Arsenal put on arguably their worst performance of the season last night’s in the 3-0 home defeat against Liverpool.
The loss and the manner of which it was achieved was recognised by coach Mikel Arteta who apologized to the supporters after the game.
“We need to apologise to our people, to our fans, and this standard is nowhere near what we want. I am fully responsible for that,” he said.
“I don’t know if it was the worst [performance of my reign], but probably one of the worst and the one that really shocked me.”
💬 “Firstly I apologise to our supporters for the display… For the club we represent, it’s not acceptable.”
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) April 3, 2021
Whilst Arsenal were without key players Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe, Granit Xhaka and David Luiz in addition to losing Kieran Tierney to injury during the match, the side offered little to no threat throughout the match and Liverpool controlled the game at a canter.
Xhaka’s absence felt
Granit Xhaka’s presence at Arsenal is a divisive point of discussion for much of the fan base. The Swiss midfielder’s mistakes are regularly highlighted on statistical sites and the number of red cards he has earned during his near 5 year stay grants criticism.
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) March 6, 2021
Yet, statistically this season the 28-year-old has been identified as the Gunners most effective player, ranking 7th amongst the top players per club in the whole of the Premier League.
Top performing outfield players per team for last trimester @premierleague matches as per @CIES_Football Performance Index? #Jorginho 🇮🇹 greatest score ahead of @rubendias 🇵🇹 & @Ndidi25 🇳🇬 👏 Data for all big-5 league teams ➡️ https://t.co/xRtJ2ec20y pic.twitter.com/gLHLpltrSZ
— CIES Football Obs (@CIES_Football) March 29, 2021
In yesterday’s match, Arsenal lacked control of the ball. Consistently failing to break out from the back as Liverpool pressed ferociously. With Thomas Partey and Dani Ceballos at the base of the midfield, the pair looked poor.
The Ghanaian appeared to be effectively babysitting the Spaniard for much of the match, trying to recover possession lost by the Real Madrid loanee.
Xhaka’s accurate passing statistics, were something clearly lacking from Arsenal’s team. 91.5% passing accuracy across the whole season is impressive especially when you consider Ceballos 86% against Liverpool included 3 misplaced passes made in his own half.
Arsenal’s Ghanaian midfielder Thomas Partey (L), Arsenal’s French-born Ivorian midfielder Nicolas Pepe (C) and Arsenal’s French striker Alexandre Lacazette (R) discuss options at a freekick during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium in London on January 30, 2021. (Photo by Andy Rain / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by ANDY RAIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Should Arsenal upgrade on Granit Xhaka? Yes, of course, as with any player. However, to find a player which controls the passing of a side like the Swiss midfielder and whom does not make the mistakes is going to cost serious money.
Even then, should Xhaka be sold? When the drop off in quality to the ex club captain falls to Mohamed Elneny and Ceballos, selling Xhaka seems like a ludicrous plan.
Elneny, whilst is a much better passer than Ceballos, offers so little going forwards in comparison to Xhaka. 10.45 passes to the final 3rd (GX) compared to 6.31 (ME) per 90 this season.
Forward to backward pass ratio: GX: 19.32 : 9.7 ME: 12.78 : 7.03. The drop off is huge.
Arsenal have problems. Plenty. However, it seems that the presence of Xhaka should be considered a positive to the team rather than a desperate area for improvement. Those areas were clear to see yesterday evening.