5 Reasons Why Arsenal Fans Should Be Excited About Granit Xhaka

Arsenal have signed an extraordinary talent in Granit Xhaka.

The 23-year-old has joined the club for £35m from Borussia Monchengladbach, and his performances for the German club in the Bundesliga have likened the Swiss to Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Similarly, Xhaka’s phenomenal perfomances for Switzerland have impressed fans far and wide, completing 12 tackles and eighty-nine percent of his passes at Euro 2016.

Here’s why Xhaka is going to be such an asset for Arsenal ahead of the new season.

A natural leader

The midfield maestro is quite simply born to lead. At the start of the 2015/16 Bundesliga campaign, Monchengladbach were rock bottom having lost five consecutive games and manager Lucien Favre, who had saved the club from relegation in his debut season, left the club. Andre Schubert was chosen to replace Favre in what is his first experience as a first-team coach.

It was a somewhat striking decision to choose a then 22-year-old in Xhaka as the new club captain, but he embraced the opportunity. It seems that responsibility and pressure only aids to Xhaka’s game, as he progressed as an influential and instrumental player, leading Die Fohlen to fourth come May in Germany.

Arsenal have been severely lacking in leaders in recent seasons, and with many of the club’s stars such aS Laurent Koscielny ageing, Xhaka’s presence could not be any more welcomed. A hugely positive addition off the pitch, as well as on it.

Fierce and combative style

Xhaka’s tenacious nature has led to more cards of the yellow and red variety than the Swiss can recall, but it also largely benefits the way that he likes to play football. We saw this best during the 2014/15 season, when Gladbach had Christoph Kramer on loan. Kramer’s outstanding ability to be utilised as an anchor and protector in front of the defence allowed Xhaka to move further into the midfield and into the midst of the action.

Xhaka averaged 2.4 successful tackles per game last season, and made 2.7 interceptions. His usefulness comes into play when he is allowed to break up the play and instigate attacks further afield, with a liking to play clever through balls for the wide men and forwards. So Xhaka’s role is two-fold here, absorbing opposition attacks whilst also encouraging offensive football.


Match winner

He may not be an exceptional penalty taker, but he has shown numerous times for Die Fohlen that he steps up to the plate when required, and has been one of the most consistent and clinical players in the Bundesliga for the last two seasons.

Arsenal have lost innumerable points because they have failed to kill games off and maintain a high level of pressure against the opposition, but signing Xhaka may transform that. In the dying embers of a derby encounter between Monchengladbach and Koln in 2015, guess who arrived who convert Thorgan Hazard’s free-kick in injury time..


A never say die attitude

 

Xhaka has that steely determination that Arsene Wenger had been desperately searching for. Yes, his discipline needs work, but it is the bite, fire and passion within him that drives him to sometimes reckless extremes on the pitch. When he dons the shirt of his team, he will run himself beyond the point of pain to enable victory.

At the end of the 2014/15 season, he played the final nine games of the season with a broken rib. ‘At times, it hurt like hell’ he had said, but it was worth it to see Monchengladbach in the Champions League places.

Pass master

To say Xhaka dictates the flow of the game does not fit his industrious style, but it goes someway to explaining his effect on the pitch. As aforementioned, Xhaka likes to drive the ball forward when possible, but his decision-making is reminiscent of a player with eagle-like precision in terms of his passing.

His eighty-five percent pass success last season suggests it’s a rare occasion when he does not find his target, whilst he was second to only Toni Kroos at the Euros in terms of forward passes.

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If Xhaka can learn to conceal his volatile rage in times of frustration, he will go on to become one of the world’s best players. As it is, Arsenal have an extraordinary player on their hands.

What Arsenal Need To Become Serious Title Challengers

Arsenal last won the Premier League in 2004, with an incredible team of “Invincibles” as they went the entire campaign undefeated.

Patrick Viera manned the ship from the middle of the park, Robert Pires frightened opponents on a weekly basis, and a lethal partnership between Henry and Bergkamp dismantled defences like they were made of straw.

Now, in 2015, eleven years have passed since the Premier League trophy was in Wenger’s hands.

