Would you believe it? After 2 years of hating Xhaka the media change their minds!

By Tony Attwood

There was a time – quite a long time in fact – when anyone daring to write or say something positive about Xhaka would be howled down.  So great were the howlings at times that vampire slayers would gather around the east end of London at dusk in the hope of a good night’s sport at the offices of our national press.

The conclusion of one and all (well, one and all except half a dozen of us on Untold) was that Xhaka was a typical Wengerian disaster and should not so much as be sold but rather given away.  Or paid to leave.   A prediction was made: the first thing that the new manager (whoever he was to be) would do would be give Xhaka away to anyone who would take him off our hands.

But now…

But now I see a growing number of articles of the written persuasion in which Xhaka is praised.  A statistic from last season that Untold trotted out about him having a better passing record than anyone else is back on the agenda, and the sneers about that being irrelevant to the menu (rather like horseradish on lamb or mint sauce on pork) could be heard all the way from the Arsenal Stadium to the crumbling edifice at 784 High Road, N17.

And so what should have been the nail in the new manager’s coffin – offering Xhaka a new contract long before the old one has gone – has instead been hailed as foresight, insight and any other sort of sight that you can spot.

“Stephan Lichtsteiner makes bold Granit Xhaka prediction after new Arsenal contract” shouts the always excitable Metro, continuing, “Granit Xhaka can get even better after agreeing a new contract to stay at Arsenal, according to Switzerland captain and new Gunners full-back Stephan Lichtsteiner. The 25-year-old has agreed a new deal to stay at The Emirates Stadium until 2023 after two years in north London.”

Yes the phrase “even better” is in there.  I did not make this up.

And not content with that they quote Lichsteiner as saying, “I’ve known Granit now for more than six or seven years, so he’s just an amazing player.   He’s very good and he’s still young. It’s not easy for him to be the direct leader at 23 or 24 years old, so I hope I can help him to become bigger and bigger. He had a very good season and I hope next year he will do even better.”

Oh what a change since the start of last season when the Metro led with the story, “Granit Xhaka could be frozen out at Arsenal after Liverpool drubbing. … Arsene Wenger’s lost his patience with Granit Xhaka and could sell the Swiss midfielder after just one season with the Gunners.”

Of course Wenger had not lost his patience.  What was lost was any sense of proportion by the Metro and an inability to distinguish between the howling of vampires at ArsenalFansTV and even a remotely proper analysis of a player.

Naturally Sky were part of the attack with Charlie Nicholas saying the Xhaka should be sold in March 2017 and the Metro (yes them again) weighing in, and then in February this year, with a whole series of anti-Xhaka articles in the came the Mail.

And moving on to March this year the Metro showed just how vindictive it could get with the headline, “Arsenal news: The THREE stars Arsene Wenger successor should sell.”  Xhaka was of course at the top of the list of three.

Of course it is a fundamental of contemporary journalism that the readership has a long term memory capability shorter than the lesser brained short-life gnat.   However less I am being unfair here let us bring in another unbiased and balanced source: Sky Sprouts, the well known fair and balanced sporting channel.

Granit Xhaka signs new Arsenal contract as Unai Emery hails ‘important’ player

Their recent coverage reads, “The 25-year-old midfielder’s future was reportedly uncertain following Arsene Wenger’s exit but the Gunners’ new head coach has indicated Xhaka will take a central role.”  Note the use of “reportedly”, meaning “in vindictive make-believe places like on Sky Sprout TV”.

The Daily Express carry the story too, and amazingly for a paper that has hounded Xhaka for two seasons there is not a single word against the player in their reporting.

The problem of course is that these drains (or outlets as they prefer to be known) have vested a huge amount of column inches in attacking Xhaka, knowing that the fanbase that can’t do statistics and have no interest in analysis would follow their lead.   The “failure of Xhaka” story was combined with the inability of Wenger to spend money wisely and thus became part of the “Wenger must go” narrative so strongly supported by all the media.

This was hugely successful, as the assaults on this site showed when we dared present the WhoScored statistics showing Xhaka’s ranking as a player.  I some of these I even found myself being blamed for Arsenal’s demise for having dared to write that Xhaka was a decent player.

Now it turns out Arsenal has a new manager who rates Xhaka as one of the stars of the team leaving the  media with a great problem.  Do they turn on the new manager before a ball has been kicked or do they wait until the season has started in case by some strange chance and pure luck Arsenal win a couple of games?

