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.

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