Granit Xhaka arrived in the Premier League this season with a reputation for getting himself into trouble with the ref on a regular basis.
There’s no doubt that he brings with him a cynical style that we have been sorely missing at Arsenal, but is he being too harshly treated by the media and pundits alike?
Xhaka’s career disciplinary record has been the topic of much discussion but it’s well worth noting that a lot of the red cards you read about were picked up at youth level. I don’t remember pundits using the youth records of other players, especially not when they are 24 but there you go. They probably don’t even realise they are doing it as they just parrot each other to make sure they are saying the same thing as everyone else.
If you listen to just the pundits, who are paid to explain this game to us, you will hear a variation of the following every time Xhaka’s name is mentioned:
- He can’t tackle
- He is ill disciplined
- His transfer to Arsenal has failed so far
- He is a liability
It’s also become a running joke amongst Arsenal fans that he will get booked in every game, but unlike with Mathieu Flamini or Francis Coqulelin, this is more about him being heavily punished as opposed to being a moron.
So given the narrative around him, you’d expect to see a pretty poor disciplinary record.
Let’s pretend that Granit Xhaka’s first red card of the season doesn’t exist. No other player has been sent off for anything close to what Jon Moss flashed red at the Swiss midfielder for and many who have done much worse have got away scott-free (Marcus Rojo, anyone?). The decision was a total joke and largely solidified the bubbling narrative around him.
So that means he has one red this season that was warranted (and even then, there is a debate around whether it was a red or not – dark orange is what Wenger would call it).
Xhaka has played 28 Premier League matches this season and been booked five times. Not 15, not 50 – FIVE. He has 11 in total in all competitions across 41 games – an average of a booking every 3.7 games. Savage.
To compare, N’Golo Kante, player of the season for many, has NINE Premier League yellow cards and 10 in all competitions.
Shkodran Mustafi has 10 yellows in total (nine in the Premier League in five fewer games than Xhaka) while good ol’ Coquelin has eight in total in 35 games.
Paul ‘can do no wrong’ Pogba has 10 yellows this season. Ditto Ander Herrera. Marouane Fellaini has also got 10 plus one red for a headbutt.
But they aren’t worse than Granit Xhaka, I hear you cry!
What about Nicolas Otamendi with his 12 yellows in 22 games? Or Harry Arter who has 11 in the Premier League alone and should have been sent off this weekend and was sent off at the start of the season.
What about them indeed.
Here’s Xhaka’s record since before this season:
2015/16 – 28 Bundesliga appearances, two reds, both for two yellows, no reds in 5 Champions League appearances or 3 cup games
2014/15 – 30 Bundesliga appearances, one red for two yellows, 9 Europa League appearances, 1 red for two yellows, 5 cup appearances, no reds
2013/14 – 28 Bundesliga appearances, 1 red for two yellows, 1 cup game, no red
2012/13 – 33 appearances all competitions, no reds
2011/12 – 38 appearances all competitions, no reds
2010/11 – 34 appearances all competitions, no reds
As you can see from the numbers above, Xhaka has five reds in the past seven seasons – that’s quite different from what the press would have you believe when they include his youth level and international cards.
Not only that, all of them bar one (two if you insist on including his red v Swansea) are for two yellows.
Four, two-yellow reds could show that he has a problem containing himself when on a booking, right?
2016/17 – Two (really one) straight reds, five yellows in 28 appearances, no two-yellow reds
2015/16 – Two reds for two yellows but he was booked a total of seven times in 36 games
2014/15 – One red for two yellows from 14 yellows and 42 games
2013/14 – One red for two yellows from 10 yellows and 29 games
2012/13 – No reds, four yellows, 33 games
2011/12 – No reds, four yellows, 38 games
2010/11 – No reds, three yellows, 34 games
That’s a total of 47 yellows with only four of those turning into a red from 240 games over almost seven years – a booking every 5 games, give or take and a two-yellow red every 60.
What a badass, eh?