Why Granit Xhaka Is Arsenals Unheralded Midfield Maestro

'He can't defend!'

'He can't run!'

'He can't use his right foot!' 

The aforementioned are all common critiques that have clouded much of his Arsenal career, but Granit Xhaka is one the most misunderstood players in the Premier League. 

Often scapegoated when the Gunners play poorly, Xhaka should be judged on what he provides to the team, rather than what he doesn't.

His metronome-like control of a football match is essential for Unai Emery and consistently starts the Swiss international, as did his predecessor, Arsene Wenger.

Granit Xhaka

Signed by Arsene Wenger in 2016, many fans believed that Xhaka was the eventual successor to Gilberto Silva, and the assertive rock that would protect Arsenal's shaky back four. 

Several red cards and defensive errors later, judgement had been passed and the former Borussia Monchengladbach man wasn't deemed good enough.

Granit Xhaka under Wenger was a completely different player, played too deep and given too much defensive responsibility, he was screaming out for an energetic midfield partner; exactly what the the arrival of Lucas Torreira provided. 

With the tenacious Uruguayan happy to do much of the 'dirty work', Xhaka has been able to control the speed of the game and smooth the transition from defence to attack.


His ability to dictate the pace of a game from central midfield has proved crucial for Arsenal this season and so it comes to no surprise that the Gunners lacked flow and often looked disjointed against the likes of Cardiff and Huddersfield in recent weeks. Though they won on both occasions, Arsenal lacked his presence and on another day - especially at home to Cardiff - may not have taken all three points.

Fluid, dynamic football has been the hallmark of Arsenal for many years, but without a dictatorial playmaker like Mesut Ozil, this is often difficult to achieve. Granit Xhaka represents Arsenal's historic philosophy and is often the key orchestrator for the Gunners. 

In fact, when Xhaka is absent, Arsenal have considerably less of the ball (59% to 53%) and complete fewer passes (467 compared to 397). Arsenal are a different beast without him, lacking flow and style that has left many fans feeling disconnected with the current crop of players, but Xhaka represents the classic Arsenal that fans can appreciate. 

He beings leadership to Arsenal, something that has been lacking since Patrick Vieira left, he captained Arsenal at Old Trafford under Arsene Wenger, whilst also being appointed as one of Unai Emery's 'five captains'. 

Opinion of Xhaka has never been helped by the fact that Arsenal could have bought N'Golo Kante and had some change left over instead, but Xhaka is a different player. There are many midfielders that have gained praise over the years for their passing ability rather than their defensive capabilities. 

The likes of Mikel Arteta and Xabi Alonso spring to mind, who were judged on the way they moved the ball and brought others into play, rather than how well they could track back and put in game-winning tackles.


Xhaka isn't perfect, he has an error in him and lacks a cool head on occasion, but without him, Arsenal aren't the same. His calming influence and ability on the ball keeps the North London side ticking over.

Xhaka deserves credit for his ability to create, provide and support in an Arsenal team that has been seriously underfunded in recent years. 

Source : 90min