Arsene Wenger: Granit Xhaka has a problem with his tackling technique
PUBLISHED: 08:26 17 March 2017 | UPDATED: 07:48 18 March 2017
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has ordered midfielder Granit Xhaka to clean up his act – or risk his Arsenal future.
The long-serving Frenchman speaking at a press conference at London Colney expressed his frustration with the player his signed for £25m last summer from Borussia Mönchengladbach after a string of yellow and red cards.
Wenger has previously spoken of the Swiss player not being a natural tackler and is wary that his tackling puts his side in jeopardy of losing a man through a needless sending off.
But Wenger was again forthright in his warning to Xhaka to improve his decision making and technique in terms of tackling.
He said: “His tacking can get him sent off. When he stays on his feet he is a fair player.
“But he does have a problem with his technique [in terms of tacking].
“He hasn’t mastered the art of tackling yet.”
Wenger has previously asked Xhaka not to attempt to tackle, instead encouraging him to stay on his feet and jockey which at times could mean a 30 yard sprint to jostle an opponent in order to win the ball back or disrupt play rather than immediately diving in.
However, he does have some sympathy with his errant midfielder who has impressed with his range of passing and ability to score long range goals.
He said: “I believe he is in a position where his first foul gets a soft yellow card – because he had a history of that in Germany he is a big victim of that.
“But overall he is in a positive way [at the moment] and masters himself a bit better.”
With sendings off at home against Burnley and Swansea City – as well as being booked in five matches in a row – marring his otherwise steady start to his Arsenal career there is still discussion as to the type of player he is.
Debate is still ongoing by many as to whether he is a box-to-box central midfielder – as Wenger insisted after he signed him. Or is he a more creative presence, or even a deep lying defensive midfielder.
Xhaka, has made 24 starts with seven substitute appearances, scoring three goals including long range strikes at Hull City in the Premier League and Nottingham Forest in the League Cup was not given a consistent run of games until December, with Mohamed Elneny being preferred alongside Francis Coquelin at the start of the season in the deep lying defensive midfield pairing in a 4-2-3-1 system.
However, with Xhaka at times playing in an attacking midfield trident alongside Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain when Mesut Ozil has been injured or missed games through illness in a 4-3-3 formation there is a fear the Swiss midfielder may miss out on a regular berth if Ozil commits his long term future to the club and Wenger reverts to his favoured 4-2-3-1.
The Frenchman also admitted Xhaka was a different type of player to a defensive midfielder he was rumoured to be interested in during last summer’s transfer window, Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante.
But on the Kante v Xhaka debate Wenger said emphatically: “Kante is a different type of player. Xhaka is more direct and passes through the lines.
“Kante steals the ball without making fouls.”
With Arsenal facing a difficult trip to Tony Pulis’ West Brom tomorrow, Xhaka – if selected – will need to show as much discipline in his all-round play let alone his tacking if Wenger’s men are to return to North London with maximum points required to kick-start their bid for a top four place.