Arsenal had to respond on Sunday after a couple of back to back draws in the Premier League had seen them slip slightly away from the leading pack in the Premier League.
The Gunners are still unbeaten in all competitions since the opening day of the season, though they were 6 points behind leaders Chelsea before hosting Bournemouth on Sunday afternoon.
Arsenal managed to close that gap to just 3 points following a 3-1 win. Arsene Wenger opted for some tactical changes after poor midfield performances in recent weeks. With Granit Xhaka and Mohammed Elneny at the base of the midfield and Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott back on the wings – Alexis also started the game up front. Arsenal played well for the most part, particularly in the 2nd half. The Arsenal fans had been calling for new summer signing Granit Xhaka to play more regularly and today’s performance shows why they are so keen to see more of their new central midfielder.
In Santi Cazorla’s absence, Arsenal have lacked a playmaker in deep areas, someone who is assured on the ball and can pass both long and short. Xhaka is this kind of playing and whilst he is not as technically gifted as Santi, he does have a stronger and taller frame, giving him obvious advantages in central duels.
Xhaka’s statistics on the day help back up my point. He completed a very impressive 90.4% of his passes on the day and had 76 touches during the 90 minutes, more than any other Arsenal player on the pitch. Defensively he was sound, making a huge 9 tackles, winning 1 aerial duel and making 3 interceptions. He showed his quality with a long ball too, attempting 4 and reaching his target twice. One that sticks in my mind was a brilliant long ball over the top for Giroud, although the Frenchman’s control saw the chance end.
Xhaka’s 52 passes were more than any other Arsenal player and this shows how he is becoming more settled in the team and more relied upon amongst his teammates. He is the conductor and in Cazorla’s absence it is very important that Arsenal have a player of this ilk in the centre of the park.
Here’s what the fans are saying about the Swiss international’s performance on Sunday.
Granit Xhaka has had an immense second half. We can attack so much faster with him in there. #afc
— AFCAMDEN (@AFCAMDEN) November 27, 2016
Xhaka has been excellent. Already looking forward to his next start some time in late January.
— Tom Acres (@TEAcres) November 27, 2016
Granit Xhaka has bossed it today. Deserves to be in the next starting XI.
— Danny WelBeast (@WelBeast) November 27, 2016
Xhaka has to start every week. Marvellous player. Lovely to watch.
— OneAW (@1886_blog) November 27, 2016
In my opinion I would agree with the general consensus on Twitter that Xhaka is an important part of the starting XI and he should certainly start in the absence of Santi Cazorla. Even when Cazorla is out I think Xhaka is the best all round central midfielder that we have at the club and his physical attributes make him an important part of the line-up.