Arsenal earned their first win of the new Premier League season in style this afternoon with a 3-1 win against Watford.
An early Santi Cazorla penatly settled any lingering nerves for the away side, particularly as they had entered the game at Vicarage Road with a draw and defeat behind them, and further strikes from Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil put the tie beyond doubt.
Not even a consolation goal from Watford’s new signing Roberto Pereyra could spoil the atmosphere in the away end, particularly with the news that new signings Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Pérez are due to officially join the Gunners in the next 24-48 hours.
However, it was another new signing that gave Arsenal a reason to be cheerful this afternoon, as Swiss international Granit Xhaka produced his best performance for the side so far in midfield.
His passing and work rate were top notch this afternoon as he was at the heart of everything the Arsene Wenger’s side did right, showing exactly why the manager paid Gladbach £30m for his services.
#Xhaka vs Watford:
2 chances created
5 ball recoveries
4 successful tackles
2/2 Aerial duels
— Jase The GÖÖNER (@JaseTheGooner) August 27, 2016
The 23-year-old had a pass completion rate of 87.3%, showed great awareness in the tackle, always looked for the incisive pass, and handled the transition between attack and defence extremely well.
The side has been crying out for a midfield enforcer since the days of Patrick Vieira, and while it’s far too soon to hail Xhaka as the Frenchman’s natural successor, the signs so far have been very promising.
His performance has been widely praised, and not just from Arsenal fans either (though obviously they were ecstatic with their new player’s display):
Early days but, so far this afternoon, Xhaka looking like the central midfielder that Arsenal have needed for about 10 years
— Jeremy Wilson (@JWTelegraph) August 27, 2016
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) August 27, 2016
Xhaka’s really starting to find his feet. Good passing range, links play well, positioning & intercepting. Lovely pivot combo with Cazorla.
— Pádraig 〽️ (@VintageOzil) August 27, 2016
Fully deserved win, fantastic first half, second half not so much. Xhaka v impressive, Rob Holding too.
— arseblog (@arseblog) August 27, 2016
Extremely impressed with Xhaka so far today. His delivery is nigh on faultless, looking to go forward with every pass; cracking vision.
— Arsène’s Son (@hughwizzy) August 27, 2016
Xhaka needs to behave with some of his passes today. Filthy
— Chris Dixon (@chrismd10) August 27, 2016
Xhaka gives Arsenal a different dimension. Basically he’s not Coquelin.
— Jamie Dalton (@JamieDalton82) August 27, 2016
Everyone starting to realise how good Xhaka is ???
— sean (@seangooner) August 27, 2016
An interesting part of today’s showing from Xhaka is how well he worked with Cazorla next to him in the midfield.
The Spaniard was not really thought of by Wenger as a someone would would be an automatic first-choice pick, particularly with such strong competition for those central midfield spots, but the duo’s partnership today may force the manager to do a bit of reassessment.