Granit Xhaka picked up another red card during Switzerland’s 2-0 triumph over Portugal – is he a liability or a breath of fresh air?
The midfielder’s country’s World Cup 2018 Qualifier win is slightly overshadowed by his silly challenge in the 93rd minute, which led to a second yellow and subsequent red.
While Arsenal fans can rejoice in the fact that the 23-year-old will now have fewer international matches to play, it still raises questions about whether the young player is still a little too rash.
This is Xhaka’s sixth red card in 78 matches – that’s one every 13 – and while it’s good that the Gunners have signed a ‘gutsy’ defensive midfielder, if he repeatedly gets sent off for us he could be a liability. He’s already cemented himself in the first team and we’d probably really miss him if we had to go without.
Another red card for Granit Xhaka tonight. That's 6 (and 32 yellows) in his last 78 matches. An average of one red card every 13 games 😳
— Matthew Stanger (@MatthewStanger) September 6, 2016
So, what do we do with Xhaka?
He’s a passionate fellow, I’ll give him that. And, to be fair, this is something 99% of Arsenal players have been accused of not having in recent years. The issue with Xhaka, I think, is inexperience. He is only 23 and that gives him plenty of time to ‘calm down’.
However, his habit of picking up cards isn’t a new thing. During his entire club career, according to Transfer Markt he’s picked up 55 yellows. It’s interesting to note that he’s apparently only received one straight red and seven through two yellows.
This implies that perhaps rather than outright aggressive, he’s just reckless. If he was going around picking up straight reds left, right and centre, then I’d perhaps be worried but yellow cards, as annoying as they can be, can be easily given. For example, we don’t know how many of these were genuinely deserved or how many were just silly.
Of course, they won’t just come out of nowhere. I highly doubt referees are personally attacking him, but it paints a slightly different picture when you realise only one red has been an out and out red.
What’s the difference between a player like him and say, Mathieu Flamini, who was reckless and we let go this summer after not renewing his contract?
A couple of things. Firstly, experience. Flamini in 32 and has played all over Europe at some of the biggest clubs in the best leagues. Therefore, sliding in for a challenge that could break a player’s leg is downright stupid. When you’ve been playing for as long as Flamini has, you need to be the calm head to talk everyone down – like Mikel Arteta – not the one committing the fouls.
Secondly, Xhaka is actually a very good midfielder. He offers a lot in terms of going forward as well as defensively. Flamini rarely offered anything other than heart palpitations.
Do I hope Xhaka can calm it down? Of course I do. I hope Arsene Wenger can take him to one side and make him realise that if he gets punished, so does the whole club. If this sinks in and Xhaka can keep temper under control, he’ll be near enough perfect.
Obviously, I could just be completely biased here in a hope that Xhaka will stop going in for these rash tackles. He could just continue picking up cards and getting banned for several matches at a time. Or worse, end up hurting someone else or himself.
He could turn out to be a huge waste of £35m and spent more time watching from the stands than playing on the pitch.
I hope not though. I hope he’ll be worth every penny and then some.