Paul Merson praised Granit Xhaka’s recent performances for Arsenal and believes he’s an important player for Mikel Arteta’s side, speaking to Sky Sports.

Xhaka was absent during Arsenal’s 3-0 home defeat to Liverpool last time out in the Premier League.

However, Merson believes it was a good thing for the midfielder, whose most recent match was a 1-0 win against Lithuania when on international duty with Switzerland.

The 28-year-old has played 25 Premier League matches for the Gunners this season. And, despite his lack of goal contributions, Merson believes Xhaka is an important player for Arteta.

Paul Merson on Xhaka

Speaking to Sky Sports, Merson raved over Xhaka’s eagerness to receive the ball at his feet – a trait other Arsenal players don’t possess.

Merson said: “The defeat against Liverpool just goes to show you how good Granit Xhaka is. He became a better player not playing against Liverpool.

“He doesn’t score goals, he doesn’t make goals and gets booked and all that. But give him his due, what was glaring to see in Arsenal’s defeat is he wants the ball.

“In times of trouble he will always try to get on the ball – and that’s what (Arsenal) didn’t have.

 

“No-one was showing for the ball and, in the end, the goalkeeper was just booting the ball.

“Honestly, it was mind-blowing.”

Dani Ceballos and Thomas Partey were the two central-midfielders against Liverpool and both finished with a Whoscored rating of less than seven out of ten.

Arsenal Training Session
(Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

The Gunners’ midfield options

However, according to Whoscored ratings Dani Ceballos is Arsenal’s most consistent midfielder.

The Spanish star’s average rating is 6.8, which isn’t amazing but decent enough.

Partey and Xhaka are both well down Arsenal’s rating list, sitting in 11th and 12th place in the squad respectively.

However, like Merson said, Xhaka doesn’t do the stand-out pretty things on the pitch.

The Switzerland international likes keeping the play ticking over while ensuring the Gunners remain defensively sound.

It will be interesting to see how Xhaka performs if Arteta selects him for the Europa League tie at home to Slavia Prague tonight (8pm kick-off).

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