Football News

Ray Parlour defends Granit Xhaka following criticism from former Arsenal players

By Steve Jennings

Published: 10:53, 5 September 2019

Ray Parlour has defended Granit Xhaka following criticism of the Arsenal captain’s performance against Tottenham Hotspur in Sunday’s north London derby.

Xhaka gave away a needless penalty – which was scored by Harry Kane – and was generally ineffective as Arsenal were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw despite dominating for most of the contest.

Why is Xhaka receiving criticism? Five things to know…

  • Xhaka gave away a penalty against Tottenham on Sunday.
  • The midfielder was outshone by Matteo Guendouzi in the derby.
  • Martin Keown and Paul Merson have since publicly criticised the Arsenal skipper.
  • Xhaka’s tackling has been a cause for concern for some time.
  • But Parlour has leaped to the 26-year-old’s defence.

Former Arsenal duo Martin Keown and Paul Merson have been quick to pick apart Xhaka’s display, with both suggesting the Switzerland international shouldn’t be in the starting line-up.

Writing in his column for the Daily Mail, Keown said: “This is what Xhaka does. He is like a fire engine that turns up and discovers the house has already burned down – he’s that late! He does more damage than good when it comes to tackling.

“I suspect Xhaka may be on borrowed time in this team. He could soon find himself behind others in the pecking order.”

Merson later appeared on Sky Sports, and when asked what Xhaka brings to the squad, he replied: “I don’t know. I honestly sit here and I don’t know what he brings to the party.

“He doesn’t score a goal, he doesn’t have assists, he gets booked, he makes rash challenges, he gives away cheap penalties, he doesn’t sit in front of the back four as a number six to break things up.

“If you asked me what has he got, I’d say he’s got a hard shot. I don’t want to be disrespectful but I’ve got to say I don’t know what he brings.”

Parlour acknowledged Xhaka didn’t have the best of derbies but went on to stand up for him, telling talkSPORT: “Xhaka is good on the ball, he’s decent!

“He can spray passes 25 or 30 yards no problem, he’s very good at doing that.

“Sometimes he fits in and keeps it simple, but at the weekend he didn’t have a good game.

“You know when you’ve not had a good game as a player and I’m sure he knew that at the end but he’s got to get back now, he’s skipper, he can’t let it worry him.

“Xhaka has just got to calm down sometimes, he’s got to be a bit more clever, you’ve got to be clever as a player.

“When you’re captain you can’t make mistakes like he did and give the other team opportunities to score goals.

“For the penalty, it was a really poor decision from him to go in like that. You can’t just dive in like that. He’s got to learn from that, he’s got to be a bit more disciplined.”

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The cases for and against Xhaka

Xhaka made his Arsenal debut in August 2016. Since then, no player has conceded more penalties than the Switzerland international in the Premier League (5).

The 26-year-old was fortunate to escape a yellow card for his challenge on Son Heung-min that led to Tottenham’s penalty on Sunday – he was later booked and so, was arguably lucky not to see red.

Indeed, Xhaka has a habit of picking up yellow cards. Only two players – Jose Holebas (35) and Oriel Romeu (34) – have been booked more often than Xhaka (27) since the beginning of the 2016/17 Premier League campaign.

Xhaka battles with Mohamed Salah as Arsenal lose to Liverpool

He has conceded 149 fouls in that time, the joint-eighth most in the division. That said, his tackling has been useful; he has won more tackles (143) than any other Arsenal player since his debut, and only six players in the Premier League have won more.

On top of that, Xhaka boasts other attributes ignored by Keown and Merson. He has made 1,274 passes into the final third since his Premier League debut, more than any other player and more than double any of his teammates.

What’s more, Mesut Ozil (229) and Alexis Sanchez (129) are the only players to have created more chances in the league for Arsenal than Xhaka (119) during the time-frame in question.