On Sunday, Granit Xhaka picked up his second red card of the season against Burnley.
Referee Jonathan Moss handed the midfielder his second straight red of the season, which sent the media into a frenzy, you know, because Xhaka’s red card history is just so terrible…
Xhaka now faces a four-match ban, which he means the Chelsea game and has prompted fans to call for Arsene Wenger to control his player and essentially calm him down.
Following the 2-1 win against Burnley, even I wrote that the Switzerland international needed to chill out a little. I stand by this, but I don’t really think Xhaka’s temper’ is aa long-term problem for Arsenal as others do. There’s a difference between manageable, controlled aggression on the football pitch and just being a loose cannon.
Arsenal fans have been crying out for a ‘nasty’ midfielder who has passion and gives everything for the team. For years, we’ve been accused of not having the metal to compete against other clubs because we’re too nice.
Now, we finally have an edgy star who can actually play! Not a Mathieu Flamini, who just ran around slide tackling people off the pitch before passing the ball to nobody. An actual, decent defensive midfielder who can pass one hell of a ball and genuinely adds something to the team.
I like Xhaka.
I like what he’s brought to the team. I like the fact that he cares enough to get angry. It’s telling that most Gooners are annoyed by his red card BECAUSE it means we lose him for four games rather than the offence itself. Not having him available is a massive loss. That’s glaringly apparent.
But – and there’s a big but – Xhaka needs to strike a balance between a heavy-handed approach and firm-but-fair challenges to be a dominant presence. He needs to show the opposition who’s boss without being a liability. At the moment, he’s more of the former than the latter. That is overshadowing the outstanding work he’s put in during his time in north London so far.
Although it was in no way a red card, Xhaka’s challenge against Swansea was completely unnecessary no matter how you look at it. The card wasn’t warranted but it could have been prevented if he didn’t have this tendency to panic and kick out at the last second.
The penalty he gave away against Bournemouth was also stupid, the result of him panicking. It was the same against Burnley.
Hopefully, it’s something we can train out of him. He’s only 24 and if anyone can calm him down, you’d think it would be Wenger.
I’m all for Xhaka wanting to win the ball back but at what cost? As his confidence without the ball catches up with his composure on it I’m sure he’ll stop sliding in quite so recklessly. What we don’t want is to numb his passion and desire to win it back in the first place.
He needs time to get up to speed with the pace of the Premier League so that safe tackles are second nature. Last-ditch challenges have to be measured and reckless pushes a thing of the past.
I’m sure Xhaka will get there.
He claimed he was disappointed after the Burnley match. I’m hoping he takes this on the chin and learns, rather than develop a complex that all referees are out to get him.
His card has been marked. Not just by the referee but other players and managers. They’ll rile him up to get Arsenal reduced to 10-men.
He needs to be on his best behaviour until people stop believing he’s just a dirty player out to cause trouble.
Then, they can finally join the rest of us who recognise what a brilliant player he is.