As David Luiz was sent off last night, Granit Xhaka slotted into the central defensive position the Brazilian had vacated as Mikel Arteta considered his options.
The Arsenal boss took his time, but seemed ready to bring on Rob Holding to partner Shkodran Mustafi, which would see the Swiss international push back into midfield.
However, with the Gunners coping well despite the one man disadvantage, he decided against it – explaining afterwards he felt it would have sent a negative message to his players.
It meant Xhaka played the rest of the game at the back, and he was seriously impressive. As well as providing calm on the ball, he made 6 ball recoveries, 100% of his clearances in the box (6/6), 100% of his tackles (2/2), and showed real leadership as we looked to cope with ten men.
Understandably, his performance drew praise from Mikel Arteta afterwards, who admitted it’s been a strange time for the 27 year old.
“From day one, I spoke with him,” said the manager.
“Obviously his mind was a little bit varied after a lot of things that happened to him in his life and his family. I tried to convince him that it was the right place for him to play. I
“wanted to try to give him the opportunity to try to enjoy playing football again. Everything I ask him to do, every training session, he’s like this and is willing to do it.
“Today, I knew the moment I put him there, I don’t know how well he was going to do but he was going to put everything in.
“He was great.”
For his part, while happy to do a job there, Xhaka hoped afterwards it was just a one off.
“I hope it’s not my new position,” he joked with BT Sport, “but he [Arteta] knows I can play there. I try to help the team and I’m happy the guys around me made things easier today.
“I’m very happy!”