Marcelo Bielsa names Arsenal duo as ‘most difficult to neutralise’

Arsenal beat Leeds 4-2 yesterday afternoon, and their manager Marcelo Bielsa claims that it was Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos who were unplayable.

The Gunners raced into a 4-0 lead thanks to three goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and a sole goal by Hector Bellerin, before pulling two goals back in the second half, but it was Arsenal’s midfield who caught the eye of the losing boss.

“For me one of the most difficult things to neutralise from the opponents was how their two defensive midfielder play,” Bielsa said.

“You watch closely in the first half, one of the biggest things for us was that we didn’t manage to control Xhaka and Ceballos. In front of them Odegaard played, who is an offensive player.

“If Klich or Dallas had played against Odegaard before the game, neither Dallas nor Klich are defensive midfielders and Pascal can play in this position. In our team the defensive midfielder is the third defender. In our team, the two centre-backs and the defensive midfielder are the ones that defend the most.

“If I had interpreted that Klich or Dallas was our third most defensive player I think we would have had even more problems than we did.

“I think the biggest issue that we had was that we were not able to neutralise the circulation between the two centre-backs and the two centre-mids in the first half.”

It is intriguing to hear such praise for our midfield pair, especially when many fans would be happy to have the club sign players in their place.

Thomas Partey is the clear first choice when fit, and while Mikel Arteta has come to prefer Granit Xhaka alongside him, fans still have their reservations about him, despite a much-improved level of consistency this season.

Do Xhaka and Ceballos deserve praise for their performance yesterday? Do the pair deserve more credit than they receive with the pair helping our side to a number of positive results this season?


Tags Dani Ceballos Granit Xhaka Leeds Marcelo Bielsa


  1. I think you have to beware what Bielsa is reported to have said, and what he actually said and means.In any event, they did well in the first half but struggled in the second when their lack of energy and pace was evident as Leeds gained momentum , with Ceballos in particular starting to flag.Overall they did well, without being as outstanding as suggested by the Bielsa comments.

  2. To be fair, Xhaka has been consistently good for a while now. In fact, I don’t think he’s ever been this good this consistently throughout his Arsenal career.

    I haven’t counted but I think he was good even before we had our run of 7-8 games without a defeat.

    If someone can remember his earlier performances and counter what I just said, I’d be more than grateful. Because I think the man’s hit form and it doesn’t look like he’ll lose it any time soon.

  3. Have to take his comments with a pinch of salt. Of course our midfielders circulated the ball well, that’s obvious for anyone to see. Great performance by Xhaka and Ceballos. But it’s a bit of mind games too, as he isn’t going to spell out the true problems and how he would correct them.

    What I mean is, the two most difficult for him were Saka and Auba. Saka ripped them open most of the game, and they had trouble guarding him even after switching players to do so. They doubled him up, fouled him, even tried to get in his head, but nothing fazed Saka and he continued to give them grief all afternoon.

    Auba had 3 goals (1 penalty) they had trouble marking him, denying him space, and couldn’t deny him the space for either of his goals. Even with the header, the defender was with him, but couldn’t body him out or command the space that Auba did to win the header for goal.

    The real answer was never going to be given, because why would you give away anything helpful to your opponent?

  4. Xakha has had the faith of Hitzveld Wenger Emery Arteta….That’s not by random…….Some “fans”are laughable when they call him “lampost””statu” and so on…..Wonder if they can even lead a warm up……

    1. he is constantly slated by the fans because he did not cost 150m

      the fans want big name and big tag players

      and they do not watch the games

    2. Very correct…and not to forget, he will always play for Switzerland any time he is for for internationals. That should count for something. He does more right than wrong and would still have to get better. At least his decision making is better…that’s intelligence. So he may not be fast but wits make our midfield tick much more than unintelligent plays.

  5. One reason why I so much like Xhaka is that he is always fit, very strong,aggressive and very committed and dependable. Some might hate him, but He is always there for us.What is the sense in splashing hard cash on a big name mid fielder that is always injured ? Xhaka is always ready to put his body on the line for us, little wonder all our past four coaches always uses him in our matches. There is also no denying the fact that he has greatly improved on his game and his disciplinary records.

  6. I think a lot of the crap flung at Xhaka is because a lot of our foreign fan base are into huge marquee signings they haven’t a notion about the club or its past. They are sold a product that they buy and in their minds we should have Messi playing alongside Ronaldo. Xhaka has his flaws but it’s no coincidence that everyone who plays with him, coaches him has nothing but positive things to say about him and Thomas Partey also said how he was looking forward to playing with him before signing so obviously has something we as arm chair pundits don’t recognise or appreciate as much as the people who know their stuff.

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