Out with the old, in with the new. In 2006, Arsenal moved swiftly to sign Tomas Rosicky before the World Cup that year, with the Czech Republic midfielder going on to make a name for himself in that tournament with two excellent long-range goals. While Arsenal may have never seen the best of Rosicky, history may be repeating itself with Granit Xhaka.
The Swiss midfielder has been tipped as a possible star of Euro 2016, but by then he could well be an Arsenal player. The Gunners have already made a bid for Xhaka with his current club, Borussia Monchengladbach, confirming the offer. While it may not meet their valuation of the 23-year-old, talks are continuing and a deal appears to be in the pipeline.
The clamour for new signings at Arsenal – generated by last summer’s failure to sign a single outfield player – has led to fans frantically searching for more information on Xhaka.
So who is he?
Xhaka can fill the holding role that Arsenal have struggled with in recent years, but he is more at home in playing a more advanced role similar to Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, and with Mohamed Elneny in the side he’s likely to be given a chance to press forward to offer support to Arsenal’s attack.
However, given Arsenal’s wealth of talent with the ball in their possession, it’s without where Xhaka will be of most use. Xhaka plays with an aggressive streak that Arsenal have so often been accused of lacking of, and his ability to tackle will also offer more protection to a fragile defence. However, he will need to find the right balance of aggression and control, having been sent-off three times in the Bundesliga this season and incredibly lucky not to receive a fourth red card when he had to be substituted at half-time during the recent 1-0 defeat by Ingolstadt.
If Arsenal are to get the best of him, he will need to play centrally and with enough space to control the ball and deliver passes to those ahead of him. That could prove tricky, with the likes of Wilshere, Ramsey and Santi Cazorla all vying for that position, although given the injury problems suffered by that trio of late, Xhaka could well prove a regular while the others dip in and out of the side.
Xhaka impressed for Gladbach during the Champions league group stage where they faced Manchester City, although it’s in Germany where his best performances have come and he displayed an ability to lead a side despite his tender age when he took on the captain’s armband towards the end of the season.
What’s his history?
Born in Basel, Xhaka was quickly signed up to his home town’s academy, going on to make his debut for the first team in 2010 after an eight-year stint in the youth set-up. After making 20 league appearances in his first season, Xhaka earned his first international call-up from Switzerland the following year against England in a 2-2 draw at Wembley.
Xhaka could have played for Albania, but despite being undecided on the matter, the Swiss FA’s determination to have him represent the country of his birth ultimately proved decisive. He rejected a call up to the international side for the Olympics in 2012 as he wanted to focus on his recent transfer to Gladbach, but he did go on to take a central role in Switzerland’s 2014 World Cup campaign and has amassed 40 international caps heading into the Euro warm-up matches.
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