Granit Xhaka of Arsenal during their win against Chelsea in the Premier League, Stamford Bridge, London, April 2022.

With one icy nutmeg, Granit Xhaka brought calm to Arsenal’s sh*tstorm

Nutmegging a player is one of the most satisfying things you can do on a football pitch, and even more so when it leads to a goal.

The best way to humiliate your opponent? Stick it through their legs and leave them wishing they’d chosen a different career path.

As Arsenal headed to Stamford Bridge, they knew they needed a moment of inspiration to lift them out of the rot of three straight defeats and to spark this young side back into life.

And that’s exactly what Granit Xhaka provided.

In what can only be described as a chaotic affair, it took a moment of sheer composure and quality from the 29-year-old to dig Arsenal out of trouble.

With the score at 1-1, and the match resembling a game of pinball rather than football, Xhaka picked up the ball in his own box and instead of panicking or giving the ball away, he decided to turn into Andres Iniesta for a few glorious seconds.

Romelu Lukaku closed him down but Xhaka breezed past him with ease, before gloriously nutmegging the onrushing Marcos Alonso, humiliating the Spaniard who has caused Arsenal so much pain in the past.

The Swiss international then drove the ball forward and sent it to Martin Odegaard, who linked well with Bukayo Saka before Emile Smith Rowe applied a cool finish, but the goal could not have happened without Xhaka’s outstanding piece of play.

Showing composure during a scene of carnage is not something many associate with Xhaka, who has made a number of high profile errors during his six seasons at the club. But it was his leadership that helped Arsenal’s young guns secure a crucial victory.

With Rob Holding, Mohamed Elneny, Nuno Tavares and Eddie Nketiah all being given a rare start alongside the likes of Saka and Smith Rowe, someone needed to step up to lead these more inexperienced players through a tough game, and everything fell perfectly for Arsenal in the second half.

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Arsenal's Granit Xhaka is sent off during their defeat at Manchester City, August 2021.

READ: Remembering the five times Granit Xhaka has been sent-off for Arsenal

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You know you’re set for a good night when a player capable of careless calamity pulls off a filthy nutmeg in his own half, and Arsenal found a way to secure an impressive win after being pegged back twice.

Xhaka has shown that he does not need the captain’s armband to be a leader of his team and has redeemed himself after the disaster which saw him lose the armband and nearly leave the club in 2019.

Speaking to The Players Tribune, Xhaka recently explained just how close he came to departing the club after his altercation with Arsenal fans during a draw with Crystal Palace.

“I was done with Arsenal. Finished. There was a contract on the table from another club, and all I had to do was sign,” the midfielder stated.

However, he revealed that manager Mikel Arteta helped him change his mind to stay, and that decision has paid off.

“Obviously, I am not captain of Arsenal any longer,” he continued. “But I can promise you that I will still act like a captain, even without the armband. That is possible.

“I get a lot of respect from my teammates and our staff, and I am so thankful for that. I will always help the young guys and take responsibility for our performances.”

It was the perfect result for Arsenal as they fought their way back into the top four battle, and they are now level on points with their rivals Tottenham as the season heads towards its conclusion.

For both Xhaka and Arsenal, it was a night to silence their critics.

By Rahul Lakhani

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