Love him or hate him, it looks like Granit Xhaka will be back in action for the upcoming North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur on 26 September. The return will come as the 28-year old has been recovering from Covid and he will have served his suspension for being sent off against Manchester City by then.
Recent reports have noted that the Swiss international is back training at the Arsenal HQ at London Colney. It marks some time since Xhaka picked up the virus while playing with the Switzerland national football team earlier in September, but early indications are that the midfielder has made a full recovery.
There were doubts that Xhaka would be available for the Spurs game, but the two upcoming games against Burnley and Wimbledon in the League Cup will give the player chance to serve his suspension time. All of which means that it could be now or never for Xhaka to prove his worth to manager, Mikel Arteta, and the Arsenal fanbase.
Is Xhaka to blame for Arsenal‘s plight?
While there is no denying Xhaka’s formidable midfield presence, his unruly temperament has clearly got the better of him more than once. After all, the Swiss player has been sent off four times and picked up no less than 42 yellow cards in 164 Premier League appearances.
His recent sending off against Manchester City had a grim inevitability about it and Alan Shearer was one of the most vocal critics of Xhaka’s inexcusable tackle of Joao Cancelo. The 28-year old has already been the cause of many of Arsenal’s failings as his lack of discipline has frequently reduced the Gunners to being a 10-man team over the past couple of years.
Relations between Arsenal fans and the player never really recovered after his angry reaction to club supporters after being substituted against Crystal Palace in 2019. What was worse was that Xhaka was at that point the Arsenal captain and was providing far less of a role model than previous Gunners captains like Tony Adams, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry. While Xhaka has clawed his way back into the Arsenal team, it’s debatable as to whether he can ever win back the hearts of Arsenal fans.
Can Arteta turn the team around?
The Xhaka sending off was just the start of a bitter few weeks for the Arsenal faithful. Being bottom of the Premier League table after three games was simply inexcusable for a club of Arsenal’s size. Alongside the millions of fans all over the world, Arsenal is supported by stars ranging from Mick Jagger to Lewis Hamilton. While F1 fans will once again see Hamilton getting short odds at the bookmakers featured at Captaingambling.com, Arsenal’s chances of success are looking much less certain.
Things have gotten really bad when pundits start saying that a slender single-goal victory over Norwich City marks a turnaround at the Emirates. It’s been a long and painful decline for Arsenal, and a seemingly endless succession of managers can’t seem to stop the rot.
Ultimately the blame for Arsenal’s problems must fall with Arteta. While the Gunners boss has plenty of high-profile supporters such as Pep Guardiola, there is little denying the fact that his managerial record at the Emirates has been less than impressive.
Above all, there’s a visible lack of unity within the Arsenal ranks. It’s not just wildcards like Xhaka who are creating havoc, as the usually reliable nature of Pierre Emerick Aubameyang has been largely unpredictable ever since he signed a new contract with the club.
Thankfully Arteta has managed to offload the endlessly error-prone David Luiz, while the equally volatile Matteo Guendozi has been shipped out on loan to Marseille. But with no real stability or character in the ranks, it could be yet another difficult season for the Arsenal faithful.