What the future holds for Granit Xhaka?
“After the red card and with the history that he had, he was in a difficult place and we had to try and bring him back where we believe he can be and where he should be – which is being one of the leaders of the team and giving us stability and presence, he can provide to the team and to the club.
“I think since he’s been back, he’s been phenomenal; he’s playing really, really well. Against Palace, he had some important moments and he’s still young. He’s still a player who can evolve. It’s great for us to have him back.” Mikel Arteta was full of praise for Granit Xhaka in the pre-match press conference before their clash against Newcastle United on 19th January. Arteta was not wrong. The midfielder was one of the pioneers who turned the head of Arsenal’s ship in the right direction from the moment the referee blew his whistle in Arsenal’s clash with Chelsea. That win was followed by an unbeaten month in the Premier League, in which the Gunners reduced the gap between them and the top four significantly.
But the question is will Arsenal fans see “Xhaka Boom” next season? Before we ask that question, it’s worth pointing out that the Swiss International has been one of the first names on the starting eleven since his arrival from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2016. His place has hardly been in jeopardy (other than that “incident” against Crystal Palace under Emery). But it wouldn’t come as a surprise if he indeed is shown the door come summer 2021.
Apart from the leadership qualities that he brings to the dressing room, Xhaka has also proved to be a catalyst for all the wrong reasons. Discipline when Arsenal are struggling, sloppiness while on the ball and inconsistency have largely plagued his career at Arsenal. That statement will be warranted by the Arsenal fans who have seen more bad than good in the performances of the Swiss International. We, JustArsenal, look at some of the possibilities that could pan out in the summer:
Matteo Guendouzi: The forgotten Arsenal man plying his trade in Germany would be the one to look an eye on. His arrival at Arsenal would the most cost efficient for the Gunners, as he is still under contract at the Emirates. Still only 21, the French youth International is highly regarded across Europe. But if he wants to revive his Arsenal career, he needs to attest Arteta that he can handle himself with more care when the pressure soars. Last season, in a clash with Neal Maupay post-lockdown, he made demeaning comments to his French counterpart in Arsenal’s defeat to Brighton. As a result, Guendouzi was out of the picture at Arsenal with immediate effect. Reports from The Athletic stated that the meeting between him, Edu and Mikel Arteta did not go well, and as a result the Spaniard was not keen to use the young midfielder for the remainder of the season. It turned out more to be a case of Guendouzi losing out on Arsenal and not Arsenal losing out on Guendouzi as the Gunners laid their hands on the FA Cup in an impressive fashion. A year out of the club can do a lot good to a player. Arsenal would hope that the teenager who brought “a breath of fresh air” at the time of his arrival can replicate the same this summer. Only time will tell whether he has transformed from a boy to a man.
Yves Bissouma: Reports in England involving Bissouma whirled all around Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United’s interest in him in the months of December and January. The Malian has been exceptional ever since he moved to England from Lille in France. The midfielder is comfortable with the ball at his feet and is also more than adept in distributing the ball to his teammates. Bissouma has also got the positional awareness and the nous to step in and disrupt the opposition’s play, while he also boasts the focus needed to battle for 90 minutes as teams look to build pressure and pick the Brighton lock.
This is a player who has countless number of videos on YouTube. The comments are filled with Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal fans fantasizing what would the situation have been if Bissouma was deployed in one of their teams. One fan even went a bit far by commenting, “I thought I was watching Pogba.” Arsenal fans can expect a player in the mould of Granit Xhaka but with a better shooting and passing accuracy. Last month, in an FA Cup fourth round, the midfielder scored a goal from an astonishing 40 yards out. A similar type of goal was scored against Everton at Goodison Park in October. Graham Potter, the Brighton coach, was quick to praise him by stating that the “best Bissouma can play in the Champions League.” Still only 24-years-old, Bissouma has already established himself in the Brighton squad. His versatile nature will only prove to be more attractive as he can be deployed anywhere among the midfield three. The young midfielder’s emergence to the top of the football pyramid is a question of “when” and not “if.”
Emiliano Buendia: If Arteta needs someone who will complement the game of Thomas Partey, then Buendia might have the spotlights on him. His overall statistics, which we obtained from Fbref.com, are also quite impressive. In the past year, he has made 3.51 tackles, 25.94 pressures, 1.89 blocks, 1.08 interceptions, 66.52 touches, 85.7% successful dribbles, 47.5 carries and 1.89 key passes. Whereas, on the other hand, Xhaka has made 1.55 tackles, 12.21 pressures, 1.48 blocks, 0.53 interceptions, 78.68 touches, 75% successful dribbles, 56.21 carries, and 0.46 key passes. Almost every aspect of the Argentine is better than Granit Xhaka. However, one important detail which we should point out is that Buendia has played the major part of last year in the Championship. Having said that, the pros of replacing Xhaka with Buendia might outnumber the cons. Buendia is more than capable of playing from either wing of the front three. He can also play as a number 8 and 6, if the situation asks for it.
Edu and Arteta must continue overhauling the squad. The transfer business done in the past month was impressive, but Edu needs to carry on the way he has sown the seeds, if he envisages his club, where he played for between 2001 and 2005, to be back to “where it belongs.”
Should that plan include replacing Granit Xhaka?