Premier League Playback: Why is Man United’s midfield breaking down?

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MIDFIELD MUST CHANGE

After three losses in a week Manchester United and Jose Mourinho is reeling.

In their defeats to Manchester City last weekend, Feyenoord in midweek Europa League action and to Watford on Sunday, one thing is clear: the midfield is the main problem area.

In United’s 3-1 defeat at Watford on Sunday the Red Devils’ two central midfielders Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba both failed to track runners on each of Watford’s opening two goals and then Fellaini gave away a penalty kick for Watford’s third. It was a horrendous afternoon for them and their woes were intensified by the general mess that is United’s midfield.

[ MORE: Mourinho slams Luke Shaw ]

With Wayne Rooney playing in the No.10 role, United lack cohesion and most importantly balance between their three central players. Neither Fellaini or Pogba are adept at doing the dirty work in the engine room well and Mourinho has to find the right combination in the middle of the pitch to get the best out of his stuttering team.

After the game Mourinho failed to criticize either Pogba or Fellaini publicly. Instead he turned on 21-year-old left back Luke Shaw for his role in the build up to Watford’s second goal.

Mourinho admitted his players must deal with the pressure of a bad situation better, but so must he. Sunday’s defeat marked the first time he’s lost three competitive games consecutively in a single season since he was in charge at FC Porto in the 2001-02 season. The meltdown usually arrives for him in his third season at other clubs but after just three months in charge at Old Trafford things are already getting a little out of hand.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Continuing to play Fellaini and Pogba together in a midfield tandem will not work and will result in more defeats. Fellaini is hit and miss in this holding role, while Pogba just isn’t disciplined enough defensively to dovetail with a player who has had a handful of games in the deeper position. The balance isn’t correct and it is throwing everything off.

Take the second goal in the highlights above as a perfect example of all that is wrong with that midfield partnership. When Nordin Amrabat has the ball, Pogba points to Fellaini to take the run of Roberto Pereyra even though he is closer to him. That leaves a huge gap for Pereyra to pull the ball back into and Juan Camilo Zuniga then ran in-behind Pogba to finish and seal the win for the Hornets.

That’s just looking at the defensive side of things in midfield…

Going forward Rooney’s presence is stifling United’s midfielders and even Zlatan Ibrahimovic from being at their best. Rooney, 30, is clogging up the central attacking area which is attracting too many defenders towards him and isn’t allowing Ibrahimovic to drop deep and start attacks. The veteran Swedish striker is so good at doing that but he was isolated up front against Watford and is growing increasingly frustrated.

Rooney’s form should be worrying for Mourinho too. When he first arrived at United this summer, Mourinho pigeonholed himself when stating that Rooney would always be a No.9 or No.10 in his eyes and never a deeper midfield player as he was under Louis Van Gaal for the second half of last season. Rooney’s form is way short of where it should be and despite brief glimpses with a cross against Southampton, a run and cross against Hull and a close-range header against Bournemouth, United’s skipper doesn’t warrant a start anymore.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule | stats ]  

Those calling for Rooney to be moved into a deeper role in midfield should save their breath. Mourinho won’t do it. His words early in his reign at Old Trafford effectively said “Rooney, I’ll play you up front but if you don’t score goals, you know what will happen.” Rooney has scored once in five games and that was on the opening day of the season. Mourinho now has the perfect excuse to drop him, which is perhaps what he wanted to do all along.

If United are to get the best out of all of their best talents, this is how they should line up in the games to come.

—– De Gea —–

— Valencia — Bailly — Blind — Shaw —

—– Herrera —–

— Martial — Pogba — Mkhitaryan — Rashford —

—- Ibrahimovic —-

With that lineup United have a chance to keep the ball in midfield and it gives Pogba less defensive responsibilities and the chance to combine and run past Ibrahimovic. Pogba’s best attributes are charging in on goal in the final third, or smashing shots from distance or curling inch-perfect passes into the feet of a Marcus Rashford or a Zlatan. You have the most expensive player in the world at your disposal. Why would you not play to his strengths?

Pogba struggled against Man City, Feyenoord and Watford but looked better against the Hornets when he could surge forward as he hit the bar and lashed other efforts over. With Ander Herrera in a holding role you also have a player who can connect passes and keep United moving forward. They simply aren’t keeping the ball enough and are giving it away in key areas in front of their back four which allows other teams to counter quickly.

