By Josh Challies
Links concerning Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Granit Xhaka and Arsenal have been circulating for quite a while now but things have certainly intensified recently, with the Gunners said to have tabled an offer of £24m.
Such a price would be significant for Arsenal as it would mark their third-most expensive signing in history, behind Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, but unlike the well-known pairing, Xhaka isn’t as much of a household name.
So, what exactly would the Swiss international offer the Gunners if they were to secure his services? The answer: a fair bit.
Having achieved success in his homeland with FC Basel, making his first-team debut at the tender age of 17 and winning a double in his final year in Switzerland, Xhaka has gone from strength-to-strength in the Bundesliga.
At 23-years-old, Xhaka has over 200 club appearances and has achieved 40 international caps to date. That’s given him a wealth of experience across a variety of competitions, which is crucial to a side like Arsenal.
The most appealing factor to Arsene Wenger’s side though isn’t his statistics and is instead his style of play. Possessing the ability to dictate the tempo and pick out a pass, Xhaka can be seen as the ideal successor to Santi Cazorla in the Arsenal midfield.
Cazorla’s importance to Arsenal has been shown this season during the Spaniard’s absence through injury, with the Gunners missing that link between defence and attack, and the Gunners midfield has looked disjointed.
With the former Malaga ace now 31, and seeing his contract expire in 2017, Arsenal need to find a suitable replacement for the veteran midfielder and Xhaka is that man- although he provides one major difference.
Xhaka is a ball winner, not afraid to get stuck-in and make challenges when required. Indeed, this does see him get on the wrong side of the football laws regularly as he picks up a booking every four games, on average, but it’s difficult to argue that Arsenal don’t need that grit in the centre of the park.
With a free-flowing attacking quartet being the focus of Arsenal’s side, the Gunners have left themselves vulnerable in the attacks and Xhaka could solidify the midfield anchoring significantly, without losing the benefits that Cazorla provides.
Born to a footballing family, his older brother Taulent is also a footballer, Xhaka’s career has developed in a completely different path to Xherdan Shaqiri, who he starred with at Basel, but former Switzerland boss Ottmar Hitzfeld, who liked the midfielder to Germany stalwart Bastian Schweinsteiger, is confident he’ll become a star:
“I am convinced he still has a great career ahead of him. He is a leader, a player who is responsible and self-confident.”
Those leadership qualities will also provide a benefit to Arsenal, who have lacked that sort of influence this season with Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker both regularly absent, so Xhaka would provide a potential future captain with experience in the role, as he’s made over 100 appearances with the armband for Gladbach.
His creativity for his German employers has proven to be a tremendous asset this term, as Gladbach chase a Champions League finish once again, with only Bayern and Dortmund outscoring them in the charts.
Whilst Xhaka does provide some goals, and excellent ones at that, it’s not his main attribute. Like Cazorla he does score but it isn’t what sets him above the rest. Instead, that’s his ability on the ball, vision and desire.
Xhaka has a buy-out clause of £22m inserted into his contract which comes into effect in 2017, which means Gladbach will more than likely accept a departure this summer. The player himself has made it clear English football is his preferred destination.
“England is my dream. I do not hide it. Whether I’ll be happy there, only the good Lord knows. For me money is not important. Otherwise I would not move from Basel to Monchengladbach in 2012. It’s about being a big challenge for me as a footballer.”
For Arsenal, Xhaka certainly ticks all the boxes and he can develop into a star. However, the competitiveness of an Arsenal midfield that boasts the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Mohamed Elneny could be a hindrance, as Xhaka is the sort of player who thrives on consistency and a regular role in the squad.