Mails: Granit Xhaka would have thrived at Liverpool

Date published: Tuesday 4th April 2017 7:35

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In defence of Granit Xhaka
I’ve read a few comments on your site recently about Granit Xhaka – that he doesn’t actually do much, that he’s not justified the price tag and so forth; your recent 16 Conclusions piece on the Arsenal/City game being the latest such example.

(Actually, we then put him in our top ten worst signings – Ed)

Whilst I agree he’s yet to set the world alight, and that he’s definitely played within himself this season, ultimately he’s simply the latest victim of Arsene Wenger’s tactical inflexibility, which is one of the many reasons many Arsenal fans want a change of manager.

Tactically, Wenger is being left behind by other managers. Unlike a Klopp, a Conte or a Pochettino, he’s seemingly unable to forge a team that’s collectively greater than the sum of its parts (Liverpool are ahead of us despite having no striker and James bloody Milner at full-back).

Wenger has a single formation (the 4-2-1-3 or slight variations thereof), that he sticks to no matter what. While some managers are open to adjusting their tactics or style of play to suit a certain opponent or situation, Wenger keeps to the same plan, regardless. This has resulted in many square-peg-in-round-hole moments (such as Aaron Ramsey being played out wide, Gabriel playing full-back ahead of Rob Holding, and Xhaka as a holding midfielder), and is also part of the reason why we’ve been unable to find a suitable slot for Jack Wilshere in the team, even when fit. While some managers will take what they have and select a formation to suit the personnel at hand (like Tottenham permanently ditching wingers because their full-backs are so good at getting forward), Wenger picks the formation first and then just throws various combinations of players at it, hoping to luck out and find a blend that will actually stick.

Despite his current travails, Xhaka was bloody excellent for Gladbach last season, helping them qualify for the Champions League; they are currently tenth. While they were by no means a one-man team, Xhaka was a vital player for them last year. His skill-set hasn’t diminished in that year – he’s just being used incorrectly.

There are many recent examples of excellent midfielders being hamstrung by poor systems. Hazard last season under Mourinho, Pogba this season under Mourinho. Steven Nzonzi never looked a world-beater at Stoke, but has been a revelation this year at Sevilla. The trick is to use the right players in the right system – otherwise, why bother buying them? One counter-argument would be that, if you’re a good enough player, you can play anywhere. But whilst there are a number of adaptable midfield men out there, Xhaka is a specialist. He might not be a versatile Swiss army knife like, say, Fernandinho, but he’s a very good one-job man: playing him in the wrong role is like expecting a top-of-the range cordless drill to help mow the lawn.

Xhaka is not a defensive midfielder by trade, but often ends up there, having to get a last-ditch tackle in, simply because he’s usually paired up with the hapless Coquelin. Put a real defensive midfielder alongside him, take away that burden, and he’s a gem of a player. Either that or simply afford him more protection, as Liverpool seem to do for Henderson. The key is in the positional discipline of Xhaka and the players around him, but Wenger just doesn’t seem to be interested in setting up that kind of framework within his teams.

Whilst I’m not placing all the blame on Wenger here (Xhaka is his own worst enemy at times, and admittedly played poorly against City), the fact remains that Arsenal bought a great little player, but frustratingly refuse to do him justice. He’d have been a great signing for Liverpool (in the Wijnaldum role) or even at Manchester City. But the difference is that Klopp and Pep seem to have a proper game plan, rather than simply saying, “right, play in those positions, do whatever the hell you like, then if it’s not working after 74 minutes I’ll sub off the wingers”.
Ryan Frost, Rayne, Essex


The glass is half-full…
I realise that I’m one of life’s positive people, I like to try and empathise on situations before casting my conclusions, and even then I’m always quite happy to give people the benefit of the doubt. With that as a caveat then the rest of my mail can follow, I’m sure you will ridicule but haters gotta hate, or whatever the kids say these days.

