The Perfect Defensive System #4- Total Football + Gegenpressing

In this new series called The Perfect Defensive System,we invite you the reader to contribute posts on what you think is the best defensive...
Paul Blase
American football enthusiast looking to be the Happy Gilmore of Premier League writers.

Latest Posts

Súper Dépor! The rise and fall of Deportivo La Coruña

At the Start With the exception of a 2nd place finish to Helenio Herrera’s Atlético Madrid in 1948/49, Deportivo La Coruña have historically plied their...

The ironic situation at Olympique de Marseille

Since the American Businessman, Frank McCourt bought the club in 2016, and despite a Europa League final two years ago, OM has failed to...

Best Football Analytics Books

We have compiled a list of the best football analytics books for the casual football fan. Football analytics and data science/machine learning in general...

A look at Simone Inzaghi’s managerial era at S.S Lazio

The Lazio team of 2020 has captured the Serie A fans' attention with their incredible playing style along with strong results which has seen...

The Evolution and Political Dynamism of Football in Mussolini’s Italy

On a November night in 1934, the English national football team faced their Italian counterparts, Nazionale di calcio dell'Italia. The match was held at...

Martin Ødegaard : A ‘failed’ wonderkid on his way to rejuvenation.

Martin Ødegaard is a Norwegian professional footballer who plays as a midfielder for Real Sociedad, on loan from Real Madrid, and the Norway national...

Promising Teams We Wished Made it to The Euros

The European Championship is considered one of football's most distinguished trophies, with teams battling it out for untold glory. But what of the teams who...

Football Books

Best Football Analytics Books

We have compiled a list of the best football analytics books for the casual football fan. Football analytics and data science/machine learning in general...

The Best Football Books of 2019

It's been another eventful year in the world of football. As we look forward to 2020, we have compiled a list of the best...

The Best Football Books of 2018

It's been another eventful year in the world of football. As we look forward to 2019, we have compiled a list of the best...

5 Books every Soccer fan needs to read before the FIFA World Cup 2018

The FIFA World Cup is just around the corner and it's the perfect time to brush up your history and facts about the World...

Best Soccer Coaching Books

We have compiled a list of the best soccer coaching books which every soccer coach must have in his/her bookshelf. No matter whether you...

Granit Xhaka – A rock that Arsenal can rely on

The Granit Xhaka deal, the three day snapchat stake out, is done! I know this is a little belated, but how great is it to get business done early? So refreshing, as an Arsenal fan at least. Anyways, if you didn’t guess, this is just a vignette on Xhaka and what his signing means to the club and the starting 11.

Now this gives me a chance to do what I actually wanted to do: give you is an understanding of who this young Swiss player is. Perhaps we’ll even venture to compare his potential to that of previous Swiss players who wore the shirt… Okay, that wouldn’t actually be too exciting. He’s got at least a 90% chance to be better than Djourou and Senderos. The other 10% is just in case he becomes Diaby 2.0.

Anyways, on with the show…

Borussia Monchengladbach: 

Who are ‘Gladbach? Well, let’s talk about the Bundesliga first and we’ll put it like this: Bayern were so dominant in the Bundesliga, they gave up a total of 3 goals in the second half. An entire season. THREE second half goals, even with plenty of Javi Martinez starts at centerback. Not to mention during the latter half of the year, they seemed to always be without Robben, Boateng, Ribery, and other firm starters. So does that make other teams THAT bad? Probably, everyone in the bottom half at least, but let’s not discount who’s just below Bayern.

Let’s take this Borussia side, for example, who started their season with five straight losses and had their coach, Lucien Favre, resign. Enter Andre Schubert, give Xhaka an armband, and Bob’s your uncle, we’ve got a side competing for Champion’s League play yet again. Okay, we simplified that a tad. There’s a fair bit that comes into perspective on Xhaka here. Giving a 23 year old the captain’s role is tough after all, but made easier when your squad has only three players over 28 with more than 10 appearances in the league.

So, with a young team without much steady on-field guidance, how do you play? Long balls and counter attacking, obviously. Lots of crossing, lots of switching, plenty of over the top plays to wingers. Pretty much just bombing the ball up field and trying to get a touch in the box, hoping to stir up mayhem and madness.In the end, however, Granit’s role in this system, along with the captaincy, are what make it difficult to contain my excitement and limit my expectations for his arrival.

Taken for Granit: What does he do?

Let’s get the stereotyping out of the way. In a good performance, he makes over a 100 passes and leads Gladbach in touches and passes just about every game. He has somewhere between 10 and 15% of Borussia’s total touches per match, and completes an average of 86% of his passes. He is sharp in the ball, though he does look to create through a longer average pass length than what we’ve seen from Arsenal. He’s not exactly a Pirlo style creator, but can open up team’s defenses with surprisingly accurate long passing.

