Arsenal’s midfield isn’t what people dreamed of, but for the love of God, can’t we just accept that Granit Xhaka is an anchor that can be built around?
I don’t go full-on offensive very often, but normally, when I do, it’s centered around one man. Surprise! That’s the case again. Because when Arsenal get linked to Yaya Toure to ‘sort out’ their ‘midfield culture,’ I consider this akin to telling someone to wear shoes for gloves. It’s ridiculous, it’s asinine and it shows a complete disregard for what this club already has, and what is growing.
I understand that Gary Neville only mentioned Toure in a passing thought. I don’t want this to seem like I’m losing my mind because of Toure alone. I’m talking broader spectrum here, with people saying that this midfield needs a complete overhaul – because it absolutely doesn’t.
And the reason it doesn’t? Because of the man that everyone loves to hate, Granit Xhaka, who has been a Godsent these past few months in stabilizing an otherwise wavering midfield, as well as bolstering an even-more destabilized defense.
Xhaka has kicked up his defensive contributions massively, defending into the box, making crucial last-ditch tackles and, upon winning them, utilizing his newfound passing urgency to kickstart counter attacks. He does, after all, pass forward more often than any other Arsenal midfielder, as the stats will show you.
Xhaka has become a fortress over the ball, impossible to pluck possession away from. He led all non-defenders (and even some defenders) in retaining possession and similarly in tackles won, but that doesn’t fit many people’s agenda – this agenda that what he did in the past is still holding him back today, despite the fact that he has overcome literally everything that people once held against him.
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You want someone mean? Xhaka is mean. He has no fear of taking players on. You want someone that can start counters? You can’t find many better. You want someone that can defend deep and provide an added boost in that theater? It’s his latest accomplishment.
Xhaka is everything that people want in a midfielder, the problem is just that his name is Granit Xhaka, and there is a natural predisposition to reject it. So instead, opponents keep cackling like hyenas, intoxicated by their own “expertise” as they categorically reject the solution that is already in their midst.
Not just that, but he has stepped up in terms of leadership, earning his first captaincy and proving to be the guy that always steps up in scuffles, or when his teammates need a bit of back-up. That is the kind of player you can build around.
The only thing – the only – that people can still say against Xhaka is that he isn’t the most mobile midfielder. And that’s fair. But like Per Mertesacker, he uses his intelligence to prevent his immobility from being a real problem. Undoubtedly it will still cause a few mishaps, every player has his weaknesses, but to completely discredit a guy for one physical fault is grossly irresponsible, especially for “experts.”
If you want to see midfielders added around Xhaka, that’s fair. We need that for sure. But acting like we are building from scrap? Why would that even enter into the conversation when Xhaka has proven throughout the entire second half of the season that he knows what he is doing and is someone who can be consistently relied upon time and time again?
This isn’t the first time I’ve had to say this and I’m sure it won’t be the last but let’s try it again – just accept that Xhaka is a fantastic asset that can be have a midfield built around him, and not in spire of him. Otherwise you will be left in the steadily-shrinking minority.