It looks like they are changing their tune, which is quite remarkable when we remember headlines like

‘Not good enough, we should sell him!’ – Arsenal fans blast ‘liability … (Talksport)

Five players Arsenal should sell this summer: Xhaka, Mustafi, Bellerin…   (ESPN who went on to say of Xhaka “he’s simply not good enough)

Arsenal news: Next Gunners manager urged to sell Granit Xhaka … (Daily Star)

As late as this May we had “Sky Sports pundit urges new Arsenal manager to offload Gunners star…. Le Tissier said on Sky Sports.  “I’ve watched him a lot this season and he’s not good enough.”   (Also the Star);

Even the bloggettas were getting in on the act although some started to see that the stuff Untold was writing about how good Xhaka really was began to shine through…

“…he started the season very badly but he gradually became better as the season went on and ended the season by setting a Premier League record for most number of passes.  [Now who was it that starting running that story?]   Xhaka is one of the more misunderstood players at the club and a lot of Arsenal fans have a very mixed opinion of him. But the confidence that Emery has in him should be an indicator of the regard he is held in at the club.”  That from Arsenal fever.

“Xhaka suffered (and still often does) from acute underappreciation. Fans just did not understand what the big deal was. And to be fair, when you bring a £30m+ price tag, they expect the world. To us Gooners, that is a lot of money.”  That from Pain in the Arsenal.

So maybe we were ahead of the game.  Maybe I just struck lucky.   Or maybe, just maybe, Xhaka was a decent player all the way through who, like so many before him, was chosen by the media for attack on the grounds that he was a) Arsenal and b) bought by Wenger.






9 Replies to “Would you believe it? After 2 years of hating Xhaka the media change their minds!”

  1. And how many of those record passes were 3ft sideways and back that stat means nothing and how many of his passes that were unsuccessful lead to a goal and how many times was he ball watching and let the opposition just walk through our midfield I for one haven’t changed my mind he’s not fit to wear the shirt

  2. I do not wish to be contrary, but if asked to express an opinion on Xhaka, I would say that I do not ‘hate’ him, far from it, but equally, I do not rate him — not that I have been asked to express an opinion.

    He has an immaculate long pass, but he is slow into tackles, often gets caught in possession for the same reason, often gets bypassed by the opposition forwards because of that slowness, and sometimes has a somewhat mercurial reaction when trying to recover from any of the above.
    When I heard the rumours that he was likely to be replaced this summer, I was not displeased t think that was true.

    No expert am I — and have no problem with alternative views — but if we lose a fast, hard tackling legally combative midfielder because we are committed to Xhaka then I will be disappointed.

  3. Xhaka initially had problems with adjusting to the Arsenal way of playing in particular and adjusting to the Premier League games in general where he was often red carded initially. But as time went on he adjusted and settled down to start playing very well for Arsenal. I believe he improved on his game for Arsenal last season over the previous season when he performed below per for the club. More so as the midfield enforcer role he was transferred to play in the team when the DM Francis Coquelin was sold. And Xhaka and ElNeny have since assumed the role of DMs for the Gunners with Wilshere coming into the fray a times to cover for the duo players who were box to box players originally. And that brings to mind, do Arsenal need a specialist holding midfielder to enhance their holding midfield position during the next campaign. I don’t know if Torreira who is heavily linked with signing by Arsenal this summer is a specialist DM to say if Arsenal signed, the specialist DM problem requirement in the Arsenal midfield had been taken care of.

    Let me continuing watching France vs Australia at the World Cup. But with all the array of star players in the rank of the French team, the match was goaless up till 54 minutes into the match but France have taking a goal lead in the match via a VAR spot kick goal. But Australia have hit back immediately with a spot kick equalising goal. Thanks to Umtiti who gave away the penalty with his punching the ball in the box.

  4. Among other things, Xhaka has been attacked for his tackling and his temperament which has led to a few cards. Of course, I would like him to put him a perfect tackle every time and hopefully he continues to improve but I am not that upset because we need players that play physically and intimidate opposing players. I was never happy when we went down to 10 players 20 years ago after Vieira got called but boy did the other teams keep their heads up around him and they didn’t take liberties with our smaller players.

    As for Xhaka taking the place of a potentially superior player…meh. I could say that of every player we have but so far Granit Xhaka has been a good player and loyal player for us and there is something to be said for that, too.

