When you think about summer signings this season not many get spoken of so frequently as Granit Xhaka, it seems you’ve either got fans complaining he fouls too much or pundits jumping on his back as soon as they get a chance to chime in on the Swiss international.
For me he is becoming a bit of a cult favourite of mine, he may make the odd dodgy challenge but so did Paul Scholes and people seemed to think he was OK, importantly at a time when people are questioning the heart and desire of players at Arsenal, you can never question it with regards Granit Xhaka, he always gives 100% and even plays when injured if he has to.
To get a more informed view on Xhaka I spoke to Bundesliga Reporter ,Alex Chaffer, who gave us the inside track on the player Arsenal inherited and why possibly his best is yet to come.
OK firstly Alex tell us about the player Granit Xhaka was before he came to England and how he is perceived outside of the UK especially in Germany.
Granit Xhaka was exactly the same player he is now as he was in the Bundesliga. He grew a reputation that would often split opinion in Germany with fans, but Borussia Mönchengladbach’s players and staff loved him. Although reckless and ill disciplined, Xhaka always gave 100% for the team and became a true leader. His personality, as well as his ability, was what made him such a likeable player. However, the same passion people grew to love him for, of course, got him some “haters” as the kids these days call it.
What people forget too quickly, though, is that Xhaka also joined Gladbach once upon a time. Whilst he was a star in Basel, but was a nobody in Germany. He struggled in his first season and only became a regular in his second, before starting to really show his talent in his final two seasons before joining Arsenal. Therefore, although he will never change the way he plays, as it is a part of him as a person, he does still need time to settle and grow into a new team, just as he did at Gladbach.
How is he being used wrongly do you think at Arsenal? Where is Wenger going wrong with him?
I am not exactly sure. I haven’t watched enough of Arsenal this season to be able to answer that with full confidence, but Xhaka is an incredibly unique player. At Gladbach, for example, every time there was a goal-kick Xhaka would stroll towards the edge of Yann Sommer’s box and receive the ball, regardless of how much space he had around him, and very rarely did Xhaka lose the ball. He loves to pass; as I am sure you have seen and he thrives on the responsibility of having the ball and being almost the lynchpin between defence and attack. He needs to be trusted, though, which I do not think Wenger does due to his discipline. It took a while for it to come at Gladbach but when he was trusted in situations, such as with the Sommer goal kicks, then he can let himself open up and really show his talent.
Lastly, with reports Bayern are still keen do you think he has potential to succeed in England or should he cut his losses and go back to Germany?
He has every chance of succeeding in England. He certainly has the talent, but as I am sure many have said it is just a case of him controlling his discipline, adapting to the Premier League (which I believe he is doing incredibly well now) and earning that trust from those around him.
I cannot imagine many Arsenal players, besides the former Bundesliga men, had seen much of Xhaka before he signed. Therefore, they were going to be looking at him with expectant eyes, and at the start, he struggled to show his talents. First impressions count, we all know that but like at Gladbach, I think he will show his worth over an extended period and with his ability and personality, can certainly become a key leader for Arsenal in the future.
( You can engage with Alex here @AlexChaffer)
I got into football as a kid watching Italian football in the afternoons and ever since I’ve been hooked on tactics and the continental side of the game. I’ve written about Italian football in the past among other things but now it’s time to write about, the embodiment of how I see the beautiful game, Arsenal. Hopefully writing things and opinions about the game you haven’t seen before, I like a bit of a joke too.