Arsenal are set to sign Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Granit Xhaka for £30M this summer, and his impending arrival has been met with praise from supporters and pundits alike.
For too long Arsenal’s transfer policy has seen the side top-heavy and in need of balance, but their marquee signing of Xhaka could be the difference in them challenging for major honours.
Who is Granit Xhaka?
Currently still of Gladbach, Xhaka operates as a defensive midfielder, screening the back-four and retaining possession. Similar to Nemanja Matic in playing style, Xhaka is strong in the tackle and composed on the ball. Last season, the 23-year-old averaged a tackle or interception every 17 minutes, but he’s more than a mere ball-winner.
Standing at 6ft1, the Swiss international is an imposing figure at the heart of the midfield, and will give Arsenal’s soft centre some real muscle. For too long the Londoners had been overrun and outfought in key areas on the pitch, but they have finally addressed their biggest flaw.
Xhaka is far from a typical Arsenal player, which in itself is a good thing. He’s not a slender technician to create chances, but a strong midfielder to protect the defence and break up the opposition. Supporters have been crying out for change in the transfer policy and now their demands have been met.
Why the change?
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is in the last year of his deal with the Gunners, but the long-serving coach is reticent to announce his obvious intentions to extend his deal given public perception.
The Gunners suffered a trophyless season and fell considerably short in the title race while all the usual title suspects endured spiraling form too. Many saw it as a missed opportunity, and calls for his axeing intensified during the season.
Reports have hinted at a contract extension for Wenger, but regardless he knows changes have to be made to prove his allegiances to the club. Since their famed ‘Invincibles’ season in 2004, Arsenal haven’t replaced the talent they lost, and a top-class holding-midfielder was deemed priority all through the years.
What will it mean for Arsenal next season?
Pending his arrival, Granit Xhaka will stick out like a sore thumb in the Arsenal midfield. He is comfortable in possession, but perhaps doesn’t move the ball as quickly as his teammates. He does dwell in possession at times too, trusting his strength to get him out danger when under pressure, but his combative attributes will be key.
Arsenal have long struggled to match the physicality of other sides in the Premier League and Champions League, and signing a coveted midfielder like Granit Xhaka could be the difference against the top sides. Few can cope with the Gunners fast attacking style, but they were too susceptible to counter attacks in the past.
Xhaka won’t deviate from his position so that flaw should finally be fixed, and Arsenal will have some steel in the middle of the park. Arsenal are 5/1 to win the Premier League next season.
Could Xhaka be the difference?