Former Switzerland defender, Stéphane Henchoz, believes that Granit Xhaka’s problems with Arsenal stem from the 25-year-old’s lack of pace.
When speaking to Blick recently, Henchoz explained that while he obviously doesn’t believe that Xhaka is the reason for all of Arsenal’s current problems, his lack of pace doesn’t exactly lend itself to the fast-paced Premier League.
“First of all, it should be noted that the English press can be very brutal,” said the 43-year-old, who played for Liverpool between 1999-2005.
“Secondly, in terms of fan base, Arsenal is the most important club in England alongside Liverpool and Man United. Logically, it’s looked at particularly critically.
“As for Granit’s achievements, they are not good! Since he is at Arsenal, the team is running badly. I do not want to say it’s his fault alone. But coach Arsène Wenger has bought him, and let him always play. That’s why all the criticism lands on Wenger and Granit.”
He went on, “The English game is extremely fast. That does not go in Granit’s favour. His strengths are the exact passes, his shooting technique. But certainly not his speed…
“Difficult to say [if Xhaka’s form will effect Switzerland]. It would certainly be better for his self-confidence if he succeeds with Arsenal. But maybe he will blossom again in the familiar environment of the Nati (Swiss national team).”
Xhaka has come under plenty of criticism this season. The 25-year-old has committed the third-most errors leading to goals in the Premier League (3), and despite Henchoz claiming the midfielder’s shooting technique is one of his strengths, this season, his shooting accuracy is at just 23%.
At times, the former Borussia Mönchengladbach star has appeared out of his depth. He’s consistently been caught out too high up the pitch and is too slow to get back and offer defensive cover.
On the flip side, his passing has been decent. Xhaka’s pass accuracy, according to Squawka, is 86%. The only Arsenal midfielders who have achieved better than that are Mohamed Elneny (94%), who’s played fewer games, and Mesut Ozil (87%), who’s also played fewer games and is… Mesut Ozil.
While I agree with Henchoz that Xhaka isn’t the only person to blame for Arsenal’s dip in form since he moved to north London in 2016, having a slow, error-prone player in the middle of the pitch can’t make life any easier. Not just because of the way Arsene Wenger’s side is supposed to play, with slick, passing football, and electric counter-attacks, but for the confidence of the team in general.
Whether we’ll see Xhaka at Arsenal for many more years is up for debate. I’m not convinced.