Arsenal lost Granit Xhaka in the summer and for much of the season, his absence has been referenced but certainly not seen as a major loss. Many have put the lack of impact down to the arrival of Declan Rice and for good reason.
The former West Ham man has been the league’s best player so far this season and has enabled the club not only to become much more competitive against the likes of Manchester City but also to score some massive goals late on against the likes of Manchester United and Luton Town. He has been an utter bargain at £105million.
However, there is perhaps a clearer reason why Xhaka’s exit has not been missed as much as we might have thought. At least not missed as much as it was when he wasn’t in the team when he was still with Arsenal.
Oleksandr Zinchenko has been a player to face question marks about his role as a left back. For me, I think to question him because he is vulnerable defensively is judging him in the wrong way.
Sure, if you look on paper where Zinchenko lines up it is almost always in the left-back position. However, there is little that a traditional left-back might do that the Ukrainian takes on during games barring perhaps some defensive positioning when out of possession.
The best way to demonstrate this is by comparing the heat maps of three players. Below is the heat map of Xhaka last season, Zinchenko this season and the man who was said to be Xhaka’s replacement, Kai Havertz, also from this season.
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You can see that the areas for Zinchenko this season and Xhaka last season are almost identical.Read on football.london