Think of how Pogba flourished at Juventus. Who was alongside him most of the time? Andrea Pirlo. I’m not saying Herrera is near that level, but the same principle would suit United’s midfield best and give them balance. With Henrikh Mkhitaryan alongside Pogba breaking from midfield, you also have the leading assist man from the Bundesliga last season. When Mkhitaryan is fit, he has to play centrally. He is much more effective in a No.10 role than he was in his ghastly first half display out wide against Manchester City. Mkhitaryan is also much more effective than Rooney in that central role.

Premier League Schedule – Week 5

Result Recap & Highlights
Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool Recap, watch here
C. Palace 4-1 Stoke Recap, watch here
Everton 3-1 M’boro Recap, watch here
Hull 1-4 Arsenal Recap, watch here
Leicester 3-0 Burnley Recap, watch here
Man City 4-0 B’mouth Recap, watch here
Saints 1-0 Swansea Recap, watch here
Tottenham 1-0 S’land Recap, watch here
Watford 3-1 Man Utd Recap, watch here
WBA 4-2 West Ham Recap, watch here

Mourinho has often gone with brutish central midfielders in his teams to break opponents down. He doesn’t have to do that at United. With Eric Bailly stepping out of defense to win balls, Herrera can use the ball to connect things together.

Rooney is the odd man out and until his form improves or Mourinho can find a better formula for his midfield struggles, it should remain that way. Getting the best out of big summers signings Pogba and Mkhitaryan has to be the priority if United are going to turnaround this worrying run of defeats.

It is still early in the season but Mourinho is struggling to fine tune this team packed with expensive stars. Sound familiar? For most United fans this is already getting a little too similar to Louis van Gaal’s time in charge.

We all know how that ended…


MERSEYSIDE RISING

A few miles across the north west of England, Liverpool and Everton are flying high.

Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool have beaten Arsenal, Leicester City and now Chelsea to have 10 points from their opening five games and although Everton’s schedule of games has been far kinder, Ronald Koeman has led the Toffees to their best-ever start in the PL with four wins from five and 13 points from a possible 15 to sit just first-place behind Manchester City.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]  

Under the “Friday Night Lights” at Stamford Bridge, Klopp’s Liverpool put in a complete display. Thanks to an early Dejan Lovren goal after a mix-up at the back from Chelsea and Jordan Henderson‘s wonder goal they were 2-0 up in the first half. Klopp’s side then sat back and soaked up pressure, looking more mature than they did last season when they probably would’ve gone for it and flooded forward at every opportunity. This team is maturing and even after Diego Costa pulled one back for Chelsea, the excellent Georginio Wijnaldum and Henderson in central midfield sat in and broke up the play masterfully to grind out the win.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned | Player ratings ]

It was a marquee win for Klopp against Antonio Conte and showed his side has more strings to their bow than just full-throttle attacking.

Yes, it is early days but can Klopp and Liverpool challenge for the title? Here’s what he thought when asked that after the game at Stamford Bridge on Friday.

“I am really not interested in what people think. I had the same question the game we won here 3-1 last time against Chelsea. My answer was ‘are you crazy?’” Klopp laughed. “Everything is good, we have 10 points that is fantastic. I am really happy after these difficult fixtures but the season is not over, we have to play football. We know we can play football and we are convinced in our quality, that is all the truth. In the end we have to prove it every week.”

As for Everton, they suddenly look much more solid defensively and Idrissa Gueye looks like the buy of the season so far, cleaning up everything in midfield and starting attacks for the Toffees. Such is the plethora of attacking options in Koeman’s squad, talk of a title push is in the air around Goodison. That was also firmly swatted away by Koeman who also isn’t cray-cray.

“Normally we can’t win the title – Leicester last season is an exception,” Koeman said. “You have the EFL Cup and the FA Cup – that’s important for most of the teams. If I tell you we will fight for the title, most people will say ‘the man is crazy’. The big teams have much more quality.”

Still, it’s fun for fans of Liverpool and Everton to have a much more positive start to a season than they’ve had in the past two campaigns.

