The incredible renaissance of Granit Xhaka, and how it happened



By Nitram

The other day I was looking into how Xhaka had managed to get his cards down so dramatically this season, and it all boils down to what we have been talking about here on Untold for quite some time, namely the ‘stop tackling’ revolution introduced by Arteta a couple of seasons ago.

But not only has Xhaka managed to drastically reduce his cards but his overall contribution has also improved dramatically. Overall his influence on matches is the best it has ever been since he joined us back in season 2017/18.

Below I have put a table together showing not only his disciplinary record, including tackles/fouls ratios as I did in an earlier article, but have included his cards as well. Not only that, but this time I have also included his offensive contribution.


Season Played Tackles / game Fouls / game  Yellow cards Red cards
2017/18 37 2.1 1.5 10 0
2018/19 29 1.8 1.6 10 0
2019/20 30 1.5 1.8 10 0
2020/21 29 1.6 1.3 07 1
2021/22 27 1.2 1.1 10 1
2022/23 26 0.8 0.7 4 0


As you can see, barring a couple of tiny glitches, both tackles and (therefore) fouls have been steadily decreasing season on season.

As for cards, well it has taken time to get those down but finally, they have fallen in line with those other statistics. It seems no matter how much the men in black might want to, it’s very difficult to pull someone up for fouls, and then issue cards, if they don’t tackle in the first place!

But honestly, that is a remarkable decrease in all parameters.


Season Played Assists Goals
2017/18 37 7 1
2018/19 29 2 4
2019/20 30 2 1
2020/21 29 2 1
2021/22 27 1 1
2022/23 26 5 3


Again, as you can see this season’s improvement is remarkable. At this rate his goal contributions are set to eclipse those of his last four seasons possibly by a factor of four times. The only season that comes close is his first, but he looks set fair to eclipse even that season.

From being booed off of the Emirates to this amazing renaissance is quite remarkable, and to me at least absolutely heartwarming.

Credit of course must go to Arteta for the implementation of his revolutionary tactics, but make no mistake, it took a man of immense talent, self-belief, and guts to pick himself off the floor and prove to everyone, even his most vitriolic of doubters, that he was and still is the world class player we here at Untold always knew he was.

Well done Xhaka.

14 Replies to “The incredible renaissance of Granit Xhaka, and how it happened”

  1. as i’ve commented in a previous post, I believe that the fact Arsenal have gotten quite better defensively has made it un-necessary for Xhaka to ‘sacrifice’ himself and make ‘desperate’ tackles/fouls. And his positionning makes this less necessary.

    Too bad his cards for 2022/2023 are missing to give a global comparison.

  2. Looking at the City-Leipzig game.
    Visibly the referee home bias is valid in the CL as well.
    City are playing better, or more agressive to say the least, but the referee/VAR decisions just stink home bias at least IMHO

  3. Gave up watching it but the early penalty award by VAR was a joke. Seen it a dozen times and I’m still not sure it even hit the hand so how that is a clear and obvious error I will never know?

  4. @ Nitram

    The “clear and obvious” concept is something that I still find completely absurd.

    The idea that it takes 5 minutes to decide that something is “clear and obvious” is beyond ridiculous.

    Even last weekend, my naked eye was convinced Martinelli’s first effort was offside. Having seen a still for 5 seconds there was no doubt whatsoever…..yet it still took an idiot and several other paid, “professionals” from the PGMO around four minutes to decide that there had been a “clear and obvious” error.

    None of this is about VAR but totally about the complete and utter incompetence of the officials. Had it been that they were trying to find a reason to deny us a goal I could understand the delay as they would be avidly searching for anything whatsoever to justify their decision. Put simply though, if it takes that long to deny Arsenal a goal that Arsenal fans know shouldn’t stand then we’re dealing with a level of ineptitude that would be highly unlikely if, instead, we used primary school children to operate it rather than highly paid officials!

  5. @Mikey,

    As Nitram, I watched and then tuned out. They lost 2 spectators. The refereeing screwing up a game when it costs so much to see the game live or on TV is just a total waste of money and time. And I had no fun watching. Haarland rams into the goalie nothing happens like he has a free pass or something like that. Yes he is athletic, a goal machine, is spectacular. But this ain’t no reason to ignore what he does. It just stinks like something is wrong.

    Absolutely agree with you. Incompetent Arrogant Morons. And visibly PGMOL seems to have infected the CL. Another reason to hope the ESL can be created…

  6. Haaland is lucky to get tap-ins, accidental rebounds and, of course, penalties. No doubting his effectiveness as a striker, but I wouldn’t want him to be an Arsenal player.

  7. I watched that penalty award to City three times, and I couldn’t see a handball either. I think Leipzig were 2-0 down when Ederson took Laimer out, and the result was….a yellow card for Werner. The Leipzig players’ heads dropped after that, when they realised what the referee was up to. It’s difficult enough playing Man. City on a level pitch.

  8. From today (Josh Holland) – “Arsenal have no time to rest on their morals”.

    Had he studied English, he could have been a contender.

  9. Re: GX34 – What about 2016-2017? Granit (GX29 as he was then) got 2 red cards in his first season, both from the same referee – Jon Moss. Moss was “withdrawn” from duty for the weekend following one of them.

  10. The last two seasons , it has been a pleasure to watch GX play. He has been a beast on the left , and I am still flabbergasted by his vision in setting up quick attacks . With his partnership with Zinchenko , they bring such unpredictability to the left flank .
    May they long haunt the visiting teams !

  11. @Nitram,

    yeah this season is definitely a season of change. Or should we call it a Zynchenko season ? ;=)

  12. Chris

    “The ‘desperate’ category seems an important element to me. Xhaka’s role has changed. And the level at which Arsenal play is not the same anymore. And Xhaka had quite a few of these ‘desperate’ tackles in the past, yet not that many anymore because he doesn’t need to”.

    Spot on.

    There was a specific incident in the Bournemouth match I think it was when one of their forwards got beyond Xhaka who was in hot pursuit. He was no more than 10 yards from the box. Xhaka was in position ‘A’ to put in a last ditch (desperate) challenge. He may, he may not of got the ball. But it would of been in the ‘desperate’ category. Miss it and it would of been a foul, just outside the box, and certainly a yellow. Xhaka made a clear choice to pull out. He did that up right stance, both arms in the air. ‘I’m not touching him ref’ kind of thing. The player got a shot away. Ramsdale made a great save. The ball was cleared.

    As you say. He doesn’t need to. Let the keeper do his job. If he scores, ok, but the chances are they would do so from a freekick 10 yards outside the box anyway AND Xhaka would be on a card for the rest of the match. I have seen other similar incidents, not just from Xhaka but all the players. Again as you suggest, this maybe on the back of the faith they have in each other to get them out of trouble. There is simply no need to be rash, reckless’ or indeed ‘desperate’.

    For those that missed it, the inspiration for this article was a question posed by Chris a while ago when he suggested the following:

    “Xhaka seems to have been replaced by Casemiro. No idea if he deserved it or not, but 2 straight reds in 25 or so games…that is Xhakaesque.”

    Which I thought was a great observation and what prompted me to see how the 2 players compared. Above you can see Xhakas stats, but the fact is, even at his worst they are nothing as compared to Casemiro, and as I showed, this may be why:

    These are Casemiros PL tackle/foul stats for this season

    3.1 Tackles per match
    1.8 fouls per match

    Casemiro seems to put in a lot of those ‘Desperate’ challenges that Xhaka in particular, and Arsenal in general have cut out all together.

    It certainly seems to be working.

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