Wenger defends Xhaka’s defending, warns about penalties

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Arsene Wenger says that Granit Xhaka is not a dirty player, but says the Swiss international needs to be a bit more careful having conceded his second penalty of the season against Bournemouth on Tuesday night.

He had previously given one away against Stoke – a much more harsh decision that the foul on Ryan Fraser which was clumsy – but the Arsenal manager says the £35m signing has improved defensively since he arrived at the club during the summer.

“You can see in his game he is not a dirty player,” he said. “Overall I am quite happy with his defensive evolution.

“He is less spectacular in his tackling and he stays more on his feet. He uses his body better to win the challenges and his recovery runs are stronger when the ball goes behind him.

“He is much more focused defensively than before. He has improved a lot on that front.”

However, the penalty issue is something Wenger wants him to address, asking him to be a bit smarter, but also suggesting he was a bit unlucky on both occasions.

“He has conceded a few and I agree he has to stop that,” he continued. “But always it’s… is it really a penalty or not?

“I think he was unlucky on both occasions, but he has to adapt. Especially on the other night it was a really soft challenge. Because if it’s a penalty, why is it not a foul on Hector Bellerin?

“It’s not even similar. The challenge on Hector was much bigger. Xhaka was a bit unlucky but he has to correct that.”

While we certainly are with him on the Bellerin thing, there’s no doubt it was penalty, but the one against Stoke was very generous to say the least.

On the wider issue of him being a dirty player, it’s hard to see where that comes from. Three yellow cards and one ridiculously harsh red card in 25 appearances this season is a long, long way from those who have genuinely poor discipline.

18 COMMENTS

  1. Xhaka should only kick ass to protect our players far away from our penalty spot.get a yellow see out the match.

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    • That was the clearest penalties I have seen in a long time. If you want a bullshit decision, look at when Bellerin was body shoved off the ball for the goal. If it was close to the edge of the pitch, he would have crashed into the advertisement boards.

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    • that was indeed a penalty. but like wenger said i dont think xhaka is a dirty player. whatever cards he conceded or penalties he he recieved they are either contentious or tactical fouls. he simply need to use his head when fouling like that. arteta was a master at this art , using fouls effectively to stop the attacks . but he did not received this much cards. xhaka needs to use his head more when trying to stop attack like that and he will be an asset for us

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  2. I like Xhaka and his physical presence. You want to see dirty? Comment on Suarez. Sit through any Barcelona games and you’ll know what I mean. This one game I was just watching like that. Do u know how he earned his side a free kick? Ball is in the air, he looks back and sees exactly when defender jumps for ball, he pushes his bum out into mid air defender and then goes down. This is just one example. That’s why I hate Suarez. You can be the best player in the world, but if u pull dirty, childish stunts like that, I have zero respect for you.

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    • Bit of a shame that. Still happen to think Michael Oliver is one of the best refs going. Guess they’ll always have an off day here and there… would rather it wasn’t always for the arsenal games!

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      • I think Oliver is the best referee in England at the moment. I also think he got every decision but one right in the Bournemouth match, and it was very unfortunate that that incorrect decision (foul on Bellerin) led directly to a goal.

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  3. I find Xhaka quite confusing: in some games this season he has looked great but in others (Everton and Bournemouth away) he has been abject.

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    • I think that he struggles under the press that some teams play with (Everton, Bournemouth, City in the second half, Spurs to a certain extent) but when he’s given the time and space to pick a pass he thrives. He’s clearly a player teams like to target (like Cazorla) so it’s especially important he gets up to speed here

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  4. He’s not exactly Patrick Vieira, either as a player or in the number of Red cards he earns. Xhaka is quality, but if a opponent gets past him, he always tries to bring them down, even in our box.

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  5. I know I’m biased, but it’s ridiculous that when it’s an Arsenal player in question they’re ‘dirty’ or ‘reckless’ but deep midfielders and physical players are at every club in the league, and he’s less physical than many of them.

    It took a near back to back throat grabbing and two-footed lunge before anyone talked about City players, but Xhaka was labeled before he even touched the match day pitch.

    He’s a victim of the narrative that preceded him right now, and someone needs to have a respectful conversation with the referees about it.

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