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Arsenal v Burnley

Alexis saves the day but hot-headed Xhaka is becoming a huge problem for Arsenal

16:53 GMT 22/01/2017
HD Granit Xhaka
The Swiss midfielder continues to lack discipline in key moments for the Gunners and his red card against Burnley provided another example


“It is what it is, he has to learn from it. Intelligence means that you do not make the same mistake twice.” 

Arsene Wenger’s post-match summary of Granit Xhaka’s sending off against Swansea back in October clearly hasn’t resonated with the £30million summer signing from Borussia Monchengladbach. The ill-disciplined midfielder once again put his team in trouble when he lunged at Steven Defour in the second half of Arsenal’s last-gasp victory against Burnley at Emirates Stadium. It was a red card - ironically - issued by the same referee who gave Xhaka his marching orders against the Swans. Jon Moss clearly knows what the Swiss international’s game is all about and it’s fair to say that the biggest weakness in his game is proving costly for an Arsenal side who have been renowned for lacking discipline in key moments throughout the past decade of Wenger’s reign at the club.

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Xhaka now has more red cards than any player in the top five European leagues (5) and it is his style of tackling which is becoming problematic for the Gunners. The 24-year-old is still a relatively young player who is learning with each game but the vast experience he picked up in the Bundesliga and being named as Gladbach’s youngest ever captain should have instilled a level of maturity into his style of play by now. Ultimately, it is up to the player to learn from his mistakes and Wenger is right when he says ‘intellligence means that you do not make the same mistake twice’. 

Wenger signed Xhaka with the intention of blooding him as the future of Arsenal’s central midfield. He has consistently been unable to clarify where his best position on the pitch lies, although recently made an admission that Xhaka is more accustomed to attacking than defending. If that is the case then he can no longer be partnered with an attacking midfielder like Aaron Ramsey who prefers to roam and play much of his game as a box-to-box midfielder. Against stronger opponents than Burnley the midfield axis of Xhaka-Ramsey could be found out.

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“The noises I get that it was a red card. He has to control his game”, said Wenger after the game. The Gunners boss was visibly annoyed at the fact that his summer signing still hasn’t learnt his lesson and even admitted his own frustration at being sent off himself in the final few minutes at the Emirates. 

There were positive moments for Arsenal which included Shkodran Mustafi heading in his first goal for the club. The German international is now 21 games unbeaten since joining from Valencia in the summer and continues to look solid alongside Laurent Koscielny in defence, even if he does occasionally get caught on the counter attack - an aspect of his game which was almost taken advantage of by Burnley's pacey forward line.

It was the talismanic Alexis Sanchez who once again saved the day for Arsenal in a late flurry of drama which emphasised the lack of discipline on show in north London. Andre Gray scored a penalty in stoppage time which looked to have secured them a surprise point, prompting Wenger to complain to the fourth official and get himself sent to the stands.

Shortly after Koscielny was upended in the box after a high boot from Ben Mee with replays later showing the Frenchman in an offside position. Burnley will feel rightly aggrieved with the decision that took the two points away from them, but Arsenal march on to make it two consecutive wins in the Premier League and keep up the chase with league leaders Chelsea before next month's mammoth clash at Stamford Bridge.