Granit Xhaka, Ilkay Gundogan, Scott Mctominay, Jordan Henderson
by Chirag R Bhattad
The much-maligned Granit Xhaka has always been an anomaly. Fans love to hate him, while managers love to play him. He regularly started under Arsene Wenger, which is understandable, given it was Le Proffeseur who signed him from Borussia Monchengladbach. But when Unai Emery came in, the fans thought now was the time for Granit Xhaka to be benched.
But Emery not only followed Arsene Wenger, he also made him the club captain. This great anomaly is the reason for comparing Granit Xhaka with players of similar profile and style to understand just how good Granit Xhaka actually is. Ilkay Gundogan, sitting at the base of Man City midfield, has been doing the same job this season.
Jordan Henderson is another such player who is expected to put in the lung-busting tackles and forward looking passes at the same time. For Man Utd, Scott McTominay has usually sat back and shored up the midfield with his great positional awareness and passing ability. With this, our candidates are set. So let the statistical modeling begin!
Passing ability is the bread and butter of these players. They are playing in the starting XI primarily due to their ability to spread the ball, increase the width of the attack and to keep the ball rolling in transition. This is why attributes like Average passes per game, Pass completion %, Accurate long balls per game and Key passes per game are used as a yard-stick to measure the effectiveness of these players.
Talking about average passes per game, Xhaka narrowly pips Gundogan with 61.9 passes per game compared to 56.8 by Gundogan. McTominay averaged 51.2 passes per game while Jordan Henderson had just 36.2. In terms of accuracy, Gundogan had an impressive 91% pass completion rate, while Xhaka had a respectable 86.5%. McTominay clocked 80.5% while Henderson had a below par 75.8%.
When it comes to spreading the play with Accurate long balls, Xhaka blew his competitors away with 4.9 long balls per game, compared to 4 by McTominay, 2.9 by Gundogan and 2.6 by Henderson. Only the Man Utd youngster managed to come close to Xhaka’s numbers.
While the ardent Arsenal supporters know that Xhaka doesn’t get much involved in the final third, his 0.8 key passes per game were second only to Gundogan’s 1.2 key passes per game. McTominay made 0.6 key passes per game, while Henderson had 0.3 key passes per game.
Pass master: Granit Xhaka (Arsenal)
Now this is an attribute which is defined by how assured the player is on the ball and how often does he seek it. The attributes which are used to define this parameter are Number of toucher per game, Number of times dispossessed per game and Bad control per game.
Granit Xhaka recorded 74.3 touches per game, while McTominay had 70.4 touches per game, Ilkay Gundogan had 66.1, Henderson had just 49.2 touches per game. Meanwhile, Henderson was dispossessed just 0.2 times per game, while the same happened 0.4 times with Xhaka, 0.6 times with Gundogan and 1.5 times with McTominay every game.
In terms of ball control, Gundogan recorded a meagre 0.4 bad controls per game, while Henderson closely followed with just 0.6 bad control per game. Xhaka just missed out on Hendo’s number with 0.7 bad controls per game, while McTominay had a mammoth 2.1 bad controls per game.
Mr. Dependable: Granit Xhaka (Arsenal)
Clearly Granit Xhaka is doing way better than what the fan portray. Moving on, the third and final parameter measured how good these players fared defensively. To measure this parameter, attributes like Tackles per game, Fouls committed per game and Clearances per game were used.
Granit Xhaka made the most successful tackles per game this season (2), with Jordan Henderson and Scott Mctominay hot on his heels with 1.9 and 1.8 successful tackles respectively. Ilkay Gundogan could only record 0.8 successful tackles per game. Because his number of successful tackles were low, Gundogan also committed the least number of fouls per game (0.4). Henderson committed 1, Mctominay committed 1.7 while Xhaka committed 2.4 fouls per game.
In terms of Clearances per game, Xhaka again led the way with 1.9 per game, while McTominay, Henderson and Gundogan followed suit with 1.5, 0.9 and 0.3 clearances per game.
Defensive wall: Granit Xhaka (Arsenal)
So I have defined 3 parameters and 10 attributes to measure the effectives of these midfielders. When I score them on these 10 attributes, the results might come as a huge, huge shock!
Arsenal fans need to seriously look in the mirror, understand the the fault is within them and start appreciating Granit Xhaka more and more. He pips world-class midfielders in Ilkay Gundogan and Jordan Henderson by showing that he is the best at what he does. Meanwhile, Man Utd fans have something to cheer, with their young midfielder Scott McTominay performing better than Jordan Henderson, the captain of European champions Liverpool.
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