Mikel Arteta has admitted that opinion-splitting Arsenal star Granit Xhaka ‘gives something different’ to the team in his new position at left-back, where the Swiss star has now made six appearances.
The Arsenal manager was questioned as to whether the ‘very little rotation’ in the problem position was done on purpose, in an effort to offer Xhaka the ‘best chance of adapting’ to the new role.
Arteta agreed that it was ‘one of the reasons’. Xhaka has played every minute of the side’s last six matches at left-back after the injury to Kieran Tierney and has looked mixed at the defensive spot.
Xhaka’s deployment in defence may well have made the side more creative and forward-thinking in midfield, but the 28-year-old has faced some difficulty in one-on-one situations in the new position.
Mikel Arteta on Granit Xhaka being used at left-back for Arsenal and how the star offers the team ‘something different’ in that role… pic.twitter.com/CU59G5T8M8
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“It’s been one of the reasons, because of the way we wanted to play and the players around.”
“We have managed to get some clean sheets since he’s been playing there and that’s something that didn’t happen for 13 games. He gives something different to the team.”
Arteta also mentioned Cedric Soares in the press conference, which can be read here, who has played at left-back a fair bit since joining Arsenal, but unfortunately saw his playing time cut when Xhaka was drafted in and Calum Chambers had already started to build some momentum on the opposite flank.
Whilst Xhaka has looked alright at the spot in the Premier League, the natural midfielder seemed a bit out of his depth in the first-leg against Villarreal, which the side lost 2-1.
Xhaka looked unflattering with his defending before the Spanish side’s first goal, so Arteta may well need to make a change here to increase the Gunners’ hopes of a second-leg comeback.