The one major piece of business that Arsenal have completed in the transfer market this summer has been the £34m signing of Granit Xhaka from Borussia Monchengladbach.
Wenger impressed by Xhaka
The 23-year-old holding midfielder made his debut for the Gunners as he came off the bench to play the second half of their recent 2-1 pre-season friendly win over the MLS All-Stars.
There was much to admire in terms of the manner in which Xhaka immediately stamped his authority on the game, as he seamlessly settled into Arsenal’s midfield by producing a robust performance, which met with the approval of Arsene Wenger.
“He (Xhaka) adjusted very well, his passing was clean and technically he did very well. Overall, I believe for a first game it is very encouraging,” Wenger revealed in his post match press conference to MLS, after he witnessed Xhaka demonstrate his all action approach which will undoubtedly be a major asset to Arsenal’s midfield, into which the player himself believes he can seamlessly integrate.
“I’ve been welcomed really well. I have the trust of my team mates. The club fits to me and I fit to it. Arsenal play attractive football and I enjoy that,” revealed Xhaka in an interview with Goal.
Many attributes to Xhaka’s game
As well as being composed and intelligent in possession, Xhaka reads the game extremely well, which enables him to make key interceptions and tackles, as does his aggressive and combative style. Whilst that is a major strength of Xhaka’s game, it can at times prove to be a weakness, with the Swiss internationalist having a tendency to be both overzealous and ill-disciplined.
Specifically in the last 73 Bundesliga games that Xhaka played for Monchengladbach, he collected 32 yellow and four red, cards, as the Swiss internationalist frequently allowed himself to be wound up by opponents.
Therefore controlling a fiery temper without taking the edge of his play is a challenge that Xhaka will be required to overcome in order to efficiently adjust to the demands of the English Premier League, which he is unquestionably capable of doing.
Blessed with a wonderful range of passing, natural leadership skills and an inbuilt desire to always demand the ball, Xhaka appears to be the ideal candidate to hold Arsenal’s midfield together, as indicated by his new team-mate Jack Wilshere.
“He’s a leader, he can hold the midfield together and get things going from back to front. He’s a good signing,” FourFourTwo has quoted Wilshere saying of Xhaka, who is vastly experienced despite only being 23.
Building an excellent career
After emerging through the youth ranks at Basle, Xhaka made his senior debut for the club in the first leg of their 2010-2011 Champions League third qualifying round tie against Debrecen. Xhaka capped a fine debut performance by scoring the second goal in his team’s 2-0 win.
Subsequently, he went on to win two Swiss Super League titles, a Swiss Cup and the Young Swiss Player of the Season award in 2012, before moving to Monchengladbach later that year.
During four seasons with the Bundesliga club, Xhaka made 140 appearances in all competitions and scored 9 times. As such, adding more goals to his game is likely to represent an ambition for Xhaka whilst playing for Arsenal.
In addition to having enjoyed an excellent club career to date, he has also performed brilliantly on the international stage, after making his senior debut for Switzerland aged just 18. That was against England at Wembley in 2011 during a 2-2 UEFA Euro 2012 Qualification draw between the sides, with Wilshere also featuring in that game, whilst so too did Arsenal‘s former Swiss central defensive pairing of Johann Djourou and Phillipe Senderos.
Just over five years on, Xhaka has now amassed 44 caps and is firmly established as Switzerland’s captain, having played every minute of his country’s Euro 2016 campaign. That ended in devastating circumstances for Xhaka as following Switzerland’s last 16 1-1 draw with Poland, they were eliminated on penalties, with him being the only player failing to score in the penalty shoot-out.
Nevertheless given his strength of character and resolve, Xhaka is well equipped to recover from that disappointment to play a key role in helping Arsenal to enjoy an extremely successful 2016-2017 season, which they will start with a home game against Liverpool on 13 August.