The transfer window is over and we have our first win of the season. Perez and Mustafi have joined the ranks and we are all looking forward to seeing them in action after the international break. The man we signed much earlier in the window, Granit Xhaka, is the one I’m most interested in however and I believe he will make the biggest impact.
It is no secret that we are all frustrated at the lack of league titles. It has been 12 long years. The footballing landscape has changed drastically in that time, not least tactically. It has been clear for a while that, however beautiful the football the Invincibles played back in the day, that is not going to lead to a league title in this era, at least not in its purest form, tweaks are needed.
One of the problems we have I feel is we have a lot of exciting players, players with a lot of explosive pace, who aren’t able to fulfil their potential. Too often we play teams who put 10 men behind the ball and there simply isn’t the opportunity for the likes of Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain to exploit their strength. Add to that, those two and Giroud often have difficulties finishing easy chances when presented with them. It is incredibly frustrating.
There is also the issue of grit and toughness that is lacking in our side. In the days when we were winning titles, we were an intimidating force, teams were scared to face us. We played hard but we also played fair. It is important for us to get into the head of our opponents and win the mental battle we so desperately struggle with these days.
This is where Xhaka comes to the fore and hopefully give us the edge this season to actually challenge for the title. Xhaka is a deep lying midfielder known for a tough tackle, but more importantly for his pinpoint long balls. His range of passing is almost unparalleled and he has been likened to being the next Xabi Alonso and Emmanuel Petit.
Just this weekend we saw Walcott find a bit of form, but he has Xhaka to thank for his lovely balls over the top of the defence, exploiting Walcott’s pace with precision passing. This sort of thing will be crucial especially in counter attacks, something I daresay you are looking more at this season. With all due respect, if Walcott can find a bit of form because of Xhaka, it must mean that Xhaka is something special.
We only scored 3 counter attacking goals last season in the league, much less than our rivals. If we are going to play to our strengths we need to be scoring more of these goals.
Xhaka is by far and away our best signing. His impact is two fold. Not only will he be able to launch quick counter attacks, he will create situations where counter attacks will happen. He is an excellent tackler, an aggressive and strong leader in the centre of the park. His intimidation and inevitable interceptions will literally turn the game on its head if all goes well turning defence into attack in an instant, not only absorbing the pressure, but putting it back into the opposition.
We are no doubt looking forward to facing Southampton after this international break as it will be the first we will see of Mustafi and Perez, but don’t forget Xhaka. The best is yet to come.
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