Xhaka and Mustafi have improved– if they can do it, who else can Arteta inspire?

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?



  1. Xhaka and Mustafi have improved. Have they? In what way? Have they both become hippy crackers? It’s pure bull to say that these to losers have been better players under Arteta. Bull!

    1. Correction: TWO losers. I get so mad when hear such nonsense that I can’t even spell kid English.

    2. They have both clearly improved. Mustafi is less error prone and has been one of if not the most consistent defender. Xhaka’s defensive frailties have been offset by a tactical rebalancing involving more support from attacking wide men and closing up of space between defence and midfield while his strengths, passing and dictating play, have been allowed to shine.

      This is quite obvious to most of us.

  2. We tend to be too sentimental at this club…A few good performances from players who have been underperforming all season and everyone already getting teary-eyed

    1. Thought thats what supporters are for! Cheer up our team even when the chips are down!
      We can’t be booing our own players every time they have a bad game.
      Thats how we lost gems like Gnabry.

    2. We won most games xhaka plays, immediately he left against city we started playing rubbish this is to tell us his importance to our team.

  3. Still would prefer to see the back of both these boys. Squad players are best. Neither of them would get into any top 4 club around the world.

    The problem with both of them is not that they are consistently bad. They are just both randomly mistake prone. With not many games left to go. Mark my words. I bet one of them messes up before the end of the season.

  4. Purely from the point of view about Xhaka as a man, he has shown tremendous heart to come back from that game and it’s aftermath.

    He was captain before and could do it again. He redeemed himself and has taken his chance

    Arteta has clearly had a positive effect on our players and I can only hope that Ozil can join the lineup when his injury is better. The same goes for Guendouzi with an improved attitude for the future

    We need all our players to step up

  5. That stat was worrying on MOTD… turnovers in the defensive third – Norwich are top and we’re second!!!
    Saliba and Partey (🙏) to improve on that?!!!

  6. I’m still confused as to why we keep playing Willock, Nketiah or Nelson when I’ve seen nothing special that would warrant them so much game time besides lack of resources, what baffles me even more is why we would even consider selling Guendouzi, keep loaning out Smith-Rowe, and bench Martinelli(while he was fit) and Pepe?

    It’s the same nonsense we saw which lead us to sell Gnabry and Bennacer for average plays who perform well in “Training”. Someone tell me what Willock, Nelson and Nketiah have done better than Guendouzi, Smith-Rowe and Martinelli(Even Balogun) to warrant more starts?

    1. Simple example. You make your decisions based on one viewing on a match day. The technical team has these players all week.

      1. Ok I get that, but no amount of “good in training” would make players like Elneny better than De Bruyne.

        What I’m arguing here is Arsenal’s lack of vision in spotting, keeping, and utilizing clear talent.

        Lately we’ve been missing the mark alot in favor for mediocrity or he’s good enough.

        Explain to me from what you’ve seen in matches that dictates Willock getting so much game time? It’s like how we wasted time on Iwobi.

        Why do clubs like Leicester, Dortmund, Leipzig, and even Wolves know how to get real value, and we accept average even though we should have better resources?

        Nketiah is no where near Mason Greenwood, Willock is no where near Mason Mount, Nelson is no where near Cantwell, but you could argue Martinelli, Smith-Rowe and Pepe could easily match up. Why are we accepting average, its frustrating

        1. Comparing Nketiah and Greenwood is in my view unfair. They’ve not had the same amount of time playing first team football. I do agree with the others. I would however say, other teams also have flopping youngsters. We just get to know about the ones that worked out. Would you say martinelli and mount are too different? Even from the academy , wouldn’t you think having just saka and nketiah as succesful players would be enough?
          Finally , with the team in the level of dissaray its been in, I don’t think the time is best to judge the ability of the young ones. they’d be best judged in a better performing team.

          In the recent past , (last two or three seasons), I’d say we’ve had better signings. Pepe, Auba, Guendouzi, Torreira, Tierney, I’d say we are getting more hits than misses. It’s not a smooth way up, but I think it’s looking positive. I’d actully say , since we signed Sanchez , we’ve had more hits than misses, even though many of them have lost form after joining us, which I’d say is down to our disorganization.

