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Arsenal battled hard to win 3-2 against Cardiff City on Sunday, but it’s starting to become apparent the central midfield pairing starting matches aren’t getting results.
Granit Xhaka and Matteo Guendouzi have now started four matches together in the middle of the park, and haven’t left the pitch with Arsenal in the lead on a single occasion.
Against Manchester City, the Gunners were 2-0 down when Xhaka came off for Lucas Torreira. Then facing Chelsea, it was 2-2 when the Swiss international left the field. The scores were level at 1-1 against West Ham when Guendouzi left the action, and 2-2 when Unai Emery made the same switch against Cardiff.
Many Arsenal fans want to see Guendouzi and Torreira together instead, but so far that hasn’t proved particularly effective either. The City game was a bit of a write-off, but the Chelsea game was there to be won in the second half, and the duo couldn’t even get on the ball.
Meanwhile, Xhaka and Torreira have only played together against the so-called smaller teams, Cardiff and West Ham. Nonetheless, they’ve done significantly better than Xhaka and Guendouzi in those matches, helping the team to score three goals whilst conceding none.
Xhaka-Torreira (54 minutes): 3 goals scored, 0 conceded.
Xhaka-Guendouzi (241 minutes): 5 goals scored, 7 conceded.
Guendouzi-Torreira (65 minutes): 0 goals scored, 1 conceded.
Draw your own conclusions. pic.twitter.com/Xb58hd1jlb
— Dan Critchlow (@afcDW) September 2, 2018
The pair give Arsenal balance, as Torreira has the mobility and defensive intelligence to cover Xhaka when necessary, whilst they also get the best out of each other on the ball.
Individual performances vs midfield partnerships
In terms of individual performances, Torreira has looked the strongest by far. He hasn’t started a match yet, so we shouldn’t get too ahead of ourselves, but his substitute appearances have been impressive.
Guendouzi has also looked good individually, whilst Xhaka has had a very mixed time. However, as soon as Torreira is alongside him, the Swiss international seems to come to life.
A few years ago Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla were Arsenal’s best midfield partnership, but arguably Coquelin was never one of Arsenal’s best two midfielders. He just played to Cazorla’s strengths, and covered the Spaniard’s weaknesses.
Right now, it looks like the same could be said for Xhaka and Torreira, but we’ll have to see more to know for sure.