Analysis – Is Granit Xhaka Arsenal’s Most Important Player?

Is Granit Xhaka The Most Important Arsenal Player? by Goonerboy
Hello, wonderful Arsenal family. I am still buzzing about our win against Zurich on Thursday, which means we have achieved the first target of this season’s Europa League campaign; win the group and avoid the playoffs! How we did it is absolutely none of my business, we achieved our aim.
I will also use this opportunity to say I am impressed with how we have navigated the much dreaded, “make-or-break October schedule”, we drew and lost one game in the Premier and Europa League respectively, and sit top of the pile in both competitions, credit to the team and our manager, who has been nominated for the manager of the month award for the “difficult” October for the hard work, long may it continue.
One notable absence from our win on Thursday was Granit Xhaka (due to suspension) and I can’t but notice his absence as his replacement, Sambi Lokonga,  failed to walk his talk on the pitch. The boy has an exceptional talent for hiding and being anonymous, you could feel we massively missed Xhaka’s presence, leadership and playmaking abilities which in my opinion, contributed to the not-so-good performance we witnessed on Thursday.
Now, this article is not just about Thursday’s game alone, the game just highlighted what I have always thought about the player who is arguably the most divisive player in the Emirates era, perhaps just behind Mezut Ozil.
However, Xhaka’s case is intriguing because, despite the division and over-the-top backlash from a large section of our adorable fanbase, he is usually favored by all his managers, both internationally and at the club level, but this did little to stop the fans from hating on him; at that time, my last resort to defend him was “all the managers can’t be wrong, you can’t possibly know more than his managers”. The more he plays, the more hate he gets, although his habit of losing his head and getting sent off was really annoying still, you could sense the whole thing is exaggerated. Many fans wondered why he was always the first name on the team sheet, questioning what he brought to the team, the hate was so much that they can’t even see his impact on the team,  yet when he does not play, something is always missing in the engine room.
I know many are already shaking their heads and rolling their eyes in disagreement after seeing the title of this article, others would say Partey and some Gabriel Jesus and they would not be particularly wrong, (I am tempted to go further on this but I don’t like lengthy articles) — before Partey, Arsenal would struggle to dominate a game, let alone win when Xhaka is not playing, he always had the most PROGRESSIVE passes even before his position change, but you would only read ‘Xhaka is too slow’, so what makes the Premier League Player of the Month of October nominee such an important player to us?
Tactical Flexibility: You may remember, Xhaka has played as a CB, DLP, LB, and also in a pivot and now excelling as a box-to-box midfielder. Xhaka was the only midfielder that could form a pivot with any of our midfielders.  Xhaka-Ramsey, Xhaka-Torreira, Xhaka-Elneny, Xhaka-Guendouzi, Xhaka-Partey, they all couldn’t/can’t do without Xhaka, but he can do without them all. The best pivot has to have Xhaka in it, he is the balance in our midfield, this continues on the second point.
Fitness: The way Xhaka is always fit has to be studied, man is a cheat code.  I always call him Granit the granite. He is so fit that he is never rested even when other senior players are rested, such is the confidence of his managers in his fitness levels, this also shows his importance to any team we put out. I am certain beyond any doubt he would have started the game on Thursday if not for suspension. I think we unconsciously under-appreciate him because he is always available.
Mental Strength: There is no way you can come back and be this transformed (as a player) and united with the fans (after ‘that incident’) if you are not mentally strong.  Most players of Xhaka’s age are often withdrawn from the attacking positions and deployed at the base of the midfield to preserve their energy, but Xhaka’s position changed to a more demanding box-to-box role at his age and in a league as physical as the Premier League. He never hides no matter what, he plays his heart out week in, week out!
A natural leader: When we signed him, he narrated how his parents would leave the keys to the house with him despite having a senior. He captained B.Monchengladbach at the age of 22/23, he is currently the Swiss captain as well. In Arsenal, even though he lost the armband, you would be a liar if you don’t agree he is our captain without the armband. In good and bad times, he is ready to take responsibility, always organizing the team, and he has the respect of his team and manager. He is my captain!
To be honest, I could go on and on, but this is already longer than I would like,  so on a final note, after 7 years, I am happy Granit Xhaka is finally enjoying his football here, and I am seriously hoping he stays with us when he retires from playing like Per Mertesacker, because whether you believe it or not, we are going to miss him when he leaves.  If Arteta was as old as Wenger, I would be wishing Xhaka takes over from him, but Arteta (My Manager) himself is just getting started so we have to wait on that one, hopefully, we are all alive to witness that.
And talking of Wenger, he signed Per, Arteta, and Xhaka, fine players and amazing human beings looking after his club in his departure. Ladies and gentlemen, Arsene Wenger, has done it again!
Onwards and Upwards Gooners.

