Arsene signed his annual star man early this summer. In the last four years we saw the arrival of Santi, Ozil, Alexis and Cech and I reckon Xhaka will become to be regarded this summer’s star signing, whatever happens next in the transfer window.
Defenders mainly defend and attackers mainly attack but midfielders have to find the balance between the two, and it is in the double DM pivot were football is undergoing most of its innovation at the moment.
Wenger bought Elneny and Xhaka to strengthen the central midfield area, but they are both not classical DMs. Yet they know how to defend even if they do not rely heavily on their ability to tackle. Le Coq is the more typical DM, and it is great to have such a player in our midst: I will always have a lot of respect for him. But it looks like we are gradually moving away from the hard-ass DM so many of us love to have in our team.
I am not sure whether Francis will be having many PL starts this season, as we should expect Wenger to build the midfield around Xhaka. Granit likes to play deep and organise the midfield, and with his laser sharp diagonal long distance passes combined with great overview and anticipation of the game, he will offer something very different to our team.
When I saw Granit play for Switzerland, he reminded me a bit of Ronald Koeman, who was both a formidable central midfielder and centre back for club at country in his career. The ability to defend deep, keep it simple with calm and accurate passes, and launch attacks with a long ball without blinking an eyelid, is a great asset to the team. Players like Alexis, Iwobi, Welbeck and Theo are likely to benefit tremendously from this. It will make us play differently: more deep and compact and more focussed on counter-attacking.
Of course not every team will play football against us and opt to park the bus, but with Xhaka in the team we will be able to find a better balance between attacking and defending. I expect him to be a natural leader and organiser of our game, even though it may take a few years before we get the full potential out of him.
Even though he is still young, I expect Wenger to play Granit in most of our games. What I am less sure about is who is going to play next to him.
Will it be a typical b2b midfielder like Rambo or Elneny, or will Wenger opt for a less dynamic but better through-ball player like Santi or Jack? And what about combining Granit with Francis to achieve added defensive solidity?
We should expect Wenger to change the central midfield combination from one game to the next. If and when we play the likes of Barcelona, Bayern, Real Madrid and possibly Man City, Granit may be combined with Le Coq to soak up the pressure better. If we play at home against park the bus teams, we should expect Wenger to move forward the central midfielders as to hem the opponent in and allow for added creative power next to are man in the hole: Granit would sit deep and Ozil would be supported by Jack, Santi or Rambo.
But what will Arsene do for the majority of the games in which opponents do not aim to totally dominate us or park the bus i.e. who will he play next to Granit in most of our away games and many of our home games?
With Granit sitting naturally deeper, I reckon we need a mobile and athletic box to box midfielder we can connect defence and midfield with their accurate and quick passes, their ability to run forward with the ball and track back quickly to make key defensive interventions. Ideally, they also contribute to the team’s assists and goals production with their late runs into the box and key attacking passes.
Of all our midfielders, I reckon Rambo and Elneny are the strongest candidates with the Egyptian probably being back up to Aaron. I know that many believe that the Welshman is a nr.10 more than anything else, and his recent classy performances for Wales in a more advanced attacking midfield role would support this, but at Arsenal, with Ozil (and Jack and Santi) being very strong options for the nr.10 position as well, I reckon Aaron fits best into the b2b role.
But what do you think?