Stephan Lichtsteiner has spoken out to defend club and international teammate Granit Xhaka, after some criticism of the 25-year-old at the World Cup.
Speaking in quotes reported by Swiss outlet Bote, Lichtsteiner responded to questions about the Arsenal midfielder, insisting: “For me, he played a very good tournament.”
“Granit took on a lot of responsibility, and he also tried to help get the game started against Sweden. The bigger the club, the bigger the claims and the more likely you are to be the target of the critics. This is part of the game. Granit can handle it, he has enough quality, and in that sense I already see him as a leader.”
Phil Neville went on a rant against the Arsenal man after the last-16 match, calling him “disgraceful” and “fake”.
Those insults were backed up with very little substance, and no analysis of Xhaka’s performance, bar a brief compilation of the player missing one or two tackles in an entire 90-minute period. That’s what we’ve come to expect from TV channels reporting on Arsenal though.
Pundits like Neville can’t provide the necessary analysis to explain their comments. He won’t tell you whether Xhaka’s positioning was correct, whether he shifted his feet well enough, or anything else to explain why the player missed a tackle. He just shows you the attempt and calls it disgraceful.
To me, that shows that his reactions are emotional, not logical.
Xhaka was far from perfect in Switzerland’s final game, but overall he did have a very good tournament. He was arguably man of the match against Serbia, and performed impressively against Brazil and Costa Rica too, in his country’s unbeaten group stage.
Hopefully, Xhaka and Özil in particular will come back to Arsenal with a point to prove. Lichsteiner is clearly backing his teammate to do so.