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  1. Good article! He’s had his ups and downs at the club but also the rock hard resilience and consistency have been really impressive. I often read on here that we need an upgrade on Xhaka…we need an upgrade in every position as well as the second string if that’s the case

  2. My only gripe with the article was the suggestion that Xhaka is ready to be the next coach/manager were it not for Arteta currently in that seat…wishful thinking

  3. In my opinion, Jesus is currently our most important player, because he is our main pivot in the front line

    1. I would say him or Partey as neither has a replacement.

      Xhaka is excellent but I am not worried if Vieira has to step on

  4. No
    He’s been moved more forward so he does t drop us in the sh1t with his constant mistakes ,nothing more nothing less ,he’s still the same player he was last year .

  5. The come back kid is arguably one of Arsenal most important players.

    It is said only when a cow loses its tail it realizes how important it is, so important is Xhaka to Arsenal. Only when he is not on the pitch you suddenly realize something missing.

    A keep saying never had I seen a player demonstrated such mental strength, not at Arsenal or in the league by extension, even in a class with a dozen students some of us shiver to make a presentation, never mind thousands of your own fans shouting abuse week in week out at you.

    It is character like Xhaka’s you keep around the club long after their playing days.

    A keep saying the big conversation of what entile one to have a statue erect in one’s name will rise again

  6. A welcome inspirational article! LOTS TO AGREE ABOUT, too, esp that Xhaka is clearly acting as thr REAL CAPTAIN ON FIELD.

    Shame that this article included three extremely silly uses oif “hate” or ” hating” , instead of the correct “dislike or disliking” of pre this seasons Xhaka.

    But when a very young and not fully literate person writes, we have to expect wrong use of English.

    Other than that important caveat, I found this one of Patricks very best articles, though unlike him ,I DO like longer articles, for the simple reason that they say more than far too brief mere reports can ever do.

    1. Most of us are not english dear Jon.It’s not that he’s not “fully literate” but english may be his second or even third language(like me)

    2. @Jon,
      You can be such an arse sometimes. First you say “a very young and not fully literate person” person wrote the article, and then you say it is Patrick.
      Jeez, ANYONE with a grasp of reading would see this was written by Goonerboy, and posted by me. You never miss a chance to insult our writers, do you?

      1. Sometimes i just have too laugh at yr comments @ jon fox . You love too quote the miss use of words , call People unthinking dullards . But as youve just proved even you can make an utter fool of yourself .Kudos for yr apology but may i ask , was it yr unbridled glee at putting some someone else down that made you forget to engage yr brain or is it that yr old age is effecting yr comprehension

      2. Pat you have deleted my detailed riposte to your own silly post. No surprise there then.

        As Admin of JA you have never liked views that directly contradict your own being freely expressed . As many of us know from personal experience. Sigh!

    3. The last part spoke volumes, Wenger has done it again.

      The only reason we are top of thr PL right now is due to Wenger’s foresight.

      It seems Jon agrees

    4. Still going on about this “hate” thing? I’ve shown you the definitions – like it or not, it’s perfectly acceptable English to use “hate” as it is used in the article.

      1. DAVI no it is NOT “perfectly acceptable ” for natural English speakers to use words deliberately incorrectly.

        There may well have been a few awful and spiteful people who did send actual “hate” mail to Xhaka, but the vast majority of us who just wanted him left out of the team and to leave altogether, did “NOT hate him” at all.

        I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED THIS, NO MATTER WHO THE PLAYER IS. I never “hated” Xhaka and in many ways I admired his courage, fitness, passion and hard work.

        THIS YEAR, he has made a massive improvement in efffectiveness , mostly because he is no longer wrongly used as a DM and therefore not around to lunge into foul tackles and thus get red cards and give away pens.
        My “hate” that never existed, has suddenly disappeared. ODD THAT, ISNT IT!!


        1. Hate can be defined as a strong dislike – I think that describes the previous views of yourself and many others, including myself. It doesn’t mean we hated xhaka the person (I didn’t, and I don’t believe most people did either), but we hated seeing him play for arsenal, hated many of his performances, hated that the managers persisted with playing him and not seeking a replacement. It was not mere criticism, he was seen as one of the “deadwood” players and we wanted him to leave the club.


            Davi you are an intelligent man and your post, which is profoundly mistaken, disappoints me, as it come from you who, OUGFHT to know better.
            ACTUAL( as opposed to wrongly used) HATE IS WHAT UKRAINIANS HAVE FOR PUTIN.
            AND WHAT WE ALL SHOULD HAVE FOR WAR, BLOODSHED, CRUELTY, BIGOTRY, RACISM . Not for a mere insignificant footballer . ALL footballers are, in essence insignificant, compared with things that matter far more.

  7. Whith Wenger Hitzveld Emery Mourinho(tried to sign him) Klopp(linked to Liverpool last year) you have the gotta of European football who finds that you’r good.A mere fan ,with all my due respect, who cannot even lead a warm up cannot know better than these

    1. Granit Xhaka has more than ELEVEN years of professional football behind him and he’s still young….Hé was part of the Basel team that’v beaten Man U in 2011….

