GRANIT XHAKA: ONE OF THE PLAYERS WHO DIVIDE THE OPINIONS OF FANS AND COACHS by I
With the North London derby ending up a dismal draw due to our usual defensive frailties, and with just four games of the season gone, it is obvious that fans can never guess the players to start any game as the coach selection is not predictable. I have noticed that his tinkering with the squad annoys some fans. But isn’t lack of tinkering with squad and tactics one of the cases against Arsene?
Irrespective of the tactics and players Emery will select from his squad at the moment, there are at least four players that must start barring injuries, fitness or suspension issues. They are Leno, Niles (mainly due to absence of Bellerin), Aubameyang and Xhaka.
I noticed from the complaints of fans that among the players listed above, Xhaka’s inclusion is always a subject of criticism. This is due to two factors. One is the divisive perceptions of football lovers on defensive/holding midfield players. The other factor is the availability of details about players from the coaches point of view, and the viewers/spectators point of view. Both factors are closely related.
Take a sample from fans about qualities of their ideal defensive/holding midfield players, you will see variances in their descriptions. From experience, no two world class players in that position, both present and past, have exactly the same skill sets, hence there will always be division among fans about the most suitable skill of players due to the fact that they base their judgment on other world class players.
Some of the obvious reasons Xhaka is picked are his physical strength compared to his colleagues; his passing abilities; his shooting and reading of the game, and the shape of the team. His fitness is another plus to his qualities. Two of his major weaknesses are lack of speed and lack of tackling ability. Though the former is a natural and individual issue, I think he has improved a bit in the latter. When was the last time he picked a red card? Passing the ball backward to defenders or keeper is one of the subjects of criticism. I think this shouldn’t be blamed on the passer alone. Passing depends on availability of players to pass to, their positions and the positions of the tackling opposite players. I feel the frequency of his passing the ball backward sometimes overemphasized.
Few fans have drawn attention to reasons why he is picked by coaches. From the Swiss coach to club coaches. Initially it was a case of Arsene always picking his favourite boys. Now it is Emery. This is due to fact that there are certain needs in some players that coaches have, that fans/spectators just don’t see.
Granit Xhaka, despite his criticism and his well-known errors is one of two players with enormous talent and experience among the Arsenal midfield players. The other is Mesut Ozil. Painfully so, the importance of these players are sometimes shadowed by results and other non-sporting issues. Let’s support our own.