Arsene Wenger’s 35 million pound signing Granit Xhaka has been under a lot of criticism throughout the season. The 23 year old from Basel arrived in England with a lot of hype, which was short-lived after a string of lacklustre performances throughout the course of the season. His debut season has been a disappointing array of numbers so far.
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Xhaka has made 44 appearances for Arsenal this season with 27 of them coming in the Premier League. In all, he has scored only 4 goals and assisted only twice. Some very poor numbers for someone who was asked to play as a box-to-box midfielder by Wenger. In truth, he failed to adapt to the position. He isn’t the engine that Arsenal should have looked forward to, someone who is ready to run both ends of the field and play an active role on either side. He certainly lacked the ability to get back to defense after running an offence and that was evident from his flawed tackling which also earned him two red cards.But the roles reversed in the second half of the season and Xhaka has been sensational ever since. He played the role of a central midfielder extremely well alongside Aaron Ramsey. This was very evident in their last match against Southampton where the duo had a combined total of 154 touches, 89.5% pass accuracy and 14 ball recoveries.
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What Xhaka lacks in mobility and tackling, he makes up for in terms of his passing. He easily averages the most touches in Wenger’s squad. In 27 games, he has averaged almost 73 passes a game which is sensational. He isn’t someone who will run down defences or create magic with his footwork. But boy, can he pass. He may look like a hefty stealer, but what he actually is, is an outstanding playmaker with an amazing vision. His pinpoint long balls to Monreal or Bellerin are now a usual at the Emirates.
The last few games of the Premier League season have been a major turnaround for Xhaka, playing in a role he’s more suited to in Wenger’s new 3-4-3 formation which was adopted mainly to cover up the defensive lapses in midfield. All in all, I believe that he has lived up to his hefty price tag. But we will have to wait and see if his future at Arsenal is certain or not.