. He got a kick on the back of his achilles tendon. In my view he was limping a little bit so I didn’t want to take a gamble.”
The problem for me is that starting him in the first place was a gamble. Not much of one perhaps but one he did not need to take with Xhaka available. If Cazorla does have to miss the game against Middlesborough then Arsenal have a small problem in central midfield, with Coquelin and Elneny the only proper central midfielders he can call on and both of those are more defensively minded.
If the Gunners do struggle to break down the Boro defence, will some of the blame have to go to Wenger for not starting Xhaka?