Finton’s Frolic: If Granit Xhaka is Essential, You Have a F****** Problem
By Daniel Finton (Deputy Editor)
What up, Pimps?
Screw the typical, warm welcome. I'm in a shit mood.
On the back of what can only be described as an utterly pathetic display from Arsenal as a whole, I’ve decided to look at one area in particular. Maybe that's my way of not looking at the disastrous full scale issues that would be sure to induce blind rage, or a migraine at the very least.
Scrutinizing the players in just one department will be what's done today. Anyways, it's the midfield. The reason behind such a decision from yours truly can be nailed solely down to Dani Ceballos. The loanee was arguably, nay, was the worst player on the night. His horrendously sloppy outing accentuated by numerous giveaways and a complete lack of athleticism made one miss Granit Xhaka. And that, in itself is a huge worry. It got me thinking of the wider picture in the area. If Xhaka is essential, we have a fucking problem.
Let me start by controversially saying, I actually quite like the Swiss midfielder. He has the best engine at the club, he’s a leader, and finally, he possesses an insanely feisty attitude that some hate, but I quite like for some reason. Furthermore, his passing range and composure on the ball are often understated, as many of his shortcomings outshine those attributes. He’s a prime example of a hot and cold player. Because of that, in spite of his strengths, he shouldn’t be a cog in the side — especially not when its one as large as Arsenal.
I’ve said it on the Arsenal Cannon Podcast time and time again, Xhaka would be fantastic in any other, slower division such as Italy. But the pacey play of England doesn’t suit him at all. At times, his one footedness along with his complete lack of mobility dovetail to make a shit covered dovetail in the midfield. And alas, he’s still our most important player along with Thomas Partey the middle of the park.
That has to change. I know it’s easier said than done with the “COVID market,” and blah blah blah. And apologies for my blatantly obvious frustration in writing this, but it’s true. Until we improve there, we’re going to suck there. Write that down, it's a masterful formula. COVID market or not, the all too damning fact remains.
I think the reason this frustrates me so much is because of Thomas Partey. We’ve managed to pry away an utterly world class midfielder from a side that we should have had no right in doing, and we’re wasting him. I’ve found myself questioning whether the Ghanaian can cut it in the Premier League out of frustration with his persistent injuries, and then quickly come to my senses. There’s a reason why the 27-year-old in his prime years is struggling, physically. It’s because he’s doing the job of about three fucking players.
Partey is expected to protect the back line, keep possession and create plays all at once. And not sometimes either, all the time. That’s like asking someone to fry an egg with the sun and tin foil, play a harmonica whilst doing jumping jacks, and recite Shakespeare simultaneously five days a week for a full time job. It ain’t gonna happen — as awesome as it’d be.
Of course, it’s not Xhaka’s fault we rely on him. And it's not his fault he is the only player even close to worthy of playing next to Partey either. The club should have never let it get to that point. Yet here we are. Cue Again and Again by Oliver Tree.
I’m an Arsenal fan and have been one for quite a while so I’m pretty used to having average, or slightly below average players as starters. However, the club has suddenly started signing some really good players, and now it isn’t okay to have guys like Xhaka as a crucial component. Well, not that it ever was, but we abjectly accepted it. He’s decent enough, but we need great to complement world class.
The current dilemma is eerily reminiscent to the Mesut Özil one. When the German was at his best, the club failed to build a solid foundation around him. Arsene Wenger’s men were feeble in front of and behind the man now playing his trade in Turkey. Because of that, his signing never lived up to its full potential.
The same fate may lie a few years down the line for Partey if areas around the former Atletico man aren’t strengthened. That is, if he even lasts a few years. With the work he’s expected of at the moment, I’m not sure he’ll last those few alluded to.
I’m pissed after the embarrassing defeat and I’m sure you, the Pimps, are as well. Until our weak points (the very many along with the midfield) are fixed, that feeling will likely come and go in a contraction-like fashion for the foreseeable future.
We’ve 99 problems, and I’m not sure what the fuck isn’t one.