Below are my thoughts on Liverpool’s win at Chelsea live pitch-side at Stamford Bridge on Friday. Enjoy.


DE BRUYNE DIFFERENT CLASS

Following the Manchester derby I wrote that Kevin de Bruyne was the difference between the two teams. The Belgian forward continues to be the difference-maker for Manchester City as they brushed aside Bournemouth 4-0 at the weekend to stay top and perfect in the Premier League with 15 points from 15.

[ VIDEO: Guardiola on quadruple chances ]

De Bruyne, 25, sent a cheeky free kick under the wall for City’s first, led a lightning-quick counter attack for their second and slotted in Ilkay Gundogan with a masterful pass for City’s fourth.

With Sergio Aguero out suspended, De Bruyne is stepping up big time in a central attacking role just behind Kelechi Iheanacho (who continues to score and now has 10 goals with just 14 shots on target in the PL).

Pep Guardiola believes there are few better than KDB. Probably only Lionel Messi.

“Messi is on a table on his own. No-one else is allowed. But the table beside, Kevin can sit there,” Guardiola said. “Kevin is an outstanding player, he is a player at another level. He understands the game, he is physically strong, he helps us out a lot defensively, aggressive without the ball and with the ball it is clear. He knows absolutely everything, he sees absolutely everything and in front of goal he makes assists and scores goals. We are so, so lucky that we have Kevin with us.”

Hard to disagree with any of that. City, but especially De Bruyne, are on a different level to start the season.


NEW HERO FOR LEICESTER

Islam Slimani is the new hero in Leicester.

The Algerian striker, 28, scored twice on his Premier League debut as the Foxes beat Burnley 3-0 at the King Power Stadium on Saturday to cap off a memorable weekend for Claudio Ranieri‘s side.

Last Tuesday they beat Club Brugge 3-0 in their first-ever UEFA Champions League game and now they’ve shown they can handle midweek UCL games away from home and deal with the bread and butter of winning games in the PL at the weekend. Leicester may not win the title this season but they look set to have a real good go at finishing in the top four.

Slimani’s goals could prove vital because whenever Jamie Vardy‘s goals dried up last season they struggled. Shinji Okazaki and Leonardo Ulloa scored some vital goals but had just 11 between them in the league and their new striker gives them a different option with his aerial ability well suited to Leicester’s direct style of play. Slimani’s stats at Sporting Lisbon speak for themselves with the bruising Algerian scoring 57 goals in 109 games in all competitions. He also has 23 goals in 44 games for Algeria and seems like the perfect foil for Vardy as the duo combined well against Burnley in the little and large roles.

Tougher tests will arrive for Leicester, most notably their trip to Old Trafford to play a wounded Man United this Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports), but Ranieri’s side have rebounded well after some early season wobbles with defeats at Hull City and Liverpool. 

The fairytale lives on.


Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

Mexicans Abroad: Weekend Roundup

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It looked as if Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez had scored his first goal for his new club Sevilla, at the expense for a former one, Real Madrid. Until it was taken away.

Chicharito came off the bench for Sevilla for a second-straight game and did his best to make an impact, but his offside goal aside, Sevilla slumped to a 1-0 defeat. Elsewhere, Edson Alvarez played in his first Eredivisie derby as Ajax took a 1-1 draw away from a trip to PSV Eindhoven.

Here is a list of several other Mexico national team affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) outside of Mexico this weekend.


Serie A

Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Napoli — Lozano came off the bench on Sunday for Napoli in the 73rd minute of it’s 4-1 win over Lecce.

Premier League

Raul Jimenez, Wolverhampton Wanderers — Jimenez started but was subbed off in the 76th minute of Wolves 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace. Jimenez now hasn’t scored in three-straight games in all competitions since the international break.

La Liga

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Sevilla — Chicharito came off the bench in the 69th minute against his former club, and even appeared to score the game-tying goal. Alas, it was ruled out for him being offside.

Hector Herrera, Atletico Madrid — Herrera finally made his first start for Los Colchoneros on Saturday in a scoreless draw with Celta Vigo. Herrera went 60 minutes before being substituted.

Andres Guardado, Real Betis —  The veteran midfielder returned to the starting lineup on Friday in a scoreless draw with Osasuna. Guardado played 78 minutes and picked up a yellow card.

