This story was going to be written very differently, up until the introduction of Aaron Ramsey and Oliver Giroud, who not only changed the game but seemingly shifted the mindset and ability of Granit Xhaka from a stifled Swiss to a sizzling Swiss. The Gunners midfielder was a mixed bag to say the least, and his performance will give Arsenal supporters a high dose of concern and cheer.
As you are probably aware, prior to Arsene Wenger’s ingenious substitutions, Arsenal were looking likely to continue their poor opening day form. You might remember they were beaten by Liverpool 4-3 this time last season, which marked their sixth defeat in their last seven Premier League openers. Jamie Vardy was already running riot, and Granit Xhaka seemed determined to aid the Leicester City flyer in the most obvious way possible.
The first came from a blatant misdirected pass, both clumsy and careless. It led to an accurate Mark Albrighton cross and a typical Vardy finish. In the second half, the Foxes took the lead back from a corner. Once again, it was Jamie Vardy who attacked the ball with timeless freedom, thanks to Xhaka who was either admiring the Englishmen’s leap or wondering if he turned the stove off before leaving.
Granit Xhaka assisted 2 goals against Leicester – the same amount of PL assists he got in the whole of last season pic.twitter.com/q50zr1wYm2
— Tosin Emmanuel (@tosemmy5) August 11, 2017
Despite maintaining a pass accuracy of 89%, Xhaka was rather wasteful in possession. In terms of passes moving forward, the Swiss attempted 83, but just 71 of those came off. Considering he will be the linchpin within the Gunners’ midfield there is some cause for concern. More of that worry can be drawn from the defensive side of his game, because, at times, Xhaka was non existent, no moment more evident than Vardy’s second goal. Both of these highlights are rather surprising too, considering how impressive and dominant Xhaka was in the Community Shield.
Now here is where it ties together. THE COMEBACK!
The introduction of Aaron Ramsey in particular may have a lot to do with Xhaka’s change of heart. It took some of the pressure off him and offered more options in attacking areas. The Swiss started to play more penetrating passes, and eventually, a beautifully guided ball with the outside of the foot into the gentle care of Ramsay, who then slammed home the equaliser. With the tides turning within the Emirates, Xhaka rose to the occasion again with another demonstration of precision. Giroud took care of the rest.
In the end, Xhaka turned out to be quite prominent for Arsenal, other than the two goals he created, there were five other shots that came directly from his workshop. Not to mention the four shots he had himself, and several crosses into the danger area. The Swiss highlighted why Wenger brought him to the Premier League and gave an insight into how he may play for the rest of his second campaign. Hopefully, for Arsenal fans, it is this side of the story that we see a sequel to throughout 2017-18.
• 89.6% pass accuracy 🎯
• 178 long balls completed ☄️
Why Granit Xhaka's left foot will be vital to Arsenal's season. 👊 pic.twitter.com/3zJcHw3Iul
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 11, 2017