On a day when few things were certain in the Premier League, one thing we could bank on was Granit Xhaka’s unpredictable performance.
Maybe that’s not the best way to put it. After all, we know exactly what to expect from the Swiss international when he dons an Arsenal shirt after five years in North London.
The problem is that his performances range so widely from sublime to ludicrous that it’s hard to predict which one we’ll get.
At Elland Road we saw both sides of Xhaka
He was outstanding in the first half, delivering a quick assist for Gabriel Martinelli’s second goal with a precise through ball, completing more passes (28 out of 31) than any other player on the field, and winning more tackles than anybody else (3).
However, after seeing the good in the first 45 minutes, we witnessed the negative almost immediately when he stepped out onto the pitch for the second.
After putting Andre Mariner’s patience to the test by standing in front of Mateusz Klich as he prepared to take a free kick and avoiding a yellow card, the Swiss international then went on to make an atrocious tackle on Raphinha seconds later.
The worst aspect about the task wasn’t how difficult it was, but how pointless it was. With the ball in the Leeds half, Arsenal was ahead 3-0. There was no cause for Xhaka to make that tackle, but he did so anyway.
Getting Mikel Arteta to drop the 28-year-old is a Sisyphean chore at this moment. The Spaniard has nailed his colors to the mask by offering him a contract extension, and Xhaka will remain a mainstay of the Gunners’ midfield for the rest of the season, if he is not injured or, more likely, suspended.
That isn’t to suggest the Swiss midfielder doesn’t have a lot to give in the middle of the field. Those attempting to highlight his weaknesses frequently ignore his abilities.
On a day when there was no need to let a depleted Leeds side back into the game, the Arsenal vice captain came dangerously close to doing just that.