Diego Lainez, Real Betis — The 19-year-old make the 18, but didn’t take the field against Osasuna.

Nestor Araujo, Celta Vigo — Araujo started and went the full 90 against his international teammate Herrera and Atletico Madrid in a scoreless draw. Araujo shut down an offense that includes Joao Felix, Diego Costa, Angel Correa and Alvaro Morata.

Eredivisie

Erick Gutierrez, PSV Eindhoven — Gutierrez made his return to the PSV gameday squad on Sunday for De Topper against Ajax. However, he didn’t make it off the bench.

Edson Alvarez, Ajax — Alvarez started and played the full 90 minutes in the 1-1 draw at PSV.

Primeira Liga

Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, FC Porto — Starting at right back again, Tecatito went 76 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Porto’s 2-0 win over Santa Clara.

Jupiler Pro League

Omar Govea, Zulte Waregem — Govea made the gameday squad but didn’t appear in Zulte’s 2-2 draw with Genk.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Hector Moreno, Al Gharafa   On Thursday, Moreno started and played 81 minutes in Al Gharafa’s 3-1 win over Al Ahli.

Juan Gerardo Ramirez Alosno, Roda JC — The 21-year-old fullback was left on the bench in Roda’s 3-1 defeat to Utrecht II on Friday.

Carlos Fierro, San Jose Earthquakes – Dressed but didn’t play in the Quakes’ 3-1 loss to Atlanta United.

Carlos Vela, LAFC – Vela scored a penalty kick goal to help save a point for LAFC against Toronto FC in a 1-1 draw.

Jonathan Dos Santos, LA Galaxy – Dos Santos started and went the full 90 minutes, picking up a yellow card, as the Galaxy beat the Montreal Impact, 2-1.

Uriel Antuna, LA Galaxy – Antuna started and scored the game-winning goal for the Galaxy off an assist from Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the Galaxy’s 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact.

Americans Abroad: Weekend Roundup

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One of the youngest Americans playing abroad had arguably the biggest weekend of any of his USMNT-eligible teammates.

Playing in his first derby for Ajax against PSV in league play, Dest started and set up teammate Dusan Tadic for a goal. Interestingly, with the Netherlands FA working to get Dest to commit to the Oranje moving forward, Dest had the chance to match up against Denzel Dumfries, the current first choice right back for the Netherlands.

The other big story? Christian Pulisic didn’t play again. More on that below.

Here is a list of several other USMNT affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) abroad this weekend.

Premier League

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea — Pulisic made the bench but didn’t appear for a third-straight match. Lampard explained to our own JPW why Pulisic has been on the sidelines.

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle — The fullback returned to training following a serious groin injury. There’s no timeline on his return yet, however.

EFL Championship

Antonee Robinson, Wigan Athletic — Robinson is a fixture at Wigan. The young left back started and played the full 90 minutes as Wigan picked up a win over a top-ten opponent, Charlton Athletic

Matt Miazga, Reading (loan from Chelsea) — The 24-year-old is out with a hamstring injury. There’s no timeline on his return.

Eric Lichaj, Hull City — The Tigers captain started and played the full 90 minutes in Hull City’s 3-0 win over Luton Town.

Geoff Cameron, QPR — The 34-year-old defender started at centerback and went the full 90, picking up a yellow card in QPR’s 2-1 win over Millwall.

Tim Ream, Fulham — Ream started and played 90 minutes in Fulham’s 1-1 draw at Sheffield Wednesday.

Cameron Carter-Vickers, Stoke City (loan Tottenham Hotspur) — Carter-Vickers started and went the full 90 minutes as Stoke City picked up just its second point of the season in a scoreless draw with Brentford.

Duane Holmes, Derby County — Holmes made his second-straight start after coming back from injury, and his first 90 minutes on the pitch as Derby County secured a last-gasp 1-1 draw with league-leading Leeds United.

EFL League One

Lynden Gooch, Sunderland – Gooch started and played the full 90 minutes, though Sunderland needed a last-minute goal from Aiden McGeady to draw at Bolton. .

Bundesliga

Weston McKennie, Schalke —  McKennie started, picked up a yellow card in the second half and then was substituted in the 76th minute, before Schalke scored a late winner in a 2-1 victory over Mainz.

