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?