If Xhaka leaves can Arsenal’s midfield be more flexible?

Xhaka’s imminent departure is the perfect time to get a ‘different type’ of midfielder

With every passing day, Granit Xhaka appears a step closer to joining Italian side Roma.

It was not a surprise when reports emerged that new Roma boss Jose Mourinho wanted the Swiss international as his first signing for the Giallorossi.

The presence of the 29-year-old has been ever consistent in the starting eleven of Arsenal since his switch, even though the club had four different coaches during that duration. His leadership qualities both off and on the pitch have been clearly much appreciated.

But ‘Granit Xhaka’ is still a topic which divides opinion of the fanbase. While some say he is fundamental to the club’s style of play, others say he is too ponderous when in possession.

Now that the Swiss’ career at North London is coming to a halt, it can give the club a fresh opportunity to recruit a player in a different mold to Xhaka.

The Red and White of London have been linked to Wolves’ Ruben Neves. Albeit a good player and still only 24-year-old, there are a lot of parallels in the Portuguese and Xhaka’s stylistic playing technique.

Both are heavily involved in their team’s buildup. Both have an admirable ability to pick up a man 30 yards away from them. But on the downside, both lack the athleticism to cover large spaces of ground in a short space of time.

However, with Arsenal’s another alternative option in Yves Bissouma, they can get something completely distinct. The Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder, even though is not heavily involved in the team’s buildup, he has a knack of beating his man at the center of the pitch through his dribbling skills.

That can turn out to be handy if the Gunners are trying to break free from a low block. Arsenal can also become more flexible with the acquisition of Bissouma due to his pace and agility.

The Malian can add a pinch of unpredictability at the center of the park for Mikel Arteta, something which has been missing for quite a long time. He can even be deployed as a number eight.

Remember the Invincibles squad when Arsene Wenger posted two highly mobile players in Patrick Viera and Gilberto Silva at the center?

Wenger’s midfield looked complete when he had midfielders who were exceptional passers of the ball. And whose on-the-ball panache was complemented by their off-the-ball movements.

Although Wenger’s tactics were different from current manager Mikel Arteta’s, having two players in Bissouma and Thomas Partey can only help the present squad in becoming more ‘flexibly solid,’ a midfield tango which has been missing at the Emirates Stadium for several years.

Yash Bisht


Tags Bissouma Neves Xhaka


  1. A complete tactical change might help us cure our pedestrian buildup and be more direct when in possesion. I think our CBs have shown in varying degrees that they can provide good long balls, also our loan players Saliba and Mavro. With Thomas Partey in the centre, and to a little extent, Mo we have players who can launch those long balls in the right channel pretty well. With the addition of Bissouma I wonder if our left side would be more direct? This could help with teams setting up a low block, with all three players on the left side i.e Bissouma, Tierney and the winger(most likely Martinelli) being direct players. It would also help in counters. If Granit leaves all the very best to him, but I feel we need to change our current tactics in order to not be weakened by his absence.

    1. Anyone who thinks that Xhaka has had any positive contribution whatsoever during his time at the club is (a) a moron and (b) a moron who cannot translate the statistical facts which show that since his inclusion in the team Arsenals performance’s have declined every single campaign getting worse season after season. In defense goals conceded, in attack chances created from midfield and as a consequence goals scored. He has personally been responsible for causing more goals against the team than any other player I can remember. Yes even more than Artetta himself, which was quite a lot and is the only achievement I give him credit for. “I wonder if that’s why he kept playing Xhaka, so he could take the record off Artetta”

      1. But Xhaka has been central to our tactics for almost the entirety of MA’s time at Arsenal. In 2019-20 he had the setup built around him and this season he was our best midfielder by far. His passes towards the left channel are required and his absenece does effect our play.

  2. Gilberto wasn’t that mobile. What made the invincibles play better was having a battering ram in viera and a visionary in Gilberto . We’ll still need a passing specialist in the middle. And not an Elneny type passing specialist, but one that actually progresses play. Everyone thinks the idea of two battering Rams is fun until our opponents just sit deep and don’t commit.

    1. Yeah, I was thinking the same. Then we had edu, who had elements of both and could play with either, but I never saw him as particularly mobile either. All were tough player who took responsibility

    2. Gilberto Silva was the last top class DM Arsenal had. He allowed Patrick Viera to be a true box to box midfielder to drive forward with the ball, knowing that Gilberto Silva was behind him in front of the defense.
      Bissouma and Partey would be a formidable midfield combination.

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