Zack Steffen and Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf — Steffen started and played all 90 minutes in Fortuna Dusseldorf’s 2-1 defeat to rivals Borussia Monchengladbach. Steffen recorded a handful of incredible, point-blank saves to keep Fortuna in the game. Morales did not dress again.

Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen  With an injury crisis, Sargent got the start and played 80 minutes. Unfortunately for Sargent and Werder, they were routed by Leipzig – even without Tyler Adams.

Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig — Adams remains inactive with a groin injury. There’s no timeline on his return.

Fabian Johnson, Borussia Mönchengladbach Johnson didn’t make Borussia Monchengladbach’s 18 for their match against Fortuna Dusseldorf.

Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt — The veteran defender entered off the bench in the 83rd minute as Eintracht secured a massive 2-2 draw with Borussia Dortmund.

Julian Green, Greuther Furth – The 24-year-old midfielder started and played the full 90 minutes for Greuther Furth. Unfortunately, they lost 2-0 to league-leading Stuttgart in the 2. Bundesliga.

Eredivisie

Sergino Dest, Ajax — Dest started at right back in his first edition of “De Topper,” starring as Ajax drew 1-1 at PSV Eindhoven. Dest played the full 90 minutes and had an assist on Dusan Tadic’s goal.

Haji Wright, VVV-Venlo — The 21-year-old striker came off the bench in the 71st minute of VVV’s 1-0 loss to Willen II.

Desevio Payne, FC Emmen — The U-23 MNT fullback was left out of FC Emmen’s 18 once again. 

Ligue 1

Timothy Weah, Lille — Weah remains sidelined with a muscular injury. There’s no timeline on his return.

Theoson Jordan-Siebatcheu, Rennes — Siebatcheu made the 18 but did not feature in Rennes 1-1 draw with Lille.

Honorable Mentions:

Chris Richards, Bayern Munich II – The young Alabama native started and played the full 90 minutes as FC Bayern II defeated FC Ingolstadt, which was in the 2. Bundesliga just last season.

Andrija Novakovich, Frosinone – The 23-year-old striker, now in Serie B after five seasons on the books with Reading, made his first start for Frosinone, going 55 minutes in a 1-1 draw with Venezia.

Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund U-19 – Reyna started, scored, and played 77 minutes in Dortmund U-19s 6-1 win over Leverkusen. The 16-year-old attacker also scored earlier in the week in a 2-1 win over Barcelona U-19s in the UEFA Youth League.

Luca De La Torre, Fulham Reserves – Luca de la Torre is still stuck at Spurs without getting first team minutes, but he had a night to remember in the PL2. The 21-year-old midfielder scored the first, and game-winning-goal in a 90-minute performance as Fulham beat Reading U-23s, 5-4.

Serie A Roundup: Roma, Napoli, Lazio all win

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Edin Dzeko‘s last-gasp winner for AS Roma headlines a busy day in Serie A action on Sunday.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Bologna 1-2 Roma

Roma kept its unbeaten start to the 2019-2020 Serie A season thanks to a 94th-minute Edin Dzeko winner. The American-owned club first took the lead in the 49th minute through another former Premier League player, Aleksandar Kolarov. The Serbian delightfully placed a free kick at the top of the box over the wall and into the top corner.

However, Bologna quickly capitalized after Kolarov bundled over Roberto Soriano in the box, leading to a penalty kick call that VAR confirmed. Nicola Sansone waited for Roma goalkeeper Pau Lopez to move and then slotted the ball into the right corner to tie the match.

Roma went down to ten men in the 85th minute when new signing Gianluca Mancini, a centerback, picked up his second yellow card for a foul on Felipe Santander as he was about to run into the box. And yet, even though Roma was on the ropes, Dzeko popped up in a pocket of space at the top of the six-yard box and powered home a header just before the final whistle to win the game. With the win, Roma jumps into the top four with eight points from four games.

Lecce 1-4 Napoli

Don’t tell Fernando Llorente that his best days are behind him.

Having left Tottenham in search of more first team minutes, Llorente just scored for the second-game straight as he bagged a brace in Napoli’s rout on the road over Lecce. At 34-years old, the crafty veteran may be the perfect age for star striker in Italy, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Fabio Quagliarella (26 goals last year at age 36) all at a similar age.

