The word flop gets thrown around quite often in the sports world, especially dealing with European soccer. Generally, to be considered a flop a player has to (or least should) cost a significant amount of money and also make little impact, both statistically and on a personal level, with his new club. Yet despite this criteria, players still get labeled as a flop even though the aforementioned reasons to be called a failure do not coincide with their actual output.
Case in point: Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka. Some pundits are already calling the midfielder a flop not even nine months after making his Premier League debut with the Gunners. Words like reckless, disappointing, and poor are regularly thrown around when discussing Xhaka.
There is even the notion that while Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante and Tottenham’s Victor Wanyama, both somewhat similar players, have made seamless transitions to their respective new clubs, Xhaka has not. Yet both Kante and Wanyama came from clubs inside the Premier League, while Xhaka arrived to north London from the German club Borussia Monchengladbach.
Keeping in mind the criteria for the word “flop,” let’s take a look at how Xhaka has got on so far at Arsenal. Was he an expensive acquisition? Yes. The 24-year-old midfielder reportedly cost the Gunners around £30 million. Xhaka was a hot commodity and prior to his move to north London was highly-regarded around Europe as a budding star in the middle of the pitch.
Statistically speaking it is difficult to put Xhaka’s numbers straight up next to Kante and Wanyama’s, as the Chelsea and Spurs players have between 600-900 more Premier League minutes under their belt this season than the Arsenal midfielder. However, when looking at per 90 minutes statistics, Xhaka beats Kante and Wanyama in many important categories.
Finally, Xhaka appears to be very popular among his teammates, as well as former Gunners. Arsenal striker turned pundit, Ian Wright, previously stated that Xhaka could eventually be the club’s captain in the near future. “The way [Xhaka] is,” said Wright, “I’m telling you – that guy has the capabilities, from what I’ve seen of him, to be a future captain of the football club.”
Francis Coquelin, a fellow defensive midfielder, was also full of praise for his teammate. “His quality on the ball, his range of passing, passing the ball from deep [is great],” stated Coquelin. “He is a complete player. I don’t know how many caps he has for Switzerland and he’s only 24. He’s still adapting but he’s doing great.”
Ultimately, it is difficult to label a player a flop who is new to the Premier League, yet leads the league in successful passes per 90 minutes, is second in pass percentage (among midfielders with at least 20 league starts), and eleventh in tackles per game (among midfielders). Yes, Xhaka can improve his game, especially with his discipline. But at 24, and in his first season in England, the midfielder is not playing as badly as some will claim.
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