Granit Xhaka And Mesut Özil’s Poor Form Is A Result Of Being Misused At Arsenal

Granit Xhaka And Mesut Özil’s Poor Form Is A Result Of Being Misused At Arsenal
Aug 29, 2017

Arsenal Featured

Arsenal’s comprehensive defeat at the hands of Liverpool has placed every player involved on the chopping block once again. The pressure mounting for years at the Emirates has been accelerated by these two consecutive defeats, with criticism reaching a new level, but no two players have taken as much blame in the media as Granit Xhaka and Mesut Özil.

Both talented midfielders signed for hefty fees to match their reputations, neither have impacted the Gunners as much as initially desired, and the result has been a variety of Arsenal outlets calling for their heads. However, both have been misused by manager Arsène Wenger to the extent that makes widespread criticism unprecedented.

Xhaka, signed as a deep-lying playmaker who controls the match and starts attacks, he has since developed a reputation as Arsenal’s hard-man in their 3-4-3 formation, causing viewers to berate him for making defensive mistakes and getting sent off frequently.

Against Liverpool, many were quick to point to the Swiss midfielder for not protecting the defence, but the only midfielder alongside him was Aaron Ramsey, a player who has never been known for defensive responsibility. Xhaka should instead be paired with a physical presence who can shield the back four alongside him.

Looking at other elite Premier League sides who play 3-4-3, Chelsea’s midfield is composed of Tiémoué Bakayoko and N’Golo Kanté, Tottenham have opted for Moussa Dembélé and Victor Wanyama, and even Everton have used Idrissa Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin. All are known both for their ability to play in midfield double-pivots, and their ability to protect the back four.

The defensive role that Xhaka would have to play to functionalize a midfield pivot with Ramsey would see him become the best footballer in the world at some distance. Therefore, it should not be surprising that he also has more disciplinary issues than is ideal.

While the Swiss midfielder’s disciplinary record has always been a problem, it will not improve if he needs to hold a midfield together on his own. Fernandinho faced the same problem in Manchester City’s aggressive midfield trio that featured both David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, and he was also suspended many times.

Expecting Xhaka to play his current role is the equivalent of signing Michael Carrick and expecting him to become N’Golo Kanté. The result is a player devoid of confidence, unable to raise his level, and destined to struggle within the competitivity of the Premier League.

A similar statement could be made about Mesut Özil, who has been criticized for his work-rate and lackadaisical displays. Considering he is a player who starred under José Mourinho, this is most certainly not the case.

Often, the German doesn’t influence the biggest matches, and he will never dribble past fifteen men and bury the ball into the goal, but his impact when used correctly makes him a template attacking midfielder.

In other words, Özil will not take a 6/10 side and make them a force to be reckoned with. Instead, he will take a 9/10 side and make it a 10/10 side, creating the chances required for strikers to score goals. Thus, he is an elite operator on the counter-attack or in possession, when he picks up the ball and creates space for other players.

When a player accumulates 19 goals and 47 assists in three domestic seasons at Real Madrid and then produces less in four seasons at Arsenal, the problem is typically not the player. In fact, Özil’s best season at Arsenal occurred when they finished in second, as he scored 6 and assisted 19.

If he needs to come deep to receive the ball, there is a problem already. The World Cup winner needs to pick up the ball in the final third and have at least three options ahead of him, making runs to give him opportunities. Considering Arsenal could barely reach the final third against Liverpool, Steven Gerrard was right; Wenger might as well just have ten men on the pitch.

Much was made of the fact that Paul Pogba needed his ideal midfield partner at Manchester United, but Arsène Wenger has done nothing to help Granit Xhaka become the answer to Arsenal’s long-standing midfield problems. Meanwhile, the same way a striker cannot score without chances, Mesut Özil cannot create goals unless he is given the ball.

While many Arsenal players proved they are not ready to wear the badge against Liverpool, equally many of the problems result from management. These two expensive footballers have been scrutinized due to the spotlight that follows them, but further examination shows that Wenger is the figure who needs to face these problems.



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