Arsenal’s Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka was given an extra year’s extension on his contract this summer after reportedly being targeted by Jose Mourinho at Roma, and Mikel Arteta made it clear that Xhaka was a very important part of his plans for this season.
But due to various problems, he had only made 4 starts for the Gunners in this campaign before suffering a knee injury in our excellent win over Tottenham earlier in the season. Mikel Arteta said at the time: “He’s had a couple of incidents already this season with Covid, with suspension and now with long-term injury. He’s a strong man and he will use this time to focus on other things and I’m sure he will be back in the right place when he’s back. Obviously, he’s a big player for us, someone who is really important, and he will be missed. Other players have to step in.”
But Arteta was also hopeful that he had enough options to cover for his position until his return. The boss continued: “It is a big, big loss and we will lose him for a while but we will try to keep him as close as possible to the team. He will evolve and develop in other areas. This is the first big injury he has had, we are here to help him and I am sure we will find other ways around the team because we have other really good players who will step in and do the job.”
The “really good players” that Arteta would have had in mind were Thomas Partey (who has sadly been in terrible form lately), Albert Sambi (who is promising but still very inexperienced), Mo Elneny (no need to expand), and maybe Ainsley Maitland-Niles (who doesn’t seem to be trusted by Arteta and rarely plays). You could surmise that Martin Odegaard could also be an option, but he is struggling to play well even in his favoured position at the moment).
So although many Arsenal fans are unhappy that Xhaka is even still at the club, the fact is that he is a better player in his position than any of our other alternatives, and with the glut of fixtures coming up we really need to add some steel to the midfield, as any combination of the above are hardly going to strike fear into our opponents.
But there is hope on the horizon, with Arteta explaining yesterday that Xhaka is improving rapidly and may be available sooner rather than later. The boss said: “He is progressing well, he is doing all the right things and he’s feeling better but no more news on that. It’s very positive because the evolution he is doing is great, he is partially training with the team and he is heading in the right direction.
“This week he has progressed again to a different level, and tomorrow we will assess how he is, have a conversation with him and decide when is the best moment to start to give him some exposure in games.”
Arteta went on to admit that we need him, and was asked if it wouldgive theteam aboost to have himback. “Yes, it will be and we miss him, he is one of our leaders, one of the senior players who adds something very valuable to the team and hopefully we can have him back soon.”
And I have to agree with Arteta, whatever you think about him personally, we could really do with Xhaka back as soon as possible…