Why Xhaka Shouldn’t Be Our Left Back by Dan Smith
I have often commented on how fickle a section of our fanbase can be. Based on two games against Sheffield United and Slavia Prague, many gooners are now appealing for Granit Xhaka to remain our left back till the end of the season.
That’s despite the level of opposition being a team bottom of the Premier League with 14 points and the Champions of a League ranked 15th by UEFA.
Let’s rewind back to 2018. Robbie, the host of AFTV, was defending a left back who had just conceded an 82nd minute penalty at Crystal Palace, pointing out that for three matches in a row we were forced to play someone out of position.
In previewing a trip to Anfield the following week, the majority of his guests agreed that we needed Kolasinac to be fit.
After a 5-1 humiliation many bemoaned the lack of backing from Stan Kroenke forcing Unai Emery to field a makeshift defence (it’s strange to see supporters believing we were going to invest that January).
Away from YouTube, other platforms insisted that the spot kick at Selhurst Park was the result of a clumsy tackle that wouldn’t have been made by someone natural to the role. They also suggested that the midfield missed his range of passing.
This was Twitter’s reaction to team news, ‘………. at left back. He’s too slow to play at LB.’
‘………left back? This is garbage.’
‘………at left back! What a time to be alive.’
‘ …….at left back against Zaha will be top banter’
The …….in question? That’s correct ……..Granit Xhaka!
Three years ago Unai Emery played the Swiss at left back in a Europa League fixture in a group we were already in control over. In other words he played against limited opposition when the stakes were not high.
3 days later against superior opposition he struggled, as many predicted he would.
They say things change but stay the same.
Three years on some of the same people are now celebrating Mikel Arteta’s tactical masterclass when we already know it doesn’t work.
Like under Emery you can get away with playing a CM at LB for certain games, but you will get caught out against the better sides, e.g. Villarreal, Man United or Roma.
Also like Emery found out, you take away quality from your midfield.
For all his critics, Xhaka controls the tempo. He’s not afraid to at least attempt a range of passing.
While it’s believed that Ceballos can deputise, it should again be considered the standard of our last two opponents.
In two campaigns how many great games has Ceballos had? Enough to be trusted to win us a Semi Final and Final.
While I accept our current manager long term wants a system where players alternate positions, so Xhaka can start in defence and step into midfield, it’s way too early to say we can win the Europa League with him as our left back.
More crucially, we need him in the centre.
Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.
Xhaka at left back didn’t work three years ago so why do it now when our season is on the line?
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