Garth Crooks wrote on his column on BBC Sport about Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta’s one key decision that baffled him before the game against Chelsea on Saturday.
The Gunners boss made a fair few changes to his squad. Gabriel Martinelli, Emile Smith Rowe and Pablo Mari started, but the surprise selection was of Granit Xhaka who came straight back in after his red card against Burnley three games ago.
Arsenal fans were stunned to see the Swiss international start the game. Many felt that his actions against the Clarets would bring an end to his career at the Emirates, but Arteta trusted him and he delivered big time.
Crooks has revealed his immediate reaction to seeing Xhaka start against Chelsea. He claimed that he felt Arteta had lost the plot at Arsenal but he admitted that his judgement was wrong after seeing the former Gladbach man run the show.
Xhaka’s selection shocked Crooks
He wrote: “When I saw Xhaka in the line-up to face Chelsea, I thought Arteta had finally lost the plot. How could any manager trust the midfielder, having practically throttled Burnley’s Ashley Westwood in a previous fixture, initiating his own downfall and marching orders during Arsenal’s hour of need?”
“With Gabriel, Willian and David Luiz all out for various reasons and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the bench, Arsenal were in desperate need of Xhaka’s experience in a team full of kids. What I didn’t expect was for Xhaka to play such an influential part in, what was without doubt, their most important result of the season.”
“It takes manager Arteta off skid row, and puts some very important confidence back into a side that is struggling at the moment. The Swiss international’s free-kick to put Arsenal 2-0 up wasn’t bad either.”
The Swiss midfielder’s incredible free-kick gave us a massive boost going into half time. Bukayo Saka’s chip in the second half killed the game off and the youngster deservedly won the Man of the Match award, but Xhaka couldn’t have been far off the award himself.
Xhaka had a poor first half of the season last year as well, but he became one of our most important players after Christmas. Arteta will be hoping that he can do the same this term, and if he does, we will finish at least 10 places above where we currently are in the table.