It was an afternoon to remember for Arsenal’s summer signing Granit Xhaka as his new club picked up their first win of the season and he put in a memorable performance.
Xhaka had failed to really make an impact before the Watford game as he acclimatised to the Premier League, but his performance on Saturday showed what he is capable of with the right players around him. Arsene Wenger did what many had hoped he would and dropped Francis Coquelin for Xhaka, this allowed the likes of Santi Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil to play ahead of him and it worked really well.
Xhaka completed 5 tackles, highlighting his ability to play in the deepest midfield role for the Gunners. Many had previously wondered if he had the defensive abilities to match Coquelin’s, Xhaka also won 2 aerial duels, made 4 clearances and 2 interceptions. He is a controller too, Granit effortlessly gave Arsenal control of the game from a deep position and his mix of technical plus physical attributes was warmly welcomed by Arsenal fans. It has led Arsene Wenger to making Emmanuel Petit comparisons.
As well as the more simple passes, Xhaka completed a couple of long balls that almost turned a nothing situation immediately into a goal. His long balls give the Gunners a different route of attack. With Coquelin at the base the Frenchman could break up play pretty well, but he normally passes it to the more creative players and then Arsenal become more predictable. With Xhaka, the Gunners can now create from any midfield position.
Here’s what Arsenal fans thought of Xhaka’s dominant midfield display on Saturday.
Early days but, so far this afternoon, Xhaka looking like the central midfielder that Arsenal have needed for about 10 years
— Jeremy Wilson (@JWTelegraph) August 27, 2016
Xhaka is just a monster upgrade on Coq stylistically. Like an Arteta with working legs instead of a bulldozer on legs.
— YankeeGunner (@YankeeGunner) August 27, 2016
Xhaka outstanding for Arsenal on Saturday. Wenger compares Swiss midfielder to Petit. #afc
— Sam (@samuelJayC) August 29, 2016
Xhaka's really starting to find his feet. Good passing range, links play well, positioning & intercepting. Lovely pivot combo with Cazorla.
— Pádraig (@afcpadraig) August 27, 2016
Can really understand why Guardiola wanted Xhaka for his Man City's midfield, unreal baller.
— Spanish Gooner #MerciArsène (@elspanishgooner) August 27, 2016
Xhaka made a huge 71 passes, and attempted 9 long balls, being accurate with 6 of them. He was also accurate with one through ball, making a key pass in the process.
The statistics behind Xhaka’s performance were no doubt impressive, hopefully for Arsenal fans, he can continue to adapt and improve in the Premier League as he has the potential to fill the midfield void that the club have had for far too long now.
What impressed me personally about Granit’s performance was his constant availability, he positions himself on the pitch so well and that is important considering he is not as mobile as some of Arsenal’s other midfielders. I love the fact that Granit has both the physical and technical attributes to not be as limited as Coquelin. As the tweet above says, Arsenal may have finally found their Xabi Alonso.