Llorente took advantage of his experience in the 28th minute, latching onto a blocked shot from Arkadiusz Milik that dribbled into the middle of the box, leaving Llorente for an easy finish past Lecce goalkeeper Gabriel.

VAR gave Napoli a controversial penalty kick in the 35th minute off a handball from Panagiotis Tachtsidis in the box. Lorenzo Insigne stepped up to take the penalty kick and his spot kick was saved expertly by Gabriel. However, the referee awarded a do-over after seeing Gabriel was a step off his line before the ball was kicked. Insigne didn’t miss on the second attempt, putting Napoli up 2-0.

Fabian Ruiz in the second half curled home an absolute beauty to put Napoli up 3-0. Lecce cut the decide by one with a penalty kick goal, but Llorente gave Napoli their three-goal lead again with another one-on-one finish from close.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sassuolo 3-0 SPAL

Sampdoria 1-0 Torino

Atalanta 2-2 Fiorentina

Lazio 2-0 Parma

What should Emery do with Xhaka?

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Arsenal fans have directed their ire at many different people, but aside from manager Unai Emery, many fans have been criticizing the recent play of midfielder Granit Xhaka.

Named Arsenal captain this summer after Laurent Koscielny‘s insubordination and eventual departure, Xhaka looked set to take Arsenal to the next level this summer, with three stars up top and a veteran defense behind him. However, in Premier League matches where Arsenal has struggled, it seems that Xhaka has been right in the middle of it. Sometimes, that’s just because of his holding midfield position. Other times, it’s because he didn’t make the play that was necessary.

[READ: 10-man Arsenal beats Aston Villa in a thriller]

Take Saturday’s eventual 3-2 win by Arsenal over Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium. Despite having a decent game by all accounts, Xhaka allowed Ahmed El Mohamady to run right past him on a mazy run through the middle of the field, eventually centering to Wesley which gave Aston Villa a 2-1 lead. It gave the visitors the advantage yet again right after Arsenal equalized.

Xhaka had every chance to try and make a tackle, or at the least bring El Mohamady down farther from goal if there was no choice but to foul and give up a free kick. Instead, Xhaka just followed El Mohamady before passing him off to a teammate in the box, who was equally as poor.

Not long after, Xhaka was substituted, with some Arsenal fans raining boos down on their captain. And whether it had to do with him or not, Arsenal went from a goal down to a goal up once Xhaka left the field.

According to manager Unai Emery, Xhaka was taken off in the 72nd minute not due to his performance, but to bring on fresh legs. It was a double substitution, with Dani Ceballos also coming off in place of Lucas Torreira and Joe Willock.

“My opinion is we need our supporters and we need our supporters helping each player but our responsibility is to transmit our capacity, our spirit, our commitment and behavior,” Emery said after the game. “And Xhaka is doing that. He played very well on Thursday and also last week in Watford he played with a good individual performance. Today I changed him because on Thursday he played 90 minutes and prefer to use fresh players for today a chance for him but for me Xhaka is very good player for us. He has a very big commitment here. He is improving and I am not asking the people to support him but I am sure that he is going to achieve the best thing individually and collectively for the supporters to help him.”

Just one week earlier, Xhaka claimed that his Arsenal teammates – and presumably himself as well – were “scared” in the second half as Watford stormed back for a 2-2 draw. Man City’s 8-0 pummeling of Watford makes that draw look even worse in retrospect.

If Arsenal is “scared,” and they’re giving up two goals in two straight matches each to two of the worst defensive teams in the league, then perhaps the club captain isn’t doing enough. It seems that although Xhaka has experience, he’s going through a rough patch of form in the Premier League – he looked good in Europa League action – and might do well with a match off.

Luckily for Arsenal, if Emery does agree to give Xhaka a rest, he has a talented player in Lucas Torreira who will run himself into the ground for the team. In addition, he’d likely have stopped that run from El Mohamady instead of letting him glide into the box with hardly a challenge.

It appears Unai Emery is publicly sticking with Xhaka. Arsenal needs Xhaka at his best to make it back into the top four. But right now, he’s clearly not there, and he needs to figure things out on the training pitch so he can shine once again.