  5. I have been hugely critical of Xhaka, agreeing with Souness, but I believe that Graeme and I both have an affection for The Arsenal. You might note that he weights in on the best of our players, Ozil, Bellerin, Lacazette.

    I am in total agreement with everything Penguin has said, I think you would call his attitude, juveile or laxidasical. Churlish at best. We are not in the park, and I would have been in his face if we were.

    It’s psychological, much akin to Vieria. The power in a name, he hasn’t fogotten. Sam touchede on something pivotal, Jack was being so mature, even with his diminiative statur, being as creative as Ozil, possessing such a range of passes and improvised flicks, that he is targetted regularly, yet observing that he needed to fill in, a maturity to his game, something not preent in former years, but not required. His dissapointment at returning from injury, to a team devoid of both Cesc and Song.

    His ability is not in question, his work ethic, concentration, commitment to the task, rather than club is. But as Sam stated, there was much improvement, over the seasons course, especially when we needed to try and break top four and progress in Europe.

    Key is his fitness, having started 37 and played in the 38th league game also. As well as featuring regularly in Europe and the Cup competitions.

    If I have seen all manner of DM’s and laud Patrick as the epitome of those, Ziko and Socrates were something ese, rangey and complete, but if I say he is similar, Patrick says he has similar attributes, but is a better footballer, I see no cause to be less derisory in regards to the schoolboy errors in judgement I witness.

    Ozil needs to track back, Wengr explained it’s an ongoing fitness complaint, he can work harder then, on the field and off.

    Granit needs to work on his concentration and thus improve his timing of the tackle, his short distribution, by knowing in advance where his colleagues are and what he will do witht he ball and also his work ethic, track everything, when we are controlling games and the back four is more cohesive, you can gamble, ased on the fact you trust that line.

    But what the team is crying out for is an insurance policy, an actual DM. Niles’ development could be hampered with too much responsiility.

    I’ll add substance by suggesting my prefered systems and starting line up.

    GK Butland
    RB Bellerin
    CB Soyurucu
    CB Sokratis
    LB Diallo
    DM Xhaka
    CM Ramsey
    LWF Mikhitaryan
    RWF Golovin
    AMC Ozil
    CF Aubameyang

    SUB Lacazette
    SUB Wilshere
    SUB Meyer
    SUB Maitland-Niles
    SUB Lichtsteiner
    SUB Elneny
    SUB Macey



    in total 30 players, with U21 and HG, you don’t need to register around a third. well within margins, and a squad depth needed for EL, it’s for the Quad we build.

    As you should note, I ommitted Mustarfi, Perez, Cech, Monreal, Ospina, Jenkinson, Welbeck and Kolasinac. Monreal and Kolasinac will be contraversial, but ask, which did you prefer at left bac, either of them, or Niles, my answer was the 20 year old, I was immediately confortable, and his worst gae was Livrpool draw, nothing was directly hia dault.

    I think if Carvalho i free, he gets an offer from Real, and goes. My problem is can we ask hi to become holding for our best system? As if we play:

    LAcazette, Aubameyang and OZil, we play a midfield three, which means we need either a DM in support of Ramsey and Xhaka, so what do we do , bench Mikhi, the same as United did? We need 2 teams, s at least 22 players capable of starting. He really needs to grow u lot does our Xhaka, because that move put him and Emery in the firing line, of all the players to divide opinion and sign up, he was the most contraversial. Elneny, happy, glad we started playing him.

    And if I wanted to do something big, I’d send Chambers, Cohen and Iwobi, to Burneley, who need personnel and cheap, they all need a few months with Sean Dyche.

    The remainder I’d create a hell of an U23 squad, they stay together.

    We should be rotating 3 formations, none with a back three, it’s 3 games a week, 2 in 3 days.

    we must cash in all our chips.

  6. Off topic, mail amd metro are in the same offices. I was offered an interview there but turned it down. Though the pay is better than my current role.

  7. More so-called supporters the club missed out on when appointing a new manager. The Board will be kicking themselves for completely absurdly they chose to go for a qualified, highly experienced professional who actually knows what he’s doing……………..

  8. Haha Ben, good man, the Mtro is part of ES. And apparently May is a colunist lately……

    Georde knows he’s ****** if that ship goes down, so he’s sat on the fence, again, that’s where you get hit in the face with a 160mph serve,

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