Barkley – Now his challenges were pretty bad and I can definitely understand that he should have been red carded, the one I’m interested in is the one against Lovren where he could easily have broken his leg, that alone should be enough for him to be carded (again). But it did look as though he tried to stop what was happening from being worse. It seemed to me that he tried to jump out of the way a little, which is why it looked awkward as he tumbles in the air afterwards, his momentum was on the foot that was on Lovren’s shin so the only results were either a full-weight follow through, or an ungainly attempt to shift weight and momentum. The challenge is the foul, but to me it did at least look like he tried to avoid doing any damage on this one.

Williams stamp – It didn’t like like a stamp, or maybe that was his initial intent but again it looked like he was then trying to stop the situation by moving his weight to his other leg, resulting is his odd kind of stumble and why no damage was inflicted. As above, maybe his intent was a stamp and then the foul is committed but it seemed like to me that he then tried to stop it, which worked.

Moyes – He said it at the end of an interview, and with a smile on his and the reporter’s face, it seemed like a joke (maybe a relevant one, who knows) and seemed to have been taken in that way at the time, he apologised and she accepted. Cant that just be the end of it? Why do people have to become so offended on a stranger’s behalf and try to look for so many deep reasons why it happened.

Mourinho – He got a bit of a pasting this weekend, but that was a ridiculous question from the reporter, it was either a question from someone who didn’t watch the game, or someone who was trying to extract a reaction, either way it’s really not football reporting at all, would be good if the standard of questioning improved.

There’s loads more and I’m happy to share my cheery thoughts. But the mailbox seems such a negative place, in fact football reporting and journalism seems so preoccupied with digging and twisting until the negative appears and it’s a shame, let the reader decide and present all sides.
Steve, THFC


Moyes was being sexist though…
Sorry Edwin and Thom from Bristol, it was a sexist comment.

Just because Moyes adds the rider that he would have slapped her if she was a man, does not make it less sexist.

So let’s look at what Moyes did.

He used his relative position of power (reporters need to get quotes from managers) to let him make a statement that would get him in trouble if it were anyone else from the public.

It was offensive to think that he should be allowed to, at will, say that you can simply slap anyone because of that position of power.

It was abusive. It abused the power imbalance.

But let’s face it, it WAS sexist because he has never said that to another male reporter and never would. He thought that because it was a woman he could get away with it and use his relative power over her to make what he said into a funny. Until of course her managers at the BBC called him out and he had to apologise.

There is the idea because the receiver of the comment had to accept it as ‘jovial’ and that it was presented as being a little ‘jokey’ that it’s okay to make those statements. That is the slippery slope we all fall into when it comes to sexism, racism or any other xenophobic situation.

Too often the FA and the PL slide these kind of remarks under the counter as being ‘banter’. Moyes needs to be heavily punished to show it for what it was.
Paul McDevitt


…Just a point I wanted to make in the debate of whether Moyes is sexist or not.

Surely it does not matter whether the recipient is male or female, male aggression is male aggression and something to be stopped. This kind of comment made to a professional is based on a PFM-type machismo that uses violence to assert masculinity/superiority. It would only be applied to people considered weaker (and considering gender stereotypes…) and so can be termed misogynistic. And that’s even without talking about things like domestic violence.
MN Aditya


Stop being outraged
How on earth does David Moyes saying he will give someone a slap, quite clearly in a joking manner, make such headlines?

He didn’t say anything about her being a less equal person as a result of her gender. He wasn’t aggressive or intimidating as other prominent managers often are in post-match interviews.

He wasn’t suggesting he has physical prowess over a woman? I think it is pretty evident that he has (and generally men do). You cannot disagree that males prevail physically over women…it’s why we have sports participation separated by gender. Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce is not and never will be faster the Usain Bolt, for example.

(Side note as there will no doubt be people screaming at this last paragraph – I in no way whatsoever condone exerting physical domination over a female, or anyone for that matter)

And if anyone is outraged because he is insinuating “he won’t hit women, therefore that makes him sexist”, then answer this…if you swap woman for short fella, is he being short-ist??

Where do we stop in the search for parity? I’m all for equality and fairness, but it devalues the importance of the argument when such events are dramatised way beyond their actual effects.

