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Granit Xhaka has been scapegoated for the wrong reasons


To suggest Granit Xhaka has been a polarizing figure since his move to Arsenal from Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2016 Would be an understatement.

Tempers seemed to reach a boiling point when the newly appointed Arsenal captain mouthed profanity towards the Arsenal fans that sarcastically cheered his number coming up for substitution and then became aggravated at the Swiss International’s speed of getting off the pitch with the match poised at 2-2.

This wasn’t the first time Xhaka has been sarcastically cheered while being substituted and had to endure similar treatment in the 1-0 defeat to Sheffield United on Monday night.

The big question is why do Arsenal fans have such a problem with Xhaka?

One of these is Xhaka consistently making mistakes that cost goals. Incidents like giving a penalty away against Brighton last season in the game that saw us miss out on Champions League football and needlessly flying in on Heung Min Son against Tottenham which allowed them to open up a 2-0 advantage on us are still fresh in people’s minds.

Another criticism is that fans don’t believe he’s effective on the pitch despite a lot of stats suggesting the opposite.

Xhaka’s 1916 passes was the most in the Arsenal team last season by a large margin and Arsenal visibly struggled to progress the ball from the midfield third to the attacking third without Xhaka’s quality of vertical passing through lines.

It’s hard to question Xhaka’s application either, and he was mentioned by former Arsenal director of High performance, Darren Burgess, who picked out Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira as the hardest workers in training:

“I love the fact that Lucas Torreira, in every single drill, takes it personally if someone gets by him. I love that in him. Granit Xhaka is exactly the same whether it’s in the gym or on the pitch.

“Every moment counts and I reckon that separates the really good players and the top players. Some think they can turn it on in the game, you just can’t at this level, you have to train that way and those two do it superbly.”

Xhaka also leads any other Arsenal midfielder for tackles per 90 (2.0) and covered more ground than any other Arsenal player last season.

I can understand why Arsenal fans have gripes with Xhaka – any player whose mistakes lead to goals will invite an angry response and that’s understandable.

However, it has become obvious that he’s become a scapegoat for the team’s failings in a similar way that Mesut Özil has in the past and a large deal of that criticism is engineered and unfair.

Granit Xhaka is one of the few Arsenal players that stands up to adversity and fronts up to the fans and the press when Arsenal aren’t good enough and is one of the few players that consistency goes to clap the fans after games during these times, often taking all of the abuse that other members of the team opt-out of taking.

When he crosses that white line he gives everything for Arsenal – you can question his ability or his use to the team but what you can’t question is his heart and endeavour and for that alone, he deserves the respect of the fans.

That being said, part and parcel of being captain of Arsenal is that you need to rise above times like this. I don’t condone the fan’s actions, we should always support our own, but I do think Xhaka’s reaction was unacceptable and now he risks there being a divide between himself and the fans that will be hard to claw back.

If Granit Xhaka is now stripped of the captaincy it would be hard to disagree and there may not be another alternative to this situation.

Important to point out that Xhaka didn’t choose to be captain, he was nominated by not only his manager but his peers and I’ve always found the idea that we, as fans, could know better than the team who should be captain is fairly ignorant and farcical.

He doesn’t choose to be in the team every week but he works hard enough that he has the trust of the manager the same as he had the trust of Wenger – would you expect him to aspire to anything less?

To cheer off a player that was not only not having a bad game but even registered an assist is evident of a long-standing agenda some Arsenal fans have had against Xhaka and brings back memories of the disgraceful treatment of Eboue vs Wigan.

This isn’t one isolated incident – Xhaka has been abused for a long time and that abuse has even been directed at his wife.

Arsenal having ‘class’ isn’t just about the players or the manager or the staff, it’s also about us as fans and if we can’t even support our own players we need to take a long hard look in the mirror and realise what we’re actually trying to achieve.

Victoria Concordia Crescit – Victory grows through harmony

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