Arsene Wenger remains certain midfielder Granit Xhaka will make a “huge impact” at Arsenal.
The Switzerland international has only started two matches since signing from Borussia Monchengladbach for a reported £35million and came off the bench for the final 19 minutes of the 1-1 draw away to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Wenger insists Xhaka has simply been adapting to English football as he faces stiff competition for a first-team place, but thinks he will thrive as a box-to-box player and establish himself as a key starter at the Emirates Stadium.
“It is not about his quality, he is adapting to the pace of English game,” Wenger said ahead of Saturday’s trip to play Hull City in the Premier League.
“It is about pairs too – [Francis] Coquelin and [Santi] Cazorla have worked well together – but he will play games. He is stronger and better every week and I think he will have a huge impact.
“He has the stature, the power and the strength. We want him to use that in a very efficient way.
“We are in September and started in August so it has only been one month, very short. It has taken him some time go get in the team – it happens for many players – but he will do that without any problem.
“Xhaka is adapting to the pace of the English game… but he will play games. I think he will have a huge impact” pic.twitter.com/d9UPDSzvDS
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) September 16, 2016
“I personally prefer him as a box-to-box player because he has the engine, power, long pass, he likes to come deep and distribute. As well I think he has the engine to have an impact with his runs.
“We have always had good midfield players. I cannot say we were missing anything – we wanted to add players with quality. Him and [Mohamed] Elneny are top players. There is big competition in midfield but I’m sure both of them will get in the team.”
Asked if he is concerned about Xhaka’s ability to combine with attacking midfielder Santi Cazorla, Wenger replied: “No, not necessarily.
“What I mean is Coquelin and Cazorla have 50-60 games together and that sometimes has an impact in my decision.
“In one or two occasions [he struggled], but I think he adapted quite well, his physical strength and power allows him … to play straight away. We lost our first game and sometimes you go for stability but he is highly focused like Elneny and top, top quality.”
Wenger also stated there were no developments on a new contract for defender Per Mertesacker, whose deal expires at the end of the season.
He added: “At the moment we have not dealt with that situation.
“It is not specifically about his fitness – of course he still has to come back but we go year by year with Per. We will sit together when he is back.”