Michael Owen has praised Arsenal duo Granit Xhaka and Oleksandr Zinchenko who he thinks are ‘confusing’ the opposition with their positional play.
On paper, Zinchenko is a left-back, but if you were to read his heat map over the course of 90 minutes, then it would show that the 26-year-old is more of a midfielder than a left-sided defender.
That then allows someone like Xhaka, who plays as a left-sided number eight, to push forward and cause issues with Arsenal’s wide men, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, who are stretching the pitch and hugging the touchline, with Thomas Partey being the security in front of the back four and the number nine dropping deep and dragging players out of their normal areas.
That has been proven all season long and when Arsenal recorded a 4-1 win over Crystal Palace on Sunday, which included a goal from Xhaka.
That’s two within a week for the former captain and six in total for the campaign, which is some going for the 30-year-old because this is a new side to his game that he is showing.
Xhaka and Zinchenko’s positional play, as proven by Arsenal’s third goal, is causing all sorts of issues for those having to face the Premier League leaders, which was touched upon by Michael Owen, as he told PL Productions (19/03/23 at 4:15 pm).
“I just think, these high wide players for Arsenal,” said Owen. “But they give players a problem – it’s that combination play, that nervousness, they just unsettle defenders with their high positions.
“This is Xhaka and Zinchenko running into the picture. I just like how he almost fills Xhaka’s position for him. We have a little bit of a rotation. Zinchenko comes into that position, he actually goes in front of Xhaka, then all of a sudden, you have the left-back in a forward position and then look at that rotation.
“It’s the Arsenal rotation that provokes that lack of focus (from Crystal Palace), misunderstanding and it gives people problems on what to do. When it’s happening quickly, then it’s very, very difficult to defend. Arsenal are contributing to the fact that they are confusing every defence they are playing.”
XHAKA AND ZINCHENKO UNDERRATED FIGURES
These two players have been outstanding for Arsenal this season and they have played a big part in why their team are sitting at the top of the Premier League table.
Many Arsenal fans were overjoyed when they signed Zinchenko from Manchester City in the summer, and it’s fair to say, Pep Guardiola won’t be letting any more of his players move to the Emirates.
Then there is Xhaka who has made incredible strides during these past two seasons and now that previously-criticised star is on the verge of being an Arsenal legend.
In other news, Mario Melchiot critical of Tottenham’s Pape Matar Sarr after Southampton draw