Arsenal’s terrible start to the 2021-22 Premier League continued on Saturday as the Gunners were beaten, bruised and battered at the Etihad Stadium by Manchester City. The 5-0 reverse marked the Gunners' third successive league defeat in as many games this season, after disappointing losses against Chelsea and newly-promoted Brentford.
If there’s a single player who typifies the direction Arsenal are currently heading, it’s certainly Granit Xhaka, who recently signed a contract extension till 2024. The 28-year-old has proved to be a loose cannon, whose reckless decisions have cost the club many times since his arrival.
On Saturday, he was once again the villain after earning himself an avoidable red card for a reckless challenge on Joao Cancelo.
Granit Xhaka's madness costs Gunners
Arsenal were already on the back foot before Xhaka’s sending off, but the Swiss international’s moment of madness exacerbated things for his embattled teammates.
Xhaka let everyone down, but the way Arteta reacted to this moment of madness summed up Arsenal's misery. Instead of putting Xhaka in his place, the Spaniard rather gave the midfielder a pat on the back as he walked off the pitch.
Even worse, Arteta proceeded to defend Xhaka in his post-match press conference and sought to blame the referee instead:
"I am (angry) because of the consequences that it had to the team," Arteta said after the game, as quoted by Sky Sports. I must say that the line we are being judged with is really, really thin because we have seen actions like that in the first two Premier League games, and nothing happened, so I am disappointed. I am very disappointed with the second goal because of the way that they allowed that goal."
If you’re asking yourself what sort of message that sends, I think it’s clearly a sign of weakness from the Arsenal manager. And that explains the current state of affairs at the club.
Arsenal’s transfer policy under the spotlight
One of the jokes going around on social media is that Arsenal have spent more money than any other team in Europe this summer and yet haven’t shown any improvement.
While that is plain banter, there is an element of truth when you look at the Gunners’ transfer policy in recent years. They have actually spent loads of cash on players, but their signings just haven’t been shrewd enough.
It’s always good to invest in youth, but what Arsenal need to challenge for trophies are proven players. However, the club seems to be living in the past, and is unwilling to move forward.
Xhaka is a typical example of a good but not great player, so his continued stay at the Emirates mirrors the current state of the club. The Swiss midfielder has consistently proven that he is not good enough, yet he has been rewarded with a new contract.
In 12 months time, the Gunners could struggle to move him on, just like Willian, Saed Kolasinac and many others.
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As things stand now, Arsenal are not even a top-six side in the Premier League. Till they change their flawed transfer policy, they will continue to drift further away from Europe’s best teams.