How Arsenal can shape up with Granit Xhaka
The arrival of Xhaka means Wenger will have to chop and change his starting XI a bit.
Football season has already ended for Arsenal and they've started building their team for the upcoming season. Last summer Wenger was heavily criticised for not signing any outfield player but this season he has acted quickly and has already signed Granit Xhaka from Borussia Monchengladbach – who have one of the most talented squad in Bundesliga with the likes of Patrick Hermann, Mahmoud Dahoud, Andre Hahn and many more in their ranks.
This season Arsenal struggled during the Christmas period, having lost both Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla to long term injuries. With Jack Wilshere already injured and Mathieu Flamini not fit enough, they didn't have the ideal replacement to fill in the shoes of Coquelin and Cazorla.
Aaron Ramsey was the only player who could play in that position. Though Wenger signed Mohamed Elneny in the winter transfer window and it proved to be a decent signing but with Coquelin and Cazorla back where will Xhaka fit in?
Either of Cazorla of Coquelin will have to be sacrificed if Xhaka has to start in the defensive midfield role or replace Ramsey if he is to play more as a box to box player. But was this signing really necessary? It's not that the Swiss is a bad signing, he is very highly rated in Bundesliga and was also linked with Bayern in previous transfer windows.
As Xhaka comes with a price tag of £25-£30 million, no way he would be made to sit on the bench and it would be harsh if Elneny isn't given a chance after impressing in the latter stages of last season. Wenger could have rather opted for a cheaper alternative and strengthened his strike force which lacks a quality player.
How will Arsenal lineup with Xhaka?
Cech will continue as the No.1 in goal and the back line of Hector Bellerin, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal is unlikely to be changed unless they sign a new centre-back or a left-back. Coquelin is likely to continue in the holding midfielder role whereas Xhaka will be expected to replace Cazorla and play as a more or less box to box midfielder.
Ramsey will continue as the right midfielder playing as a box to box midfielder. Ozil will play in his preferred Attacking midfield position and Sanchez will complete the midfield as a Left winger. Giroud will play as a lone striker to complete the lineup.
Another possibility is Arsenal lining up in a 4-3-3 formation. With goalkeeper and back four remaining the same, the only change will be Ramsey playing in a deeper role. Ozil might get a free role and fall back a bit and Sanchez could play as a false second striker.
The Gunners could line up in a more or less 4-3-1-2 formation with Bellerin and Monreal providing them the width in their play. The full backs will have a greater importance in this formation than in the 4-2-3-1 formation.
What will Xhaka offer Arsenal?
Xhaka is a technically gifted player who is versatile and will offer Wenger various options. He can play in the defensive midfield role where he can start the attack from the back and will also protect the defenders with his quality to intercept and break down attacks.
If Wenger decides to use him as a box to box player, Xhaka is not shy to shoot from distance. He can even chip in with some useful goals or assists and give a different dimension to their play.
Xhaka’s strength is his accurate passing and his ability to intercept as well as win aerial duels. He averages 1.7 clearances per game compared to that of Coquelin’s 1 and Cazorla’s 1.2. Stats also show that he blocks 0.4 shots per game whereas Coquelin and Cazorla average 0.3 and 0.1 respectively. Thus his defensive traits might help Arsenal to concede less goals. (Stats: WhoScored.com)
Attacking wise, the former Monchengladbach player averages 1.3 shots and 0.8 key passes per game. Coquelin, on the other hand, averages 0.3 shots and 0.2 key passes every 90 minutes. If Wenger is forced to choose between Xhaka and Coquelin, then Xhaka might have the upper hand as the stats suggest.
What Arsenal have to do to challenge for titles?
Games cannot be won without scoring. A number 9 with an eye for a goal is a must for every team. With Oliver Giroud and Danny Welbeck only pure No.9’s available to Arsenal at the moment, they should strengthen this department with the likes of players like Michy Batshuayi or Alexandre Lacazette.
These are players who can win you matches single-handedly. Though Xhaka is a great coup, they need a striker like Suarez who can create and score goals out of nothing. Maybe a slight change in tactics resulting in a more direct playing style will also help them as other teams have become accustomed to their style of play.
With the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil in their squad, there is no scarcity of players who can create chances. Arsenal at the moment just lack the finishing touch to their play which Batshuayi and Lacazette could provide them with.
If Gunners are to challenge for titles, they should strengthen all their departments including scouting and management. Xhaka is maybe the start of a new era under Wenger who was hugely criticised at the end of the season.
Arsenal should now try and sign one prolific striker and a good central defender who could partner Koscielny and help improve their defence which looks fragile with Mertesacker, as they lack the pace they require to stop the counter attacks.
This is a great sign of intent from Arsenal and should they be able to sign their targets this summer, Arsenal can soon become one of the best teams in Europe.