Granit Xhaka should not be compared to N’Golo Kante but Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin does have a similar skillset to the Chelsea star, according to manager Arsene Wenger.
Wenger has only handed Xhaka 16 Premier League starts since his big-money move from Borussia Monchengladbach, but feels the Switzerland international has been unfortunate.
He believes referees are unfairly targeting the 24-year-old and thinks his player’s performances are being reviewed unfairly.
Wenger insists Xhaka’s strength is passing and it is Coquelin who is their best answer to Chelsea’s Kante, who is the overwhelming favourite to win the PFA Player of the Year award.
“They are different types of players,” Wenger said when asked to compare Xhaka and Kante, both of whom cost in excess of £30million and were signed ahead of the 2016-17 season.
“I think Xhaka is more in the distribution of the pass through the lines and Kante is more the ball winner with the real technique to steal the ball without making the foul.
“You compare more Kante with Francis Coquelin than with Xhaka. Xhaka is more a distribution player.”
Xhaka has already received two red cards in Arsenal colours, but while Wenger admits he needs to improve his tackling technique, he thinks referees are unfairly targeting him after he was sent off three times for Gladbach last season.
“He is a victim a little bit of his reputation,” said Wenger.
“You see tackles of some players who are much worse than what he did who don’t even get a yellow card and he got a straight red and – because he had a history of that in Germany – I think he is a bit of a victim of that.
“I believe that he is now in a position where on the first foul he gets a yellow card. For example on Saturday [against Lincoln] – first foul, soft yellow card.
“The way he tackles is not to hurt people, it is more the consequence of the fact that he doesn’t master well the technique of tackling.
“He has improved a lot since he has arrived I think but he still has to work, yes, on his one against one – you can always improve.
“Overall he is quite in a positive way, he masters himself much better. He was maybe a little bit before looking too much to impress.
“But overall he has to stay on this ground because it is tackling that can get him sent off. When he defends well, staying on his feet he is a fair player.”