Of course, the costs that came with the Emirates stadium was bound to be a stumbling block in Arsene Wenger’s mission for progress and the eventual recapture of the Premier League crown. Bu in 2013 and new  commercial deals were struck it was time for the Frenchman at the helm to decide whether to delve into the deep, dark market and compete with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City for the best that there is, or to bow out honourably, after 17 years in charge.

So his decision to pay a colossal £42.5m to sign Real Madrid star Mesut Ozil brought sheer delight if not shock and surprise to the table.

After years of signing players such as Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta, Ozil represented the start of something extraordinary.

The problem with signings like Arteta for fans of a club like Arsenal is that the Spaniard’s signing, just to take an example, was not a big show to the rest of the league what the club is capable of the transfer market. Players like William Carvalho and Lars Bender would be big signs of intent, which was exactly what the doctor ordered when it came to the marquee signing in Ozil.

However, Wenger has struggled to fit the German into the team as much as Ozil has struggled to adapt into his philosophy.

Perhaps that’s not fair, as Ozil has displayed signs of something magical at times, such as when he was given licence to roam in the league match against Hull last season.

Ozil admittedly struggled to maintain a performance standard that was expected of him in 2013/14. It is unlikely that many Arsenal fans would challenge that opinion. The playmaker needed to show a rapid escalation in his work-rate, and strive to impress in big games instead of drifting into the background. In the 2014-15 season he arguably did this.

Wenger moved again to show his muscle in the market, paying over £30 million to secure the services of Alexis Sanchez from another gargantuan Spanish side, in Barcelona. This was a master move.

It’s clear to see when Sanchez is on the ball or involved in an attack, those watching are just mesmerised. With the outstanding ability to play up front, behind a striker or out wide, Alexis gives Wenger many viable options, which he can exploit to his advantage. 25 goals and 10 assists in all competitions, as per WhoScored, is a terrific return for a debut season in the Premier League.

The point with Sanchez, in comparison to Ozil, was that he is truly the first piece of a large puzzle in mounting a challenge for the Premier League title. The Chilean epitomises the signal of intent that Arsenal have needed to sound for so long. It was known to everyone that the club needed to spend, but it’s crucial to utilise the finances on exactly who and where on the pitch. Alexis Sanchez is the first player to instigate what needs to be a rejuvenation, a renaissance of Arsenal in the Premier League.

Identifying who is needed can either be as straight forward as signing a £100,000 a week contract, or as complex as explaining quantum entanglement. Locating where, often begins with finding weak points in a team, specifically in games such as the 6-0 reverse against Chelsea in March.

Absolute no structure in midfield, calamitous defending and a simple lack of common sense derailed Arsenal’s hopes of ever catching Chelsea in that vital fixture last campaign. Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny has been suspect at times, which is why the signing of their rival’s shot stopper in Petr Cech has been one of Europe’s best deals of the summer.

Potential defensive frailties

Wenger has not been afraid to spend money in the offensive ranks with the recent additions of Ozil, Welbeck, and Sanchez. The signing of the England and former Manchester United man was impressive to cover the maimed Giroud, who had suffered a broken ankle against Everton, where it would have been expected that Wenger utilise Lukas Podolski or perhaps push forward one of his younger starlets like Chupa Akpom.

However, when it has come to resolve defensive issues, Wenger has been more than happy to roll the dice and deputise players untried in positions. Francis Coquelin and Hector Bellerin were both hastily promoted from their ranks in the youth academy, and Nacho Monreal was forced to play at centre-back for a period in the season following an injury to Laurent Koscielny.

Despite the prompt progress of both Coquelin and Bellerin, for which the club’s academy and Wenger himself should be praised for, investment needs to be made into defensive positions. The arrival of Southampton’s Calum Chambers was desperately needed and whilst his ability to operate at centre-back and full-back will undoubtedly aid Wenger, a long-term replacement for Mikel Arteta in front of the defence alongside Coquelin needs to be found.

The shield

Before Coquelin was recalled from his loan at Charlton, Wenger’s pairing of Mikel Arteta and Matthieu Flamini was irksome to say the least for Arsenal fans. The partnership can work when the team needs to be defensive, the shield the pair offer is quite useful to fend off waves of attacks, but otherwise it stunts the team fluency and style.

