Liverpool defeat shows the importance of Xhake in Arteta's Arsenal midfield
- Credit: PA
Arsenal were humiliated at the weekend against Liverpool, further proving Granit Xhaka’s influence in Mikel Arteta’s system.
The Swiss is like marmite within the Gunners' fanbase, but he was missed on Saturday, in what was one of the worst performances in a long while - maybe since the 3-0 defeat to Aston Villa in November.
Dani Ceballos and Thomas Partey started in midfield for Arsenal. Whilst both players have qualities and the ability to link defence to attack, Xhaka was missed in the deep lying role.
The more the number 34 plays this season, the more that Arsenal fans are understanding why his inclusion under Arteta is so dominant.
Arsenal were abysmal at Emirates Stadium against a Liverpool side that included Ozan Kabak and Nat Philips.
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The former has leaked 12 goals since his debut on matchday 22.
There was no penetration or pride from a Gooner perspective.
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Liverpool were in cruise control and Arteta missed his key man in midfield.
Xhaka is paramount when playing from the back and building attacks.
There was no one that took the game by the scruff of the neck and rallied the boys together.
It was an utter embarrassment and a huge reality check for many players who thought the abysmal performances at the back end of 2020 were behind them.
The conversation of Xhaka with the armband is a topic of debate after his outburst in the past. Like him or not, he must be in this current Arsenal side.
Since the superb 3-1 win against Leicester, Xhaka has remained in the midfield and it seemed like Arsenal had turned a corner after beating Spurs and creating an unbeaten record in their last four games.
The reality is that it was a huge reality check and whilst the club are not able to dip into the transfer market right now, Xhaka is one of Arsenal’s most important employees.
This season he has threaded 94 accurate long balls and has clocked 1,716 passes in the heart of midfield. That equals 68 passes per game.
Compare this to Ceballos who sits on 48 accurate long balls and 919 passes this season. It isn’t hard to see why both players cannot do the same role in this system.
It is likely that Xhaka will return on Thursday in the Europa League. He will start if fit and his influence will be notable to all.