This “news” is nothing more than fake outrage. Outrage on other people’s behalf. Why has this journalist not complained about Moyes’s comments? Why are so many outlets doing it on her behalf?

People are dying whilst sleeping on the streets in the north east where I live because of cuts this government is choosing to make, yet the first article on local TV news tonight is Moyes.

Seamus Coleman has a career-threatening injury, and Ross Barkley just nearly did the same to Lovren. Why are Moyes’s jestful comments more newsworthy than discussing if Barkley and Neil Taylor deserve a three-game ban or a yellow card?

It’s top article on the BBC Sport and Sky Sports websites.

And the argument of “we’ve all said this sort of thing to our mates” actually holds some salt here, for a change. I and many others frequently say such things in jest at my workplace. To males, females, bosses, subordinates, dwarves and fatties, knobheads and sound people. It isn’t discrimination, or any sort of -ism.

Basically, what I’m saying is IT WAS A JOKE FFS GET OVER IT YOU BUNCH OF WHINGEY LITTLE PRISSY ARSEHOLES. There are so many much, much, much more important and pressing matters that our attentions should be focused on.
Graeme L


Liverpool through the looking glass
Happily ensconced in the Kop at Saturday lunchtime, a few things occurred:

1) We’re really fun to watch going forward and I may have a man crush on Divock Origi. Judging from the folk around me, I wasn’t alone.

2) Our defenders aren’t nearly as pony as people would have you believe. Lukaku really wasn’t that bad, Lovren just *owned* him. More a case of our defenders playing well than their attack being off colour. In my opinion.

3) Barkley is a cheating twunt. No Ronald, he really is.

4) Watching Jurgen having a complete meltdown when we chanted his name (even though the game really was over) was just the funniest damn thing all day. And that includes Koeman saying Everton played well.

With Arsenal tearing themselves apart and United kindly refusing to score, fourth seems very achievable. And third certainly isn’t impossible.

Though it is slightly Alice in Wonderland mental to look at our run-in and wish we had *more* top teams to face than less.

To borrow a well-worn phrase, next season might be our year!
Another deluded Scouse fan (not fat though)


Do assistant managers actually care?
I’m no wordsmith, and I’m too lazy to do the research, but I’ll throw out this question – how committed are assistant managers to the cause?

Unless you’re a long-term assistant that sticks with the boss through thick and thin like Mourinho’s Faria (is there anyone less-liked than Mourinho?), is the assistant really trying his best?

I reckon most assistants are hoping the team fails dismally and the manager gets kicked out prematurely. They will then get five games in which to impress while the club look for a permanent replacement. If they manage to turn things around with a couple of wins, they have the job until the end of the season or perhaps longer and hey presto, they’re now Premier League managers and who knows where to next. Furthermore, how often does the team struggle until the sacking and then start performing, could the assistant not have done something before the manager lost his job? And yes, I know that changing the manager can change the attitudes in the camp, but surely the assistant must take some responsibility…

I’m sure the list is very long but let me just pick out three recent examples:

1st – Craig Shakespeare – Ranieri sacked, Shakespeare appointed and suddenly they’re winning everything.

2nd – Roberto Di Matteo – From nowhere to winning the Champions League, then on to some high-profile clubs before people start to realise he’s not all that good.

3rd – Ryan Giggs – A classic case of being assistant with an eye on the main prize, and when he wasn’t given the job he left in a huff.


Football needs more fans like Palace’s
I wrote in (unpublished) six weeks ago, foolishly predicting the third team to be relegated. It was a toss up between AFC Bournemouth and Crystal Palace. I’ve just read Ant’s letter and his comments. Brilliant summation of the unquantifiable factor that I too can imagine hot lines to the players. We are told time and again that margins are so tight at this level of professional sport, that 1% extra desire/focus/strength can make an incredible difference. I completely agree with his take on creating an atmosphere. Napoli and the buri-buri at Sevilla try endlessly to do this for their team too. Quintessence of football fandom en masse. The Premier League needs way more of this, especially from the passive younger home fans.
Peter, Andalucia

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