Which Arsenal Midfielder Should Granit Xhaka Replace? By Twig
Granit Xhaka has once again made a strong case for his inclusion into the Arsenal starting XI with yet another long-range screamer. Scoring goals might not be his primary responsibility, and was certainly not the reason why he was signed, but it’s always nice to have a midfielder who can score especially when your strikers are having an off-day. This Saturday we meet Chelsea, for the battle for fourth spot, and it is absolutely vital we get the starting XI right.
Against Watford, Xhaka was paired with Cazorla at the base of midfield, with Ozil up front, and that combination was widely agreed to have worked. However, for some reason, Xhaka got dropped in the subsequent games, with Coquelin taking his place. According to Wenger it was necessary to restore some stability back into the team by going with a midfield pairing that has been tried and tested, especially after our loss to Liverpool. And you can’t argue much with that as Coquelin has grown in strength, and has been one of our best players so far this season.
Indeed, from recent comments from Wenger, it will appear that Coquelin will be a permanent fixture on the Arsenal side as he hinted he sees Xhaka playing as a box to box midfielder (even though I don’t think many gooners will agree with that), meaning it’s Cazorla and not Coquelin that’s standing in his way. As far as interceptions are concerned, Coquelin has no equal in this Arsenal team, period. Recall it was Coquelin’s interception that paved the way for Walcott’s goal against Liverpool (not that it mattered in the end anyway!). On the other hand Cazorla has been having an impressive season so far. His importance to the team is further underlined by the fact that he is our most reliable penalty taker. As we trailed Southampton the other day, it was Cazorla’s influential display from midfield that set us up for a comeback win. Cazorla has also shown an increased willingness to go forward and join the attack unlike last season.
The odd one out is Ozil, who had thumping game against Watford, but has looked out of sorts ever since. Many will point to his impressive pass completion stats in our last game, but in reality, it was his second worst game of the season so far according to WhoScored ratings. I thought Ozil should have ideally played against Nottingham Forest yesterday to get him back into rhythm but it appeared Wenger had other plans. Could the prolonged contract talks perhaps be affecting his game? Against Chelsea, we are likely to be set against a staunch and physical midfield of Kante at the base, and Matic and Oscar (or maybe 2-goal Fabregas) up front. Even if Ozil were in form, I am not sure if this will be a game that will suit him. The other option will be to drop Walcott and play all of Cazorla, Ozil, Xhaka and Coquelin, but that will reduce our goal threat, and as we know, Walcott loves playing against Chelsea. In short, if we played Cazorla and Ozil in the same midfield, it will seem that we have already given up the midfield battle as both players are mainly creators with little grit to their game. That will be unfortunate given we now have the squad to stand up physically to any midfield in the league.
So how should Arsenal line up on Saturday? Should Wenger stick with the Cazorla-Coquelin-Ozil midfield or should he go with Cazorla-Coquelin-Xhaka? Has Xhaka done enough to merit a start? Let’s have your thoughts.