When Granit Xhaka signed for the Gunners early on in the 2016 summer transfer window, Arsenal fans loved being able to watch their new powerhouse drive in midfield for the Swiss National Team at Euro 2016. We saw what kind of player we were getting and despite already having a jam packed midfield full of talent, Xhaka offered something different from the rest.
The addition of Xhaka at Arsenal meant that our midfield talent added another player to its ranks and it made competition for places even tougher in that central midfield spot. Previously occupied by the likes of Wilshere, Cazorla, Ramsey, Coquelin and Elneny, Arsene Wenger now had to find somewhere for Xhaka to also fit into such a team, especially after signing him for a high-profile £30 million.
Going into pre-season there was of course plenty of discussion about whether Xhaka would be a regular starter for Arsenal, or if not, more of an effective substitute. Being primarily a defence minded midfielder, it means that Xhaka’s impact off the bench is limited more than that of an attack minded midfielder, because whilst he is likely to protect the back line, Xhaka isn’t going to necessarily turn a game around.
Coming into this Arsenal side however, he was keen to point out that he did not come to Arsenal to be just another squad player, instead he insists on becoming a first team regular and a key member of the starting eleven.
Xhaka said: “I have not come to Arsenal to sit on the bench or even in the grandstand. But I’m not 30, I’ll be 24 at the end of September. I’ve moved to a club and a coach that can develop me. I think at Arsenal I can improve my speed and power. Because I realize now that I’m not at a hundred per cent of what is possible there. [Understanding] this too is an advancement.”
Despite having a fairly shakey competitive debut against Liverpool, in which he made the most fouls of any player and consequently picked up a yellow card, Xhaka has been a star of the show in both the Leicester and Watford games, the latter especially. In the Watford game Xhaka showed quality both in defence and attack. He showed that he can break opposition play up and win the ball back convincingly, whilst also having the attacking quality to ping passes across the pitch.
I have been very much impressed with Xhaka so far and although Wenger doesn’t make many risks when it comes to big money, it shows that Le Prof knew exactly what he was getting for the team when he signed Granit Xhaka. With the right quality and consistency, Xhaka could go on to become one of our key players this season.