  8. Just because Xhaka has gone from being a brainless headbanger to just an headbanger pushed up to avoid his idiotic interventions doesn’t warrant the over hype. Xhaka is doing better and arguably deserves his place and praise for doing a job but lets stop this idiotic idolising of a player just doing a good job. Saying Lagonga, in the article was anonymous was just wrong. He made more successful interceptions than any player in the team, not opinion, fact. Saying he hid was rediculous, he did his job as well or as bad as every other player in the team. But the truth is we did look better, when Partey came on. So for me at the moment the MOST important player in this team os Partey, doing a way better job than Xhaka or Lakonga but whatever our opinion, success isnt about one player, its about the team.

  9. Deny it all you want, Xhaka is as important to this team as Partey and Saka are. Just look at who’s supposed to be his number 8 replacement in Vieira struggling, and Sambi who can’t seem to even show he’s better than Guendouzi.
    The kid hides from the ball too much and hardly does anything progressive with it.
    Hell if I had the chance of going Guendouzi or Sambi, I’m pick Guendouzi all day, except that he comes with his baggage.
    If Xhaka is off the team, none of his replacement so far have shown they will offer what he does.
    Also it’s just dumb to keep saying his mistakes, red cards and blah blah blah.
    Feom the 2017/2018 season till now, Xhaka has just 3 red cards. That’s someone that’s always available over 90% of all gamess every season.
    Just like the media, our fanbase had this witchhunt over him because of rep and always saying how he costs us games with red cards and errors.
    Jesus Christ, if we go into details the number of errors Gabriel Magalhaes has done that’s cost us since he came, Xhaka would be appearing as a saint, but I’m not gonna do that because there’s no point.
    Fans just had this dislike for Xhaka and had their minds made up about him.
    I don’t know how as a fan your opinions can’t change, there was a time he was a terrible player, I always criticized him, but the moment he started turning it around, and make no mistake Xhaka’s been a better player right from Arteta’s first season. My opinions on him changed and he’s had my support since then cuz he keeps performing.
    I don’t know why people can’t change their terrible opinions on certain players and would rather choose to stick to a bad opinion just because it was right at some point in the past.
    There’s nothing wrong in ever changing opinions about something, because things change, so opinions will definitely change alongside it.
    A lot of things has been exaggerated about Xhaka over the last couple of years and our fans are responsible for it just because they had their dislike for him pinned up on their wall

  10. This article is much needed. The fitness of Xhaka is freakish and his silent movement around the pitch is often undervalued. I don’t think Odegaard and Partey can play that well without Xhaka because he appears to be their bucket carrier whenever they feel overwhelmed by the opponents. He presses whenever Odegaard needs him and defends deep whenever Partey needs him. I’m pretty sure Martinelli and Tomiyasu/Tierney/Zinchenko appreciates the massive work he’s done on the left side. What a player and what a man!

  11. Good piece.

    Touch wood when you read/write it – don’t jinx the guy’s fitness and availability, don’t tempt fate! 🙂

  12. “before Partey, Arsenal would struggle to dominate a game, let alone win when Xhaka is not playing”
    I’m not sure about this – there have been times where the alternatives to xhaka were just very poor, so I don’t think it would say too much, even if it was true (which I’m also not sure of to be frank)

    I also must disagree on the tactical flexibility points – xhaka may have played in multiple positions, with multiple midfield partners, but this is the first season that he’s played consistently very well. This suggests to me the opposite – he’s very good when played in a certain way, but he isn’t very flexible.
    This does align with the leadership and mental strength points, however, because he’s been willing to do what was asked of him, sacrificing his own game, ostensibly for the good of the team – although really I’d argue playing xhaka out of position generally didn’t help the team, but I’d blame this on poor decisions by the managers rather than on GX himself.

    I also wouldn’t say xhaka’s our *most* important player, because I think we miss partey much more when he’s out, but i can see why you’d say it about GX – he’s been our most consistent and reliable player so far this season imo (so perhaps it’s just a difference in how we define “important”).

    1. It is not about partey or xhaka.. It is about the manager.. He overhaul the player, the attitude, non negotiable rule, he make the atmosphere in Emirates better.. He sell the deadwood and bring her own player.. I say again it is about the whole team mentality… When you work in better environment you strive..

  13. I have to disagree. Yes, Granit had been vital for us but if we are honest, Partey is our most important player. Without him the team is not the same.

  14. Shame on the admin that deleted my reply to Jon on this post.inly he has the right to berate others and speak ill of every other person here without sanctions.i replied him without any strong words yet my comment got deleted.its a shame on you

  15. I was Xhaka OUT
    Now I’m Xhaka IN
    Learning to trust Arteta more

    Have to admire PAT’S patience with some people

  16. A player we wouldn’t miss at all. No Xhaka would mean the club moving forward. A signing here, ESR given opportunity there and it would be a case of Granite Who?

  17. If ESR can try to be as half fit as Xhaka, then you can start talking about him taking his spot on the team. The writer clearly made mention of Xhaka’s fitness, mental strength, and leadership ability. I forgot to add something the writer did not mention. Xhaka’s Durability. He’s a duracell lol.

  18. Xhaka is important to the team yes, but I don’t think he is our most important player. Who should be among the top five thou

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