Emmanuel Petit thinks Granit Xhaka’s partnership with Jack Wilshere is holding the Englishman back from reaching his full potential at Arsenal.
Petit told Paddy Power that the duo didn’t make a good pair on the pitch. He explained: “Jack is capable of more than what he’s showing and what he has shown in the past. But I’m not really sure about his partnership with Granit Xhaka. Jack is always focused on going forward, scoring goals, making passes for his team-mates.
“So the balance is not quite right with Arsenal, and hasn’t been for some time. The missing link is a holding midfielder. Wilshere can improve, but he needs confident players around him. I’m not sure Xhaka is particularly confident at the moment.
“Sometimes it seems as if Wilshere considers Xhaka the sole holding midfielder, and he is responsible only for the transition and to act as a playmaker. But you also have Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in the team.
“Jack must improve physically, and to think more about his defensive responsibilities. Once the defence is protected, he can allow himself to go forward.”
In the last few matches, since returning to the team, Wilshere’s consistently played higher up the pitch than Xhaka. He isn’t doing the team any favours by isolating the Swiss midfielder defensively.
One thing I’ve noticed in recent matches is that the England international doesn’t seem very keen to receive the ball from defenders. To me, that’s strange, because that’s where Wilshere is at his best. If he picks up the ball and accelerates away from players pressing, or quickly plays a clever pass out of trouble, Arsenal can move forward in possession.
Xhaka struggles to do the same thing because he’s not as mobile. The former Borussia Mönchengladbach man is much better at starting attacks when opponents are sitting back, but that’s hard to do if he can’t even get out of his defensive third.
Perhaps Arsenal do need to sign another midfielder to balance things in the centre of the park. But in the meantime, I think the two current starters could be doing more to help each other out.