Who Arsenal ‘Should’ be Targeting as their Xhaka Replacement
With Granit Xhaka’s transfer away from Arsenal looking inevitable at this point, it would seem prudent that we must look to the future. Clearly Arsenal have the future in-mind with the impending signing of Albert Sambi Lokonga, but although an exciting prospect, I think we can all agree this is not who we hope to see starting alongside Partey against Brentford.
Now disclaimer, it would be logical to speak about Manuel Locatelli and Yves Bissouma (two players who seem perfect for the role), but they shall not be included. This is due to Locatelli’s preference of going to Juventus, and the improbability of Arsenal going in for both Brighton’s brightest talents in Ben White and Bissouma.
Therefore, here are 3 players Arsenal should go for in the coming weeks:
Martin Zubimendi (22, Real Sociedad)
Xhaka is a supremely talented progressive passer, so it would be sensible for Arteta to want someone of equal ability in this department. Rising Spanish talent Zubimendi might just be the man for the job. Last season his total pass completion rate of 89.3% was comparable to Xhaka’s 89.9, and greater than recently linked Ruben Neves’ total of 84.3% (all statistics provided by fbref.com).
Not just a competent passer. Zubimendi can handle himself defensively. He made the same number of blocks (33) and clearances (55) as Xhaka, along with completing 7 more interceptions than the Swiss. Moreover, Zubimendi recently made his Spain debut highlighting his pedigree and, according to Transfermarkt, his market value of £18 million makes him attainable.
Renato Sanches (23, Lille)
Star of Portugal’s indifferent Euro 2020 campaign, and member of the victorious Lille squad, Sanches would be an exciting addition to the Arsenal squad. There has even been indication from the man himself that he would be open to the move. Replying favourably to former-teammate Gabriel’s Instagram message asking him to come to Arsenal.
However, he is a vastly different player to Xhaka. Sanches’ strengths lie in his dribbling capabilities, dribbling past 40 players in 23 games, compared to the Xhaka’s total of 11 in 31 games. Moreover, he does not possess Granit’s progressive passing and defensive abilities; but, will give us more of a threat going forward. Last season, Sanches recorded a goal and assist xG per 90 of 0.28, markedly better than Xhaka’s 0.11.
Fabian Ruiz (25, Napoli)
Arguably, the most unrealistic of the three, Ruiz would be the ideal replacement for Xhaka. Firstly, he is left-footed, so would be like-for-like if he was to replace the out-going Swiss.
Crucially, Ruiz is able to combine Xhaka’s passing prowess with greater dribbling and shooting numbers. Last season he achieved 0.53 shots on target per 90, this is almost double to the 0.21 Xhaka scored. Moreover, he can boast to have greater long-range passing numbers (completing 84.2%) to the Xhaka’s 82.9%, a trait Granit has been renowned for.
Ruiz is no slouch in the press either, an attribute that would please Arteta. His 140 successful pressures, at a success rate of 30%, is greater than all those analysed in this article.
However, with his value being £40 million (which you would expect Napoli to ask for closer to 60) it would be a tough deal for Edu to pull off.
Would you be keen to see any of the players discussed line-up at the Emirates next season? Let us know!