Where now for Granit Xhaka?
Granit Xhaka was substituted in the 79 minute against Aston Villa on Saturday. He had a yellow card and probably that was part of the reason. He has accumulated 56 yellows and 4 reds in his time at Arsenal which means at least 56 times he was in the manager’s mind to be subbed out of 211 total appearances in the Premier League, more than a quarter of all matches. That is not good, obviously. Now I had it in mind that he has improved his disciplinary record but it is a bit difficult to truly say that. Last season, despite 3 months out through injury and only 27 games, he managed to get 1 red and 10 yellows, almost half the matches. This season, so far, he has been better with 4 yellows from 23 games, but still close to a quarter and if he has a bad disciplinary record to the end of the season could reach his previous average.
Now, I am aware he seems to get worse treatment than some other players but, still, I think we have to accept that he has a discipline problem. So, we now have Jorginho, highly experienced and is a proven winner. And guess what? In 146 Premier League games he has never been sent off and has 29 yellows, a far better return. He will surely push Xhaka for his place and I am going to compare their respective records on the pitch. I am going to throw into the mix Declan Rice, who is a constant mention as a summer signing. That will be three players for one position, assuming Partey is available. Rice, if he comes, will be a big money signing and there is always pressure to play such players.
Can statistics provide the answer?
Let’s imagine, for now, that Jorginho gets in this season and keeps Xhaka out as first choice or at least plays so well when on, that a lot of fans would choose him over Xhaka. Where would that leave Declan Rice? Remember also that we have some superb midfielders coming through plus Lokonga, Maitland Niles and Tavares out on loan. Not to mention Fabio Vieira and Mohammed Elneny as backup.
I will take a look at all three main contenders and see if the stats give any clarity. Their amount of games make them fairly comparable. For discipline it is easy, Xhaka is far worse then Jorginho. And Declan Rice? Only 24 yellows, no reds in 190 appearances. A clear winner, then. Discipline matters, by the way, it increase the pressure on the managers because a yellow card means they have to think of subbing the player. We lost a Champions League final due to a red card, in my opinion, and a red can mean losing a game you could win. Both Jorginho and Rice would ease the pressure on the manager, based on their past records. Xhaka has 281 fouls to 211 games, Jorginho 137 to 146, and Rice is best on 130 to 190 games. I have always believed that English players get preference in such areas and that could be a reason to play Rice. Discipline: Declan Rice.
Are goals the clue?
Of course, there is more to football than discipline. So I will take a look at other metrics. The most important thing in football is goals so Xhaka has 13 in 211, Jorginho 21 in 146 but 19 penalties, and Rice 7 in 190. So it is easy. Assists Xhaka 22 in 211, Jorginho 5 in 146 and Rice 10 in 190. Xhaka 33 in total, Jorginho 26 in total and Rice 17. I was thinking I have to give it to Jorginho as he played less games making his record better although we do have Saka to take our penalties. Tight enough on this metric. Goals: Maybe Xhaka or maybe Jorginho. I can’t really make up my mind.
Tackles are next. Xhaka has 353 and 63% success. Jorginho 310 and 54% success, and Rice 440 and 55% success. Blocked shots and interceptions, Xhaka 68 and 187, Jorginho 16 and 227, Rice 34 and 315. Rice has played in a team that has to defend more than the other 2 so that is probably why his stats are bigger but still I feel he just about has the edge here. Tackles, blocks and interceptions: Declan Rice.
Maybe winning duels is the key
Passes are critical in this position as a stray pass can lead to a goal. Xhaka 14,334, Jorginho 10,095, Rice 8,880. Success rate Xhaka 87.3%, Jorginho 88.7%, Rice 87.8%. Passes per match Xhaka 67.93, Jorginho, 69.14, Rice 46.74. Jorginho then is the winner. Passes, success rate and passes per match: Jorginho.
Recoveries, duels won and lost next. Xhaka 1324, 948, 903, Jorginho 1030, 587, 612, Rice 1405, 904, 657. Rice comes out a clear winner here and that could be crucial to us continuing our assault on the big prizes. Recoveries, duels won and lost: Declan Rice.
Aerial battles won and lost + successful 50/50’s. Xhaka 105, 269, 255, Jorginho 67, 67, 111 and Rice 173, 248, 184. Only Rice has a clear division between duels won and lost and I feel a clear winner again. Aerial battles won and lost + successful 50/50’s: Declan Rice.
Goals truly matter
I am going to finish the assessment on goals as they are the most crucial element in football, you can play badly but if you score you can win. This time I will focus on areas connected to goals - Shots, shots on target and free kicks scored, Xhaka 214, 58, 3, Jorginho 68, 32, 0, Rice 137, 35, 0 although 1 penalty. This time Xhaka is a winner on shots, shots on target and free kicks scored.
I will mention one more statistic about goals and that is errors leading to goals with Xhaka way out in front at nine compared with 2 for Jorginho and Rice. That's too many.
Red card for Xhaka?
Of course all 3 have played a different amount of games and mostly for 3 different clubs so this assessment has flaws but a statistical analysis throws up Rice as a better player than either of Jorginho or Xhaka and even Jorginho is coming out better than Xhaka.
Will we give him the red card?
So what would this mean for Arsenal if we do buy Declan Rice or similar? He seems willing to go from what I hear. I suspect one of Jorginho or Xhaka has to go. I don’t feel we will keep all 3. Xhaka, being almost a year younger, would probably fetch more in the market although if Jorginho displaces him this season that may not be the case. I would imagine, of the two, Xhaka is less likely to opt for a minor role whereas Jorginho, by coming to Arsenal in the circumstances he has, probably would. 20/30 appearances including subs and a trophy or two may well seem a better prospect than going down a level.
He may come back.
If my assessment is right, and we buy a truly top class midfielder such as Declan Rice, this could be Xhaka’s last season. I have a feeling, even if that is the case, he will be back. He is taking his coaching badges. I think he would make a tremendous coach with his never say die attitude, his willingness to die for the team, and yes, his effectiveness as a player in one of the most challenging positions would render him able to impart immense knowledge to young players coming through. He now has Arsenal in his DNA and that will always be a part of him. And he can go with his head held truly high as a League winner if all goes well. We will never forget Granit Xhaka.