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Arsenal verdict: Gunners shoot themselves in the foot yet again… and, as usual, Granit Xhaka is the culprit

IF the definition of insanity really is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result then Arsenal must be due a visit from the men in white coats. For no other team in the country shoots themselves in the foot on such a regular basis without learning any lessons. And […] ...

IF the definition of insanity really is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result then Arsenal must be due a visit from the men in white coats.

For no other team in the country shoots themselves in the foot on such a regular basis without learning any lessons.

Rex

Granit Xhaka was sent off against Liverpool[/caption]

And no-one epitomises that madness more than serial offender Granit Xhaka.

Mikel Arteta had spent all week sweating over the availability of the Swiss international who had been in isolation after contracting Covid last week.

But he probably should have spared himself the stress because Xhaka only lasted 24 minutes before he was heading for another early bath.

And he really could have no arguments about the fifth sending-off of his Arsenal career after bringing down Diogo Jota on the edge of the era to deny the Liverpool striker a goalscoring opportunity.

It wasn’t a malicious tackle and his eyes were on the flight of the ball all the time as he tried to intercept Andrew Robertson’s long pass over the top.

But the second his raised boot caught Jota square in the chest he left ref Michael Oliver with virtually no option but to reach for red.

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Don’t forget it was Xhaka who conceded the penalty which set Manchester City on their way to victory at the Emirates on New Year’s Day.

And his indiscipline that day immediately set the tone for centre-half Gabriel, who minutes later became the club’s 100th red card of the Premier League era.

No other team has yet reached that dubious landmark and rather than cleaning up their act it seems that Arsenal are actually getting worse.

They have only just stumped up a £20,000 fine after accepting an FA charge of failing to control their players during that frustrating City defeat.

But they have become so accustomed to playing with ten men that maybe it’s no surprise that they are learning to cope with being outnumbered.

Because since Arteta was appointed manager in December 2019,  they have suffered no less than 13 red cards in all competitions.

It’s almost as bad as the early days of Arsene Wenger’s reign, when the likes of Patrick Vieira and Martin Keown would regularly lose the plot and pay the consequences.

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Now Xhaka, who was also dismissed during the 5-0 defeat at Manchester City in August, will be suspended for Arsenal’s next two games away to Spurs on Sunday and the Emirates rematch with Liverpool next Thursday.

And with Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny away at the African Cup of Nations, Martin Odegaard Covid positive and Emile Smith Rowe nursing a groin strain, Arteta needs the loss of another midfielder like a hole in the head.

Yet at least he can take heart from the character and resilience the rest of his makeshift team showed last night to keep this semi-final alive.

It would have been the easiest thing in the world for young Arsenal heads to drop the minute Xhaka received his marching orders, particularly given their dreadful recent record at Anfield.

Yet rather than feeling sorry for themselves they dug deep to keep Liverpool at arm’s length and unable to find a route through to goal.

And no-one owes a greater debt of gratitude to those exhausted Gunners than Xhaka.

Rex

Diogo Jota was taken out by Granit Xhaka[/caption]

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