Not one full season into his managerial career, Mikel Arteta has already been called everything from a complete fraud to football genius. Well, Granit Xhaka finally settled the debate.
It’s been a tough few years for Xhaka. Arriving at Arsenal in 2016 for a reported £30million, a lot was expected of the Swiss midfielder. But, while bright in patches, most of his performances for the Gunners have left a lot to be desired.
Events took a nasty turn last October, when Xhaka was substituted midway through the second half against Crystal Palace after another poor showing. He was subsequently subjected to abuse and jeers from around the Emirates, leading him to tell the home fans, in no half measures, to “f*ck off”.
His self-implosion all but spelled the end of his time in north London. That was, until Mikel Arteta took the reins back in December.
The Spaniard has since revitalised a weathered Arsenal side and has even managed to repair the ostensibly shattered relationship between Xhaha and the fans. With Arteta regularly opting for a 3-4-3 formation, Xhaka has been deployed in one of the two central midfield berths and begun to flourish.
While some have hailed Arteta’s coaching prowess and tactical ingenuity, others have derided any praise, claiming it’s far too early to anoint the manager as some kind of red and white messiah.
Well, if you’re yet to be convinced by the fluid playing style, the FA Cup and Community Shield victories, or indeed Arteta’s summer transfer business, then look no further…
Ladies and gentleman, we give you the amazing Granit Xhaka MK II:
This is one of the most creative, well-executed and difficult passes of all time. Granit. Xhaka. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/QEPC2k1wvV
— ً#FreeXhaka (@afcprimmm) September 6, 2020
Look, we can sit here and argue ‘til we’re blue in the face over whether Arteta truly is the second coming of Arsene Wenger or not. What’s undebatable, though, is the Spaniard’s ability to turn Xhaka into prime Andrea Pirlo.
It was the final moment of Xhaka’s redemption arc: Germany clear the corner. Ball drops to Xhaka. 45-odd yards out. 360 vision. Outside of the left peg. Sliced to perfection. No regard for the laws of physics. Magic.
We were a Ruben Vargas flick away from what would’ve been an all-time classic. Still, we suspect the sub-par finish won’t stop Xhaka from giving his grandkids a blow-by-blow version of events every time he sees them in years to come.
From being booed by his own fans to swaz levels seldom seen at Arsenal since the days of club legend Jeremy Lynch, Xhaka has come full circle under Arteta. And if that doesn’t prove the manager’s not a fraud, we quite frankly don’t know what will.