Granit Xhaka – a name of steel to motivate the troops!
Arsene has his man for the summer. Granit Xhaka is the second central midfielder we signed this year and it will be very interesting to see where and how Wenger wants him to play. Xhaka, like our January signing Elneny, is a very fine passer of the ball. Only Bayern’s Alonso has more average passes per game in the Bundesliga, but unlike the Spaniard, and any of the other top-ten passers in Germany, Granit the Gunner (what a name!) is not afraid to play a long ball or a more risky pass….especially from deep. Xhaka has an average of 83 passes per game with a success rate of 85%, but he also executes a whopping seven long balls per game.
YouTube videos give indeed the impression that he loves to spread the game with pinpoint medium to long distance passes and with a good eye for a quick through ball. He does not linger on the ball either and, just like Elneny, he likes to find an efficient ball forward to create quick turnovers. He is confident on the ball and able to find or create space for himself constantly.
However, Granit also has the second most average fouls per game (2.6) in the Bundesliga and he loves the colour red, with three sendings-off last season in the league. With 2.4 tackles and 2.7 interceptions per game he does well in terms of his defensive duties, but he will have to balance his desire to get stuck in with a bit more discipline going forward. At just 23 years of age this will come, no doubt, and a bit of fire in our team will not go amiss either of course.
The more I look at the footage the more I believe we have signed a better version of Arteta – at least long-term. His ability to pass the ball forward from the back quickly and accurately, short, medium AND long distance will add another dimension to our play. IT will enable us to produce more deadly turnovers, I reckon. Rambo is not accurate and quick enough in this department and Santi misses some of Granit’s physical attributes. The Swiss young maestro seems to be a mixture of Santi and Coquelin or indeed a better version of Arteta. It leaves us with the opportunity to mix and match in the double DM pivot: we can pick two from Coquelin, Elneny, Santi, Rambo, Jack and Xhaka to create the right balance in the team depending on the opponent we are facing on the day.
Granit is already an established international with 41 caps (five goals) and has both top league and CL experience with 140 games under his belt (nine goals). Wenger paid a lot of money for him and there is no doubt that the former Borussia Monchen Gladbach captain will constantly feature in the first team next season, if fit. I have a feeling this will mean that Le Coq will not be an automatic choice next season. Francis, one of my favourite Gunners, is a more traditional DM with a more limited passing ability and Wenger seems to prefer to play more all-round midfielders with a strong emphasis on (forward) passing. This does not mean we will not see much of le Coq, as I expect Wenger to use him in games where we need to be defensively solid, or when we need to see games out.
I also feel that Wenger will play Elneny in the first team a lot and that we will see an Egyptian-Swiss partnership gradually flourishing in the double DM pivot. Granit and Mohammed, with their athleticism, natural physicality and superior passing ability, will allow the four attackers in front of them, as well as the full backs, to attack with intent and without worrying too much about the holes they are leaving behind them. I reckon that either Elneny or Xhaka will regularly join the attack, with the Swiss more likely to stay behind.
The question is what this would mean for the likes of Jack, Aaron and Santi. I reckon we will see Arsene play three attacking midfielders in front of the double DM pivot and with either a holding CF – Ollie – or a fast a furious CF – Alexis/new buy – up-front. It opens up the opportunity to play 4-2-3-1 – or 7-4 that can turn into 4-7 in just a handful of seconds – for which we can pick three from Santi, Jack, Aaron, Mesut, Alexis and Iwobi; and Theo might get another chance in this formation as well, although it looks like his time is up at THOF…
With Danny out for a long time and Theo possibly going, we need more fire power up-front, but with the signing of Xhaka we have just added a gem of a player -and with that another dimension – to our midfield play.
Granit the Gunner Welcome to the Home of Football!