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Will the Real Arsenal Captain Please Stand Up?

Image result for xhaka captain

With the dust settling from the kid’s Carabao Cup heroics, it was time to move to Premier League football with struggling Manchester United next on the Gunners’ trails but there has been a niggling issue that hasn’t been sorted out up until this point of the season – who will be the next Arsenal captain?

We will know how our former captain, Laurent Koscielny, bailed on us for pastures anew, activating his full pettiness to go on strike and boycott the US tour, earning some backlash from the fans and club alike, but with Kos out of the equation, as well as Petr Cech and Aaron Ramsey leaving the club as well, it clearly meant that Unai Emery had only two ‘captains’ left from his famous five.

Enter Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil, two players that have donned the armband on different occasions this season, but it was never made official, as everyone waited for the gaffer to make the announcement. I was quite surprised to read Rob Holding’s comments after the 5-0 drubbing of Nottingham Forest, where he confirmed that the players had to vote over who would be their next captain,

“We had a vote the other week so we’ll see what happens and see who gets named. We had to write names down and then give them to the manager. He will go through them obviously with his input and then we’ll see what happens. I don’t know. I think it will be in the next couple of days, or weeks. I have no idea. If I get it, then I’ll be more than happy and honoured to do it.”

It’s kinda awkward but it’s not that strange – that’s players having a vote on who to be the captain rather than the manager just making his decision. I’d read that in Manchester City, the players unanimously voted David Silva to take over from Vincent Kompany as he reaches the September of his career with them, even though as vice captain, it seemed only natural for him to take over.

So those votes have been taken and a decision has been made to name Swiss international, Granit Xhaka, as the permanent captain of the club. (via BBC). It seemed like a reasonable decision because Xhaka has always been captain material, from his Borussia Monchengladbach days (we signed him while he was their captain) as well as the mere fact that he’s also the current captain of his nation, Switzerland.

According to reports, the announcement for the vice-captain isn’t known yet, but the whispers are edging toward one of the deadly striking duo, Alexandre Lacazette or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as leading contenders for that role.

With Xhaka named as club captain, we can move on from the drama not having a captain to this point had surfaced, and focus on more important things like preparing to defeat Manchester United. I just hope that we don’t have to read an article where a player would say that he voted to Ozil to be captain but he saw Xhaka on his name as his nomination, then Emery screams, ‘good ebening‘ and says that he signed in small letters.

Sayonara.

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Granit Xhaka on the Losing Side as C. Ronaldo Blitzes Switzerland

Image result for xhaka switzerland portugal

Source: Getty Images

The end of season paves the way for some international football without disruptions which allows nations to feature their best talent in their respective bids to win the competitions they are registered in. It seems like eons ago, but many were skeptical about the UEFA Nations League tournament but following some brilliant matches as well as some good organization I must say, we are down to the last four of the inaugural tourney as Portugal took on Switzerland in front of a capacity crowd with a chance for another European final.

Just three years ago, they went to France and grabbed home the European Championships, even though the hosts were overwhelming favorites to go home with the trophy. Three years on and Fernando Santos side, led by their inspirational captain, Cristiano Ronaldo, locked horns with a Swiss team led by Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka. The Swiss might not be world beaters but they have held their own well in recent matches, since their Round of 16 exit in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. They left a lot to be desired with their defending when they gave up a shock 3-0 lead against Denmark to draw 3-3, but they were fully aware of the threat Portugal would pose, especially with the likes of Ronaldo in their ranks.

We didn’t wait to long to see the Swiss net bulge as Ronaldo stepped up to dispatch a well taken free kick that left Yann Sommer rooted with no chance in Hell. The usually reliable Manuel Akanji struggled alongside Fabian Schar, as Portugal continued to barrage the Swiss with waves and waves of attack. The Swiss had some good chances of their own with Xherdan Shaqiri clean through on goal but Rui Patricio was on hand to make a point blank save. Haris Seferovic, that plies his trade in Portugal, had a glorious chance as well, but his effort smashed the wrong side of the cross bar and went over.