    2. I agree with you on Willock and Nelson, but Nketiah is showing promise….. he’s a lot better than those other two in my opinion. He just has to learn, and Aubameyang could be the mentor he needs (if he stays)

      1. I’d prefer Martinelli as the striker, or Balogun. Nketiah didn’t cut it for leeds, a side coached by a manager Pep, and Arteta try model themselves after.

        If we’re not going to spend big amounts of money on players, we need to be better at spotting and keeping talent from its early stages. I’m sure you’d agree Martinelli is more talented than Nketiah

        1. Cannonspike if you believe greenwood is better than Nketiah then my friend I don’t know what to say to you.

        2. As a forward, Martinelli is better than Nketiah. As a striker though, Nketiah could grow to be a better striker. He is more capable of being a goal poacher than Martinelli. However, Martinelli is more talented.

  7. This is an article from an arsenal fan . Wouldn’t it be better for us if all our players would just play well? Nuh. Arsenal fans just want everyone to be sold so we can go sign players from somewhere else. Then if they all don’t score hatricks on the first day, we sell them off and look for others.

  8. Mustafi is a very good defender and Arsenal would be stupid to let him go. And other teams will snap him up fast. As for Xhaka, he is Captain of his national team for goodness sake- that should tell you a lot.

    We need to support ALL our players.

  9. I like Mustafi, but what happened to him on Wednesday? He gave the ball away at least five times and was hooked off at half-time. Was he injured, fatigued or just having a bad day and subbed for that?
    I think we’ve all spotted that Xhaka isn’t a defensive midfielder, even Wenger admitted he couldn’t tackle to save his life, so I hope Arteta continues to play him in that different role.

  10. I agree that these two have improved but you still have to convince me that they are worth holding onto,even with the improvement I still feel that Xhaka is an average player and although I applaud Mustafi for his professionalism I think it will be hard for Arteta to win anything with average players, I like Lacca but he needs to step up now and Luis is not suddenly a good player again because we beat Norwich,he has more mistakes in him than anyone.

  11. For me I think they have improved too. Nonetheless, we must continue monitoring them closely until the end of the season before we can be sure they have changed. Would Arteta’s Mustafi not have a brain-fart if Zaha ran at him again? Yet to be established..

      1. Hehe…we have not experienced any major blunders from them so far but we can’t be sure whether it’s change or just luck.

  12. These two guys haven’t improved at all. For those who are watching the games, it’s obvious that it isn’t Liverpool we have met, The Red Devils of Anfield, but Brighton, Southampton and Norwich. It’s a XXX of a difference. Against Sheffield we were just lucky. And against Man City… I guess some think David Luiz have improved too. And about Granit Xhaka being a man. He’s is not a man, he’s a footballer. Dammit. A guy, almost 30, who runs around in shorts and long stockings in the grass a sunny day with the other boys. Who is watching the games?

  13. These two guys dont even deserve to wear Arsenal shirts. Which improvement are you talking about?

  14. OT.. We have Michael Oliver tomorrow at Molineux. I reckon the last couple of our games (PL) has seen some really good officiating. Makes a nice change to not have the usual suspects- Dean, Moss, Taylor… and to not be raging at the TV!! We’ll see if that carries on tomorrow…hmmm…..

    1. Michael Oliver? Oh no! Trust me, I’ve seen that dude before and is he trouble!
      Let’s cross our fingers together on our knees…

  15. Listen up, all you fellow Gunners! If there’s two underperformers I’d love to see back in action, it’s David Luiz and Guendouzi.
    These two lookalikes are amazing when played well, and when NOT BENCHED OR LEFT OUT OF THE SQUAD they are catalysts. Best things? They know what team celebration is and do a lot more for Arsenal than rocking those FABULOUS Afros😎😎👍🇧🇷🇫🇷🇲🇦
    And yet, Guendouzi is partially Moroccan.
    Bring em on!

    1. Sometimes they are not particularly good on the pitch though. I liked Guendouzi’s early season form when he was doing everything for us in the middle but what has happened to him now? David Luiz seems stable most of the time but he is capable of doing horrendous errors which cost us dearly. I hope Arteta manages the Xhaka-Ceballos combo well for the rest of the season and inspires Guendouzi to return to that scintillating early season form because right now watching him is, frankly, too trying!

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