Coquelin’s arrival brought a balance to Arsenal’s play and a dominance in front of the defence. On last season’s statistics as per Squakwa, the Frenchman bests both Arteta and Flamini in the air, and is a more proficient tackler.

The 24-year-old wins 3.7 tackles per 90 minutes, compared to Arteta’s 1.79 per 90 minutes, and Flamini’s 1.95.

The issue is that Arteta will be 34 next March, at the same time Flamini will turn 32, with the latter encircled by rumours of a move to Bastia later this summer. Coquelin may well stay in Wenger’s team for years to come, but if the manager wants a pivot in front of the defence, he’ll need a partner.

The candidates

Granit Xhaka of Borussia Mönchengladbach would be an excellent choice. Whilst Xhaka would not come cheaply having recently signed a new contract until 2019. Nonetheless, he has become a prominent fixture of the midfield for the Bundesliga club and has been pivotal as to why the Foals will compete in the Champions League next year. Only 21, Xhaka is already an established international in the Swiss national team and is the aggressive but dominant force Arsenal need to thrive in their midfield.

After a tough first year in the Bundesliga, Xhaka had many critics but strived to prove them wrong, pushing himself to have a superb partnership with Christoph Kramer in a 4-2-2-2. He can be overly enthusiastic, picking up ten yellow cards and one red, but the Swiss has positional awareness, tackling ability and an exceptional eye for a long range ball.

Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin has been repeatedly linked with various clubs in the past year due to his stalwart performances at Saint Mary’s under Ronald Koeman, who slammed his foot down to block Schneiderlin’s move to the Gunners’ rivals Tottenham last summer. Schneiderlin would be a fine addition, but whether Wenger wishes to fight it out and potentially pay an extortionate fee remains to be seen, with a similar situation seen for Sporting’s William Carvalho.

We could also see a change in formation to just one defensive midfielder in front of the defence to accommodate a midfielder further up the pitch.

At left-back, Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal are both competent players who haven’t done much to be forced out of the team, but if the club wish to push forward with world class players, another addition from the Bundesliga in the shape of Wolfsburg’s Ricardo Rodriguez would be the signing of the summer.

The Wolves pushed Bayern Munich hard at times for the Bundesliga title, and crushed them in January where Rodriguez was one of the stars in a 4-1 win. Another Swiss international, the 22-year-old was without question the best left-back in Germany for 2014/15. An 81 % pass success, 50 key passes, 54 chances created, 60 interceptions and 32 tackles all from left-back in 26 games are quite outstanding statistics.

A more important issue is solving the long-term centre-back issue that will arise at the Emirates with Koscielny (29) and Mertesacker (30) unlikely to be able to perform at their best in the near future.

Some fans have pointed to the old but wise solution in Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin, and whilst having experience is essential, all wise minds but empty legs will not win a Premier League title. Arsene Wenger seems to have made up his mind, having already addressed the fact he will not add another centre-back. Surely feeling that Gabriel, signed from Villareal in January, should provide enough cover with Chambers.

Chelsea’s perfect balance of this can be seen in their squad; John Terry leads the team from years of experience in the league, whilst Eden Hazard’s lightning pace and extraordinary presence on the ball is an example of what Arsenal need.

Up front, Wenger either does not seem interested in adding to his forwards this summer or cannot compete with other clubs. Carlos Bacca of Sevilla and Jackson Martinez of Porto were both available, only for AC Milan to snap up the former and Atletico Madrid to sign the latter player, which left many fans wondering what Wenger’s plans were.
Thierry Henry said back in April that Olivier Giroud was doing ” extremely well” but didn’t believe he was a title winning striker.

The likes of Karim Benzema or Alexandre Lacazette appeal to supporters and either of the French duo would be fantastic moves, but the club’s links with Roma’s Mattia Destro or West Brom’s Saido Berahino should disappoint supporters. They may be good players, but neither Destro nor Berahino will win titles for their team. Alternatively, Alexis Sanchez could be used as an out and out forward, which could be an astute move.

The Premier League is a seething mass of wealth in this present day, and Wenger surely knows that. It is the time to make the ambitious moves in the transfer market in the hunt for the title.