Our darling VAR wasn’t going to be left out, as it was used to determine a penalty that was awarded to Switzerland when Nelson Semedo was adjudged to have pushed Steven Zubar. Rui Patricio guessed right to dive in the direction of Ricardo Rodriguez’s penalty but he was really disappointed to see the ball creep under him to level the contest for the Swiss. It wasn’t against the run of play as Switzerland had been giving Portugal a run for their money in what I’d regard as a balanced game.

We never want to see any of these professionals suffer any injuries but it wasn’t a pleasurable sight for the experienced Pepe, as injury forced the hand of the gaffer to bring on Jose Fonte. Good job by Ruben Neves holding the fort while Pepe was being treated. For such a technical metronome in midfield, he wasn’t half bad in the few moments he served his nation as a make shift center back.

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Source: Getty Images

For a player that picked up 14 yellow cards across four competitions last season, it was no surprise to see Granit Xhaka in the book again, when he tried to swap jerseys with Bernardo Silva. I guess he couldn’t wait till the end of the game.

With extra time looming, I was wondering whether there was going to be a match winner in regulation time but as the saying goes, ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man‘ and Portugal’s main man, Cristiano Ronaldo, delivered once again, arriving late in the box to fire in a near post piledriver from B. Silva’s cut back. Sommer was nowhere to be found when Ronaldo’s free kick embarrassed him in the first half but conceding that way in his near post was really questionable. Ronaldo certainly wasn’t done with the proceedings as he rolled back the years with some fancy footwork late on before blasting a trademark drive to the bottom corner.

90 minutes played, one chance created, 91% pass accuracy, 29 accurate passes, 49 touches, 10 duels, three attempted dribbles (all successful), five shots and most importantly, three goals scored. If that’s not a Man of the Match performance from Ronaldo, then I certainly don’t know what that is.

Commiserations to Granit Xhaka and his proud nation that reached the semis of the UEFA Nations League, but it was all about Cristiano Ronaldo, that has guided his nation to yet another final.

Sayonara.

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Granit Xhaka: The Key to Arsenal’s Title Chances?

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Arsenal were much improved last season as the Gunners secured a second-place finish behind shock champions Leicester City – but many fans were left disappointed as they fell short in their pursuit of the Premier League title.

This season, Arsene Wenger’s men will look to go one better as they hunt their first league crown since 2004; and summer signing, Granit Xhaka, could be the man to lead the club back to the summit of English football.

If truth be told, the Switzerland International’s arrival has taken Arsenal’s midfield up a notch. On paper, Wenger now has the best middle formation in the top flight at his disposal and Xhaka’s skillset will prove crucial throughout the campaign.

The Switzerland star, who impressed for his nation at Euro 2016 this summer, has settled quickly into life at the Emirates Stadium and he looks ready to play a key role for Arsenal this season. After all, Gunners fans are expecting big things after Wenger paid around £35 million for the former Borussia Monchengladbach man.

The club are currently in the middle of a mini-injury crisis right now – and Xhaka’s versatility and ability to adapt to different formations could prove useful as Arsenal look for a quick start to the season.

At the time of writing, Wenger’s men are 6/1 to lift the title in bet365’s Premier League betting markets and the Gunners will need Xhaka to be at his very best to stand any chance of achieving their ultimate goal. On his day, the Swiss star can control a football match; and Arsenal’s flair players will benefit from his calming presence in front of the back four. As David Seaman said, Arsenal are lacking a Patrick Vieira – Xhaka could be the next best thing…

Xhaka won’t be a serious threat going forward but he could get involved in the opposition half if Wenger opts to play Francis Coquelin alongside him. In Xhaka and Coquelin, Arsenal have two competent central midfield players and the Gunners will reap rewards from the added reassurance throughout the core of the team.

Arsenal will need plenty of luck on the injury front to stand a genuine chance of lifting the title but Xhaka’s presence and ability to change games could prove decisive at key moments during the campaign. Going forward, he can provide key passes but defensively, he is also sound and he is one of the very best at breaking up attacks.

The Switzerland man has exceptional vision and he may form a lethal partnership with the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott in attacking areas. Xhaka isn’t the finished article just yet but he is certainly a talented prospect and Gunners fans will be excited to see him in action…

Sayonara

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