Is Arsene Wenger losing patience with Granit Xhaka? We take a look at the dialogue he has used to describe the tempestuous midfielder this season.
Wenger convinced Xhaka to sign for Arsenal by claiming a move to The Emirates would be like “paradise”, but so far his life with the Gunners is a long way away from the promised land.
The Gunners paid in excess of £30million for the Swiss enforcer and to a certain degree Wenger knew what he was getting – a midfield tackler but with a dubious disciplinary record. But 19 games into his Arsenal career, his long-term future is certainly in doubt after his second red card for the club.
He’s now been sent off nine times since April 2014 and he has been show the red card more times than any other player in the top five European leagues since the start of last season. He’s top of the Premier League bad boy list and his red card every 9.5 games rate eclipses that of the notorious Vinnie Jones, who was sent off every 31 games. In fact by the time Xhaka reaches Jones’ total of 184 Premier League appearances, if he continues at the same rate, he will have collected 20 red cards.
Xhaka’s relationship with Wenger in the summer looked predictably rosy, as it would when a manager decides to make you one of the most expensive central midfielders ever and the club’s third most expensive recruit of all time.
“It was madness, he’s a legend for me,” Xhaka said last summer, ahead of his move from Borussia Monchengladbach. “He suddenly is on the mobile and wants me. I will never forget his first sentence. He said in the German newspaper Bild : “If you want to enjoy football, you have to join us. Here is the paradise. He has an incredibly calm but convincing manner. It makes me proud to work under such a coach.”
Things have soured a little since then with Xhaka and now facing a four-match ban. Can he be trusted by Wenger to take on Bayern Munich in the Champions League – the next game he is eligible for?
What Wenger has said about Xhaka…
October 15, 2016
“Intelligence means you don’t make the same mistake twice, and I hope he learns from that,” Wenger said after Xhaka’s red card against Swansea. “Before in Germany he had some [disciplinary problems], but I think he’s not a dirty player at all.
“Sometimes he makes some clumsy tackles because he’s not a natural defender, he is a guy who likes to go forward. But I will speak to him.”
November 3, 2016
Ahead of the north London derby with Tottenham, Wenger admitted: “I am a bit concerned, yes, because discipline is important.
“We want to be effective in all situations we face. In a derby it is important to keep control of your reaction and have a strong discipline, because it’s part of the effectiveness in this kind of game.
“He’s normally a very composed and calm guy. Sometimes on the field he has the reaction that is a bit impulsive. He knows that. He has to work on that and keep control of his reactions in the game.”
November 25, 2016
“He needs to adapt to the way we play and the tactical pace of the English game,” Wenger said. “I am confident he will do very well.”
January 6, 2017
Xhaka bundled over Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser in the area to gift the hosts a spot kick in the first half – the second penalty he has conceded this season after putting his arm in the face of Joe Allen against Stoke in December.
“He has conceded a few penalties, and I agree with you he has to stop that,” Wenger said. “But it’s always penalties [where you can question] is it really a penalty or not? I think he was unlucky on both occasions. But he has to adapt, it’s part of the adaptation to the league.
“I think especially the other night, it was a really soft challenge. Because if it’s a penalty, why is it not a foul on Hector Bellerin [in the lead-up to Bournemouth’s third goal]? It’s not even similar, the challenge on Hector was much bigger. So I think he was a bit unlucky, but has even to correct that, yes.”
“Overall I’m quite happy with his defensive evolution,” Wenger said. “He’s less spectacular in his tackling, he stays more on his feet, he uses his body better to win the challenges. And his recovery runs are stronger when the ball goes behind him. … So he’s much more focused defensively than before, and he’s improved a lot on that front.”
January 23, 2017
“Honestly, I have to look at it again,” Wenger told a news conference after his latest dismissal in the win over Bournemouth.
“The noises I get are that it was a red card. He has to control his game and not punish the team with [a] lack of control in his tackling.
“We don’t encourage our midfielders to go down on tackles. We want them to stand up and not to make these type of fouls. If it’s a bad tackle, it’s a red card.”