Charlie Nicholas believes Arsenal should leave midfielder Granit Xhaka out of their upcoming home games.
The Scot, a former Gunners himself, feels that with Arsenal usually being dominant at home, a holding midfielder such as Xhaka isn’t necessary. “I would consider leaving him out and say ‘I’m going to go with (Mesut) Ozil, (Aaron) Ramsey’,” Nicholas said on Sky Sports via the Daily Star.
“Do Arsenal seriously need a holding midfield player when you’re playing at home? They might say ‘well they’ll be too attack minded’. But they’re attack minded when they have a holding midfield player so I would leave Xhaka out.”
That a modern-day pundit even needs to ask if Arsenal need a holding-midfielder in home games is mind-boggling. Home or away, protecting the midfield is a necessity for any team, I feel. Xhaka has started every game for Arsenal this season and played in plenty of home games last season as well.
I recall he played against many teams who came to the Emirates Stadium with a defensive gameplan and in no way hindered Arsenal’s attack, as Nicholas seems to be implying. If anything, he makes it better, as his long-range passing and vision gives Arsenal an extra weapon from deeper positions.
To play with Ozil and Ramsey in the middle, per Nicholas’ suggestion, would be akin to playing with no midfield at all, in my opinion. Nicholas believes Arsenal need momentum after a tricky start to the season, where we’ve picked up seven points from our opening five games.
“You’d take the risk at home, Arsenal need to start getting a bit of momentum, getting the fans right behind them again,” he said. “They’ve actually got a run of games coming up that they have that opportunity now.
“Maybe Everton away (is their next big game), I know they’re not doing great but that’s an awkward one for Arsenal. They need the momentum, they need the belief in the fans to start coming through.”
Arsenal play West Brom and Brighton at the Emirates this week and have a chance to get a good run of form going. However, that doesn’t mean Arsenal should go gung-ho in those games. I remember we’ve been stung in so-called easy outings before for doing precisely that.