Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown has criticised manager Mikel Arteta’s decision to deploy defensive midfielder Granit Xhaka as a left-back in the 2-1 loss to Brighton last weekend. The Gunners; first-choice left-back Kieran Tierney is expected to miss the rest of the campaign due to a serious knee injury.
Tierney has been one of the club’s standout players this season and is arguably one of the first names in the team sheet. His defensive solidity and attacking abilities make him a key first-team player.
Arteta started Nuno Tavares against Nottingham Forrest in the FA Cup and Crystal Palace a fortnight ago. However, he endured a torrid time in both games and was at fault for both defeats.
Arteta deployed Granit Xhaka as a left-back against Brighton, a tactic he has used in the past. The Swiss, however, struggled against the Seagulls. Keown has expressed his displeasure at Arteta’s decision to play Xhaka as a left-back, as he believes the 29-year-old is getting exposed due to his shortcomings.
“Now Wenger said something very telling, and he told us in the first few weeks: ‘I bought a player who can’t tackle. He actually told us that in a press conference. ‘I think it’s something you develop when you’re very young; it’s too late for him now. I’ve told him to stay on his feet’,” said Keown as per Football.london.
“Maybe that said it all. There’s an issue for him with mobility, and he really shouldn’t be playing left-back in the most recent games because you expose him again. But he puts a performance in, and he’s vital in terms of leadership. But for us to go to the next level, we need a player of better quality.”
Arsenal will face a tricky test against Southampton on Saturday. The Gunners are in desperate need of a win after successive Premier League defeats. They are currently in fifth place in the league table, three points behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, but with a game in hand.
Arsenal could part ways with Granit Xhaka this summer
Arsenal signed Granit Xhaka from Borussia Monchengladbach in the summer of 2016 in a deal worth £30 million. The Swiss midfielder arrived at the Emirates Stadium with a weight of expectations, as he was seen as the tancious defensive midfielder the club has craved for many years.
However, the 29-year-old has failed to live up to expectations. Xhaka has also endured a tumultuous relationship with the Gunners faithful, which reached a boiling point when he saw red against Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium in 2019. The midfielder lashed out at the club’s fans after he was jeered off the field.
According to the Daily Mail, AS Roma are interested in signing Xhaka. Arsenal could sell the midfielder as he lacks the consistency and discipline required to help the club reach the next level.
As per Sky Sports, the Gunners view Wolves star Ruben Neves as a replacement for the Swiss international. The Portuguese midfielder’s passing, creativity, eye for goal and defensive abilities make him an ideal transfer target for Arteta.