Over the past few seasons, it has been abundantly clear to see that Granit Xhaka has been the aggressor at Arsenal, often getting involved in on-pitch disagreements, altercations and taking the fall for his teammates following poor results and rash decisions.
Xhaka has been a controversial figure during his spell at the Emirates but no one can question his commitment to protecting his teammates even if sometimes he goes too far. This is especially evident after what was aired in Arsenal’s All or Nothing series on Amazon Prime when he said ‘It’s okay guys, I’ll take all the blame as always’ when speaking to Saka and some of his team-mates at London Colney after a defeat and red card at Anfield.
However, this season with Xhaka in the form of his career the Switzerland international has veered away from that side of his game and is starting to contribute further up the pitch now that he has been urged to join the attack as an 8.
Following this slight adaption to his game, the 30-year-old has scored four goals and grabbed three assists in 17 games for Arsenal with decisive strikes against Spurs, Southampton and PSV.
While Arteta will undoubtedly be enjoying seeing Xhaka thriving in this role it has perhaps left a gap among the Arsenal squad for a player that lives on the edge and carries a bit of bite and snap with them, of course, used at the right time.
Naturally, the responsibility would fall to a defender and with William Saliba seemingly a far more composed defender, Gabriel Magalhaes seems to be the player who has taken on this hypothetical role.
The Brazilian was recently involved in an incident with Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson which saw tensions boil over late into their dramatic fixture last month. The FA conducted a formal investigation into the incident but confirmed that they would not be taking any disciplinary.
This is not to say Xhaka no longer gets involved in the melees that ensue on the pitch as he was at the heart of the pushing which occurred through the argument between Gabriel and Henderson, however when he was ushered away from the scene by several Liverpool players, which included Kostas Tsimikas and Darwin Nunez placing their arms around him, he did not react.
Meanwhile, in the latter stages of the hard-fought and tense 1-0 win over Leeds, Gabriel was lucky to not suffer serious punishment for his kick out at Patrick Bamford after he had been knocked to the ground by the forward.
It seems more than a coincidence that Gabriel has been repeatedly involved in heated on-field moments as Xhaka eases his way out of that particular spotlight. If an opposition player wants to ‘start something’ with an Arsenal player these days, they have to go through Gabriel.