Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi – if they can do it, what about the rest? by Gurgit
Over the years we have seen many fans lay into both Xhaka and Mustafi for the parts they have played at Arsenal. It seemed they were always one mistake away from costing us the game, and even when they weren’t they were the epitome of what was wrong within the Arsenal team.
Yet one of the first things Arteta did was to back Granit Xhaka following his loss of captaincy and restore him to the starting 11. And frankly he’s been a solid performer in our midfield. My issue with Xhaka has always been that he wasn’t being played correctly – every fan can see that he is not a natural defensive midfielder and should not be relied upon to protect our back 4 alone.
He is and always will be a central midfielder who can put in a tackle and play a good long pass. We did see some of this under Emery when he used him alongside Torreira to stretch play to our flanks but this disappeared as Emery decided to play Torreira as a number 10. With the team better organised and keeping clean sheets we look much better with Xhaka than without, and I for one would like to see him continue to improve. For me he is captain material and has more bite than most of our players put together, and I would like to see captaincy restored should he continue to be a solid performer.
Mustafi is another who I had high hopes for when he joined. I doubt anyone would have thought that he would end up on the journey he did when we signed him. I saw good last ditch tackles from him and he slides in for strong tackles very well. But he did go down a slippery slope where a lack of organisation and constant changes to our back 4/5 played havoc with his positioning. Eventually his confidence was shot and the fans turned against him.
Despite this though I think he’s been one of our better central defenders since the start of the year, if not our best. He has been consistent and although looking a little uncomfortable at times he has done a good job. If he keeps this up to the end of the season is it not fair to say he is a good player who has had a bad time?
I like both these players. And I like them because, despite everything that has happened with the club and the fans, they are showing up for us and are turning things around. I dare say I would like to see that from more of our players to be resolute, dig deep and keep going to try get us through. Wouldn’t you like to see Lacazette, Bellerin, Luiz, Ozil etc to come back like this? Of course you would.
I was unsure about Arteta to begin with but the turn around these players have made means he is doing something right, and if he can do it with them he can do it with others and with good man management.
As fans I think we cast off some players too quickly for not being good enough for our club, and I’m sure that some of the time this may be true – some of the time however, it is not.
Which other previous underperformers do you think will improve further under Arteta?