Advertisement Comment Joe Willock has been one of Arsenal’s most impressive performers this season (Picture: Getty)Emery has also introduced academy graduate Joe Willock into the mix this season and the 20-year-old has more than held his own after being handed starting places in each of the club’s Premier League matches this season. Against Liverpool, he was their best midfield performer.That youthful quartet of stars suit a new-look, energetic Arsenal side more than the elder statesman Xhaka seems to, as while they all possess good technical skills, they are also athletes, capable of pressing intently and able to contribute in each transition phase.It has also been interesting to note that Xhaka no longer seems to be Arsenal’s main set-piece taker either having stepped aside so far this season. Perhaps Emery has sought to alleviate responsibility on him now he has the armband, or perhaps it could be to slowly decrease his importance to the side.There is still a place for Xhaka at Arsenal. As a technically gifted footballer who can dictate the tempo from midfield in certain games, he has his uses. But in the biggest matches when more than pretty passing is required, he is no longer indispensable.The problem for Emery is who takes on the leadership mantle if the fifth member of his captaincy group is no longer an automatic pick?AdvertisementMore: Arsenal FCArsenal flop Denis Suarez delivers verdict on Thomas Partey and Lucas Torreira movesThomas Partey debut? Ian Wright picks his Arsenal starting XI vs Manchester CityArsene Wenger explains why Mikel Arteta is ‘lucky’ to be managing Arsenal Advertisement Granit Xhaka has captained Arsenal so far this season (Picture: Getty)Yet despite this representing Xhaka’s fourth season at Arsenal, there remains a nagging sense that he still doesn’t quite fit the team’s style on the pitch, particularly with Emery injecting further pace and energy into his squad during the summer.Although there can be no doubting Xhaka’s expansive passing ability, question marks remain about his suitability to fulfil a role in Emery’s midfield given he lacks the requisite attributes to perform in a high-octane, pressing system.At times during Arsenal’s defeat to Liverpool on Saturday, the pace of the game appeared to pass Xhaka by. In fairness, he was far from alone in this respect. The more nimble and agile Dani Ceballos felt the full brunt of the Liverpool press when he shanked a cross-field pass straight to Sadio Mane inside his own penalty box when swarmed by red shirts.Nevertheless, Ceballos has the physical and technical attributes to play himself out of such situations and once he has acclimatised to the pace of the Premier League, he will be better prepared to avoid a repeat performance. Xhaka, on the other hand, has been unable to adapt when the tempo of a game increases.For a player for whom pace and mobility has never been part of his skill-set, it seems strange that he has spent formative and peak years of his career playing in the two quickest, most physically demanding top leagues in Europe: first the Bundesliga, now the Premier League, rather than the more serene world of La Liga. Unai Emery has sought to re-energise Arsenal’s midfield with youthful players like Matteo Guendouzi (Picture: Getty)In both leagues, Xhaka has an extremely sketchy disciplinary record. Over the past six league seasons, Xhaka has accumulated 51 yellow cards – one every 3.6 games – and a large chunk of those have been professional fouls on players who have skipped past him in midfield.AdvertisementAdvertisementXhaka really struggles when an opposition team is in an attacking transition – i.e. when they launch attack quickly having regained possession of the ball – due to his inability to cover ground and therefore, space quickly which leaves his defence exposed.That Xhaka has defensive deficiencies in his game is hardly a new phenomenon but in order to mask them, he has to overcompensate in other areas to remain an asset to his team. Unquestionably his standout attribute is his passing, both in terms of accuracy and range.Xhaka attempted 480 more passes than any other Arsenal player in the Premier League last season while his pass accuracy rate has never dipped below 85% since his very first campaign with Borussia Monchengladbach in 2012-13. Why Granit Xhaka is emerging as Unai Emery’s biggest problem at Arsenal Oliver Young-MylesSunday 1 Sep 2019 7:00 amShare this article via facebookShare this article via twitterShare this article via messengerShare this with Share this article via emailShare this article via flipboardCopy link3.4kShares Should Granit Xhaka remain an automatic pick for Unai Emery? (Picture: Getty)Of the five players appointed to be members of Unai Emery’s captaincy group last summer, only one has played any minutes in an Arsenal shirt this season.Petr Cech retired and returned to Chelsea, Aaron Ramsey left to join Juventus at the end of his contract, Laurent Koscielny went on strike to force a move to Bordeaux and Mesut Ozil’s inadvertent involvement in a north London gang war has seen him excused from action.That has left Granit Xhaka as the sole survivor of Emery’s original captaincy group this season, with the Swiss international playing the full 90 minutes in two of Arsenal’s three Premier League fixtures and wearing the armband both times. Nacho Monreal, seemingly on his way to Real Sociedad, did so in the other.AdvertisementAdvertisementAhead of Arsenal’s opening home game of the season against Burnley, it was Xhaka who was tasked with writing the traditional captain’s notes in the pre-match programme, even though he is yet to have been given the position full-time.ADVERTISEMENTXhaka is a valued member of the Arsenal squad, comes across as measured and well-informed in interviews and clearly possesses strong leadership skills considering he is Switzerland’s permanent captain at the age of 26. Xhaka has been booked 26 times in the Premier League (Picture: Getty)With Ozil currently out of the side, Xhaka is Arsenal’s best passer of the ball by some distance, but there have been accusations levelled at him that he takes too long to release it once he has received it, thus slowing down the pace of attacking moves.As was shown against Liverpool at the weekend, Emery will look to set his team up to counter-attack on occasion, through the pace of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe in the attack, but for that strategy to work, they need to be fed passes at the earliest opportunity while the opponent’s defence is out of shape.Despite only playing two out of three Premier League matches this season, Xhaka ranks 50th across the Premier League for the number of touches taken with 203, which for a deep-lying playmaker in a team geared towards counter-attacking seems too many.AdvertisementOf all the changes that Emery has implemented during his time in charge of Arsenal, regenerating the team’s midfield features high on the list. Since his appointment, Arsenal have signed three central midfielders – Matteo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira and Dani Ceballos – all of whom are 23 and under.