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Arsenal’s Liverpool loss showed the importance of Granit Xhaka

Arsenal’s Liverpool loss showed the importance of Granit Xhaka

Arteta apologises

Arsenal put on arguably their worst performance of the season last night, in a 3-0 home defeat against Liverpool.

The loss, and the manner of which it came about, was recognised by coach Mikel Arteta, who apologized to the club’s supporters after the game.

“We need to apologise to our people, to our fans, and this standard is nowhere near what we want. I am fully responsible for that,” he said.

“I don’t know if it was the worst [performance of my reign], but probably one of the worst and the one that really shocked me.”

Whilst Arsenal were without key players Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Granit Xhaka and David Luiz, before losing Kieran Tierney to injury during the match, the Gunners offered little to no threat, and Liverpool controlled the game at a canter.

Xhaka’s absence felt

Granit Xhaka’s presence at Arsenal is a divisive point of discussion for much of the fan base. The Swiss midfielder’s mistakes are regularly highlighted on statistical sites, whilst the number of red cards he has accrued during his near 5-year stay warrants criticism.

Yet, statistically this season, the 28-year-old has been identified as the Gunners’ most effective player, ranking 7th amongst the top players per club in the whole of the Premier League.

In yesterday’s match, Arsenal lacked control of the ball, consistently failing to break out from the back as Liverpool pressed ferociously. With Thomas Partey and Dani Ceballos at the base of the midfield, the pair looked poor.

The Ghanaian appeared to be effectively babysitting the Spaniard for much of the match, trying to recover possession lost by the Real Madrid loanee.

Xhaka’s accurate passing was something clearly lacking from Arsenal’s team. 91.5% passing accuracy across the season to date is impressive, especially when you consider that Ceballos’ 86% against Liverpool included 3 misplaced passes made in his own half.

Arsenal’s Liverpool loss showed the importance of Granit Xhaka

Arsenal’s Ghanaian midfielder Thomas Partey (L), Arsenal’s French-born Ivorian midfielder Nicolas Pepe (C) and Arsenal’s French striker Alexandre Lacazette (R) discuss options at a freekick during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium in London on January 30, 2021. (Photo by Andy Rain / POOL / AFP)

Should Arsenal upgrade on Granit Xhaka? Yes, of course, as is the case with any player. However, to find a player who controls the tempo of a side like the Swiss midfielder, and who does not make the mistakes he does, is going to cost serious money.

Even then, should Xhaka be sold? When the drop off in quality to the ex-club captain falls to Mohamed Elneny and Ceballos, selling Xhaka seems like a ludicrous plan.

Elneny, whilst a much better passer than Ceballos, offers so little going forward in comparison to Xhaka. 10.45 passes into the final 3rd (GX) compared to 6.31 (ME) per 90 this season.

Forward to backward pass ratio: GX: 19.32 : 9.7 ME: 12.78 : 7.03. The drop off is huge.

Arsenal have problems. Plenty. However, it seems that the presence of Xhaka should be considered a positive to the team, rather than an area in desperate need of improvement. Those areas were clear to see yesterday evening.

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This article was edited by Conor Laird.

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