Satisfied with the window view? Don’t worry, he’s a lot more than just a “new Arteta” (though I do love me some Arteta).

What Granit’s style reminds me of is Busquets; the passing, the size, how he opens up to passes. But what makes the Busquets comparison even more relevant, and raises his stock more, is how he operates in the back line. His positioning and approach for Borussia Monchengladbach in the few games I’ve seen of him this year show an impetus to improve the defense from Wenger, and there’s no surprise there.

Often, you see Xhaka drift into the back line, specifically when the right back steps to counter. In that build up you see a lot of his involvement as well, but his reactions show a commitment to defensive form while in possession.

I’ll wrap up this section with a video. It won’t really give you an unbiased view, but you see the passing and vision I’m talking about.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVbsL0ZufGs

 

 

Imagining Xhaka Khan at the Emirates

Granit Xhaka, our guy, broke into the squad for Basel back in 2010. Unless you’ve lived under a rock (in a football sense) for the last 6 years, you’ll realize he came up with another certain Kosovo-Swiss kid, Xherdan Shaqiri. Now to use what will be the most abuse-able quote from his past, former coach Thorsten Fink, once stated of the two, “Xherdan Shaqiri is the best talent in Switzerland…after Granit Xhaka.” Wow, that sounds really familiar…. Where did I catch that one before? Oh yeah, that one guy, Mohammed Elneny. Here you go, first paragraph.

http://www.espnfc.us/blog/espn-fc-united-blog/68/post/2773972/arsenal-would-be-wise-to-buy-mohamed-elneny-from-basel

Think about it: center mid brought up alongside a flashy winger, under-appreciated, but still had clear potential at a young age, FC Basel. The three true keys to a quality Arsenal DM anymore. Cutting out the parallels and coincidences, I do think these guys look like a firm pairing and, now that Xhaka has signed, the preferred guard ahead of Koscielny and co.

The focus of his play will see him do make the work easier for other strong pieces around him. His vision allows him to recognize where cover is needed when facing the counter. It also affords him intelligent moves forward to act as a sink when Arsenal would be playing in the box. So often in these games, the counter is produced pushing out from the top of the box in the center of the field. After all, playing through the middle gives attackers a buffet of options. With someone to guard the centerbacks there, he can help to cut out counters and slow down opposition so numbers can get back. Koscielny and Gabriel have less to do then when other teams try to break, especially with Bellerin further up field.

His mix of passing can revitalize an attack that has given up possession, pushing the ball back into the mixer. The passes he makes generally look to wing, so if teams do try to break through the middle, wingers out by the touchline will have a real opportunity to have a second go. That’s kind of a big ‘if’ with how Arsenal play, but this is all about potential and Xhaka offers elasticity in attack that wasn’t there before.

To stop myself before I got on and on, he really provides another great distributor in the team. Better yet, he’s a great distributor whose positioning frees up options to make long runs. Is that exactly Arsenal’s style? Not exactly, but having that kind of element when teams either press or sit deep against us is always great. It’s about having a mix of options and opportunities to attack opposition with. Having the ability to attack both wings. Keeping the competition on the back foot when trying to clear. These offer the club a great chance to

There are two main concerns I have. The first is kind of obvious; I don’t think he’s the most disciplined player at 23 years old. I really don’t expect him to be, being a kid, but there’s the potential for some growing pains. He did have 3 red cards this past season, with two coming off of a second yellow. Maybe this was an issue in relation to his defending. I do think that he’s a great positional defender. Coming into the tackle, while he certainly has the strength, he can be clumsy. Going forward it’s something he definitely can and should focus to fine tune, but now it could use a brushing up. Maybe that speaks to the necessity to be pragmatic and break up play. The counter does leave a player in his position open to a countering counter, if you will. Still, with Arsenal’s style, that’s something he needs to do everything in his power to eliminate.

The other concern the personnel around him, and that’s a theme that floats around the whole squad. I’m not concerned with center mid, I think he will pair with Elneny and, on a more defensive look, Coquelin just fine. The players in front of him, however, need to be improved upon. It’s a similar case with Ozil. We’ve seen what he’s capable of doing, especially now that he is well and truly settled, but there lacks the final touches to make those moves matter. Similarly with Xhaka, if he’s going to distribute the long ball, he needs a player with a better touch than Walcott to make that build up matter consistently. From what we saw, a forward and, in my opinion, another option on the right wing really bulks up the attack to what we expect. Clear some driftwood out (Walcott, Ox potentially) and we have a side that can most certainly compete for the title.

