Unai Emery has praised the positive performances Granit Xhaka gives Arsenal for the most part, but the head coach insists they can’t afford any more mistakes from the midfielder.
Xhaka’s performance in the recent North London derby was fairly typical of him recently. The 26-year-old played well, created chances, won the ball back on the ground and in the air, then undid anything good he’d done with a moment of complete madness.
Sliding in on Son Heung-Min in the box was only going to end one way, and it left Arsenal with a mountain to climb just to get a point at home.
Speaking about one of his club captains, Emery said he’d been in discussion with Xhaka about the errors.
“We were speaking this morning,” the head coach said. “[Make a] mistake, recognise that mistake, learn, correct it, improve and repeat with success. We could speak about every player’s mistakes in every training session and each match.
“Only, some mistakes can be ‘big picture’ because the consequence is more [apparent]. But really we can’t have more mistakes like that after they score a goal against us or if we haven’t scored.
“But I am focused on the good things, on the positives. Xhaka has a big character and he’s very important for us.”
For many Arsenal fans, it will be encouraging simply to hear Emery acknowledge the mistakes Xhaka has been making. They have to be a consideration in the head coach’s selection process, as they’re just too frequent to ignore at this stage.
If Emery considers the Swiss international to be crucial to his plans despite the errors, that’s one thing. It’s another thing entirely to act like Xhaka’s drawbacks are non-existent.
The question is where we go from here. With a number of alternative options in midfield (Guendouzi, Torreira, Özil, Ceballos, Willock, Smith Rowe, even Maitland-Niles when Bellerin is back), it’s possible Xhaka finds himself less of a guaranteed starter, at least as long as he’s continuing to make pivotal mistakes. It’s up to Emery to decide.