On this day, September 17th, four years ago, we welcomed Granit Xhaka.
Not because he had just signed for the club, oh no, but because Granit Xhaka showed Arsenal what his capabilities were from long range in breathtaking fashion with stunning goal against Hull City.
A match that was perhaps more memorable for Theo Walcott netting his 100th career goal was nevertheless the platform for what would be a… err, back and forth relationship with our Swiss midfielder.
We’re not here to discuss his current or previous standing within the Arsenal fanbase, though. Instead we’ll rattle through his best strikes in the red and white as we remember the day he bagged the first of his 12 goals for the Gunners.
Does his screamer in east Yorkshire still reign supreme? Let’s get ranking and find out.
5. Arsenal 3-3 Liverpool – 2017
Whenever you’re in the Emirates Stadium, there becomes an uncontrollable urgency to scream ‘shoot!’ whenever Xhaka picks up the ball within shooting range. That, well, sort of died down a bit when he started hitting each and every one into row Z, but in the early days of his time in north London he would take up the offer with aplomb.
His strike against Liverpool was one such occasion, although it can’t quite be considered as good as we’d like since the goalkeeping from Simon Mignolet is quite frankly atrocious.
Leeway is given the Belgian’s way, however. Xhaka’s technique varies but there is a tendency to strike the ball just closer to the outside of his left peg than centrally. The flight of the ball jinks either way when done correctly, leaving Mignolet to flap at his attempt to save his effort on this occasion.
If you don’t buy a ticket you won’t win the raffle.
4. Arsenal 2-0 Manchester United – 2019
It came as a genuine shock when Xhaka’s strike against United didn’t soar through the air. Preferring to aim for the top corner as opposed to forcing the keeper to go low, he bamboozled more than just David de Gea with his 12th minute opener.
His low drive – using the same aforementioned shooting method – looked like heading just right off the centre of goal. De Gea, assuming the same, took a step to his left where an easy catch would’ve been made.
Catching all off guard, the ball swerved away from the Spaniard in the blink of an eye, totally wrong-footing the keeper and nestling into the back of the net. As Bernd Leno says above, “it looks easy, but it’s difficult”.
Xhaka was superb that game.
3. Newcastle 1-2 Arsenal – 2018
Here we got to see a different string in Xhaka’s striking bow. Usually favouring his outstep, this time with a free kick lined up away at Newcastle he opted to switch things up.
Four minutes after the restart in a cagey affair, Arsenal won a free kick over 25 yards out of goal. Lucas Torreira stood alongside Xhaka, but did anyone actually expect the Uruguayan to take it?
Demonstrating a different skill, Xhaka hit the ball sweetly over the wall with the right measure of power, but struck it so that it managed to dip up and over the wall in time before reaching goal. Martin Dúbravka stood no chance.
2. Crystal Palace 2-2 Arsenal – 2018
After losing their first two matches of the season, Arsenal embarked on a seven-game winning run in the Premier League culminating in a trip south of the river Thames. Pegged back by a first half penalty, it was on Xhaka’s shoulders to drag his side back into the game.
Oh my, how he did.
A free kick on the right hand corner of the penalty box could only have been swung in for a header, right? Nobody in their right mind shoots from there. And if you do, you better get it right for fear of deserved scorn.
Xhaka didn’t just get it right. Stunning bend on the shot saw it angle towards the far top corner and beyond the despairing dive of Wayne Hennessey, who could only get the faintest of touches on the ball as it sailed into the postage stamp.
Some strike, but the Switzerland captain has topped it…
1. Hull City 1-4 Arsenal – 2016
His first is still his best.
All of 30 yards out, Xhaka opened his Arsenal account in spectacular fashion, hitting a trademark curling effort into the top left corner. If anything, it’s a shame he did it so soon into his Gunners career as he’s now set a benchmark for long range proficiency.
There is so much to admire about this particular ‘Xhaka BOOM’ that it has to sit top of the pile. The swerve, the accuracy, the power and the casual as you like celebration all make it what it is.
What’s your verdict? Do you agree with the above or can you make a claim for one of his other goals being his best? Maybe even one that hasn’t been mentioned above…