So, to bring it to a full stop, Xhaka seems a great buy. He’s got elements of the departing Arteta, but A. he’s younger, B. he’s not being shoehorned into a position, being a natural defensive mid, and C. has a wealth of experience in the Champion’s League and wearing the armband, particularly for someone his age. Oh yeah, and he’s got some decent skill too. When it comes down to it, 30 million pounds may be a lot of money for one player, but this guy looks like a piece that could be a fixture in title runs for years to come. The kind that can really rock the Emirates.

 




- Advertisement -
Paul Blase
American football enthusiast looking to be the Happy Gilmore of Premier League writers.

Related

Fulham 1-5 Arsenal : Tactical Analysis

Match summary: Possession vs. Counterattack -- Arsenal obtained their first, truly resounding victory of the season through nullifying the threat of Fulham's attacking midfielders, before...

Chelsea 3:2 Arsenal- Tactical Analysis

Match summary: An incredibly open match – Chelsea’s long passes exposed the space behind Arsenal’s backline, but Arsenal managed a comeback from 2-0 down through...

Why Arsenal will start fast, but ultimately struggle this season

This summer has been a period of change at the Emirates, with Arsene Wenger leaving the managerial role and Unai Emery, the former Valencia,...

Pushed Wide: How Can Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan Fit in a Top-Heavy Arsenal?

So, it’s finally happened. As the Premier League January transfer window slams shut, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang steps into the Arsenal squad. By now, the Gooners...

The different interpretations of the 3 at the back formation by Conte, Wenger, Pochettino & Guardiola

Antonio Conte came to the Premier League in rather quiet fashion. The arrivals of Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola were the talk of the...

The back 3 formation is no longer the solution for Arsene Wenger’s troubles

The switch to the back three at the end of last season seemed to have finally solved Arsenal's defensive worries as they won 7...

Jurgen Klopp flips the midfield trivote to counter Wenger’s direct approach

The Alexis Sanchez story dominated all the headlines over the weekend, overshadowing an excellent Liverpool performance which surprisingly involved a very strong defensive performance....

Why Arsenal can’t compete in big games tactically

It’s February, and following their 5-1 defeat to Bayern Munich Arsenal look set to exit the Champions League in the Round of 16, and...

Latest Posts

Súper Dépor! The rise and fall of Deportivo La Coruña

At the Start With the exception of a 2nd place finish to Helenio Herrera’s Atlético Madrid in 1948/49, Deportivo La Coruña have historically plied their...

The ironic situation at Olympique de Marseille

Since the American Businessman, Frank McCourt bought the club in 2016, and despite a Europa League final two years ago, OM has failed to...

Best Football Analytics Books

We have compiled a list of the best football analytics books for the casual football fan. Football analytics and data science/machine learning in general...

Celtic drop out of KPMG’s “European Elite” report

Celtic who were the first Scottish club to feature in KPMG's annual study on European Football Clubs' valuation in 2019 have dropped out of...

Don't Miss

The ironic situation at Olympique de Marseille

Since the American Businessman, Frank McCourt bought the club in 2016, and despite a Europa League final two years ago, OM has failed to...

The Football match which started a war

Plenty of football stadiums have statues standing outside of them. There's strange one here and there (Michael Jackson formerly outside Craven Cottage springs to...

When Sir Alex Ferguson Lost by 9 Goals in back to back matches

I'm shattered, I can't believe it. It was our worst ever day. It's the worst in my history, ever. Even as a player I...

‘The Diamond demolition’ in the Kolkata derby

The year was 1997, and on the 13th of July, the stage was set for the biggest clash in Indian football – the Kolkata...

The Evolution and Political Dynamism of Football in Mussolini’s Italy

On a November night in 1934, the English national football team faced their Italian counterparts, Nazionale di calcio dell'Italia. The match was held at...

Transfers

Celtic drop out of KPMG’s “European Elite” report

Celtic who were the first Scottish club to feature in KPMG's annual study on European Football Clubs' valuation in 2019 have dropped out of...

Rangers interested in former Premier League forward

According to The Scottish Sun, Rangers are keen on Saido Berahino who currently plays for Belgium side Zulte Waregem. Berahino who had a very...

Arsenal set to start talks with Barcelona for Arteta’s dream signing

The English outlet, The Sun reports that Arsenal are set to complete a deal for Philippe Coutinho this week from Barcelona. Arsenal's manager, Mikel...

Arsenal and Juventus set to battle to sign Barcelona star on loan

According to the English outlet, The Sun, Barcelona are willing to listen to loan offers for their winger Ousmane Dembele. Dembele has had an...

Man United agree deal for teenage striker

According to the Daily Mail, Manchester United have agreed to sign Sunderland's teenage striker Joe Hugill for £250,000. The move is still to be ratified...