“He’s been poor in possession tonight,” said BBC’s co-commentator last night. Kevin Kilbane, with his name almost like someone who wants to do ill to one of Batman’s enemies but just can’t commit to the act, was referring to Granit Xhaka.
The Arsenal man, somehow sensing this exactly what was said about him, laughed to himself. HAHAHAHA he laughed, like a proper laugh and not LOOOOOOOOOOL which is what many people do these days but that doesn’t sound much like a laugh, rather the kind of noise someone might make if they get a boiled sweet caught in their throat and this is their eighth attempt at coughing it up.
‘Possession? POSSESSION?!’, thought the Arsenal man. ‘I’ll show him that possession is just nine tents of Jude Law’. He’s still not fully up to speed with English sayings, because a stitch in time does not save lime, nor does a rolling bone gather Kate Moss.
He was also slightly put out as his pass completion percentage, while not the highest of the Swiss team, was better than every single Serbian player bar one, but that’s merely a side issue to illustrate a point that I’m not entirely sure of but one which is unquestionably true.
Xhaka had faith though. Faith in his talent, faith in his teammates, and faith in his left foot. The movie ‘My left foot’ inspired him. Not to become a painter. Not to overcome adversity. But to wallop the ball as he hard as he could, even if he he happened to be lying on the ground where he may or may not have been after a rigorous tackle on an opponent.
His instincts, forged over years in the Swiss Alps or the other places in Switzerland that aren’t the Alps, kicked in. Something primal. Follow the play, keep up with what the little round fella is doing. Shit happens when he’s on the ball, despite his physique which makes him look like a Catalan Grandfather, he can do stuff.
And do stuff he did, pulling off that most difficult of skills, having a shot from just inside the box. The ball rebounded off the defender, spinning like the planet earth, except the earth filmed from afar with a time lapse camera to make it look as if it’s spinning really fast.
‘Here is my chance’, thought Granit. ‘I have two options here. One – I can thwack this ball with all my might into the net and score a goal or: Two – I can thwack this ball with all my might and see it smash a small child in the crowd to whom I can later give a gift of my shirt which won’t make up for the fact their nose is splattered all over their face, but at least trashy websites can get squeeze some bullshit mawkish #content out of it with headlines like “You won’t believe what Granit Xhaka did after Swiss miss”, or “Arsenal fans react to midfielder’s amazing gesture”‘.
He decided that he did not want to provide Mirror Football with such an opportunity though, and plumped for option 1. He quickly judged the spin on the ball, performing complex mathematical equations as he approached it. Like janitor Matt Damon in that film about how much people like apples, his mind became the blackboard, his feet the chalk, and the hair on his legs Robin Williams.
‘If x=u2−v2x=u2−v2, y=2uvy=2uv and z=u2+v2z=u2+v2, and if x=11x=11, what is the value of z?’, he wondered, but then realised he was making life far too complicated for himself. He came up with another plan. A simple plan, but a plan he was sure would work : aim it at Branislav Ivanovic’s head.
It is well known in the football world that the former Chelsea man has an intense fear of being hit in the head with a shot from outside of the box from a left footed Arsenal player during a World Cup held in Russia. Until now, he’d been safely able to manage that phobia, but now it was all his worst fears – aside from seeing John Terry’s car parked outside his house – come true.
Xhaka knew this was it. This was his moment. A chance to bring his side level in an important game on the big stage. He saw Ivanovic, with his head so head-like on his shoulders, took aim and swung his majestic boot at it, firing it directly at the Serbian’s bonce.
‘Nooooooooooo, not this! Anything but this!’, he thought as he ducked out of the way of the ball in a way which kind of made it look as if he was trying to block the ball but he really wasn’t. It hurtled beyond him, like a perfectly spherical bouncy asteroid whizzing beyond the camera at the start of a sci-fi movie set in space, leaving the goalkeeper rooted to the spot before it hit the back of the net.
‘Hurrah!’, thought Xhaka. ‘Once again I have proved that when the going gets tough, the tough get out of my dreams and into my car’.
He knew this was a pivotal moment in the game, and late on when his little round teammate, with his physique like a semi-deflated fart cushion with limbs, scored the winning goal, it was going to be a good night for Switzerland.
And a good night for Granit Xhaka.