Arsenal newbie Granit Xhaka dominated against Watford. He did just about everything right, drawing comparisons to Emmanuel Petit. Hopefully not too much.
Largely, but not completely. He attempted more passes, made more tackles and had more touches of the ball than any other player in the win, and also covered the most ground, according to Arsenal.com.
Arsene Wenger took notice too, heaping praise on his prized signing. “He is a bit similar to Petit in the way he plays football. He likes to sit, give good long balls and be available with the centre-backs.”
Pretty high praise from Le Prof. It has added impetus considering the fact that, as we found out during the game, the Swiss midfielder was not even supposed to start. A Francis Coquelin illness gave Xhaka another chance to prove that he was ready, and turns out he was. It was pretty stellar to see his eye for the long ball in action.
It was also nice to see the control and character that we were expecting out of him, but had not yet seen. Xhaka was a force in the middle of the pitch, touching the ball more than anyone else. He was always barking out commands and it’s clear that he does have a lot of the same characteristics that Emmanuel Petit had.
Then again, let’s hope he doesn’t have all the characteristics Petit had.
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For as wonderful as Petit was, he only stayed in North London for three years before he and Marc Overmars took the bait and ran away to Barcelona. The demonstrative French midfielder was very outspoken about his regret for choosing Barcelona. He had a pretty solid career path carved out for him at Highbury but ‘greater things’ called and he obliged.
Granit Xhaka doesn’t seem like that sort. For starters, he is much younger than Petit when he first arrived, so he is in a position to build a solid legacy at Arsenal. He is coming at a time where that leadership void can easily be filled and he has now also come at a time where Arsenal is well equipped for some serious silverware.
Plus, so long as he keeps hanging out with Mesut Ozil, I think we can rest easy knowing that his faith in the club is only being reinforced. Wenger did promise him ‘paradise’ after all.