Fans, just like journalists, surely have a right to give their opinion. Personally, I like to stay open-minded when discussing players. Not everyone subscribes to this point of view, as I recently read one ‘informed’ fan state that anyone who criticises Granit Xhaka must be playing Fifi and not watching Arsenal.
Obviously, readers of this blog will know that I’ve been critical of Xhaka for over a year now. However, I don’t play Fifa. I am an FA coach and have trained up to UEFA ‘B’ level with professional players, so I wouldn’t criticise Xhaka unless I had due cause.
In the last game, against Cardiff, a misplaced Xhaka pass nearly led to a goal. Are we supposed to ignore these major mistakes just because Xhaka cost the club a lot of money. In my mind, he has not yet justified the huge transfer fee that was paid out for his services. I am beginning to wonder if he will ever do that.
Despite my doubts and reservations, I have read that Arsenal fans want Xhaka to be captain. Why, you might ask. The answer is: he really values the photograph of Arsenal’s FA Cup triumph, which he was a part of.
That’s all well and good, but until he eradicates his cardinal errors during matches, I would not let Xhaka anywhere near the captain’s armband.
Some people were impressed when he publicly reprimanded Reiss Nelson during a pre-season friendly. I wasn’t one of those people. Instead, a word in Nelson’s ear would have sufficed. Has Xhaka never heard of the maxim: ‘praise in public, scold in private’?
Aside from wayward passing and a lack of leadership quality, there are also question marks surrounding Xhaka’s work rate and disciplinary record. Since Unai Emery’s arrival, I have seen improvements in these areas. This may be because of increased competition in central midfield and the coach’s propensity to hook players off if they are sitting on a yellow card.
Given Emery’s impact, perhaps one of the five captains could become the one captain. It all sounds a bit like ‘Lord of the Rings’, but as Ray Parlour says, Xhaka does have ‘talent’. Although the Switzerland international is yet to fully realise it yet, we can’t completely rule out him making an a positive difference in Arsenal colours.