The silly season is fully underway, as club “think tanks” seek to delve into the transfer market and attempt to strengthen their teams going into the new season, while also ensuring that they get the best possible value for money deals in a very competitive and largely inflated global transfer market. We at GSV have taken it upon ourselves to give you a comprehensive breakdown of some transfer deals in our Grading The Deal supplement, an exclusive and comprehensive guide catered towards the purists who seek to know more than the average fan regarding the wheeling’s and dealings in football today. Enjoy!
Arsène Wenger is a man that developed a blueprint to winning titles in England, refined it and made an art form out of its intricacy, before discarding the model for one that was based on the Tiki-Taka era that blossomed before reaching its plateau and fading out in popularity and effectiveness. The largely unflattering season past seems to have reignited a fire in Le Professor’s belly, a fire that has seemed to coincide with what can only be the result of a nostalgic wine induced trip down memory lane with the Missus, one that lead to him digging in the attic and dusting off his “master plan for success”. The pre-Tiki-Taka Arsenal were a combative, yet technical football side, that could play as pretty as they could mix it up, and get stuck in if need be; that flexibility allowed Wenger to showcase his tactical dexterity, by making subtle changes in-game without having to totally move certain players out of position, or sacrifice the balance or functionality of the team, in an attempt to attain the desired outcome.
The current Arsenal squad is largely undersized when compared to the more bullish big EPL sides like Chelsea, Manchester City or Manchester United, who over the years have sampled that formula hatched by Wenger, to build combative yet attacking sides, that won games and titles with more regularity than the more aesthetically pleasing Arsenal led by Wenger. From Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Vieira to Gilberto Silva and Patrick Vieira, a thriving Arsenal side under Wenger has always been built around two physical, yet technical central midfield players, that form the heart of the team and offer balance on both sides of the ball. Le Prof seems to be returning to those deep roots, judging by his last two transfers. Mohamed Elneny came in as a much needed buy in January, and the industrious Egyptian has already won over many fans with his tenacious approach on the defensive end, while his propensity to take a pop from range has him marked as a future terrace favourite in the making. The arrival of Elneny has been followed up with yet another physical yet technically gifted former FC Basel 1893 midfield player, a lad who may just be the long awaited replacement for Patrick Vieira that many Gooners have prayed for, in more ways than one. Granit Xhaka could be the type of player Arsenal fans have been yearning for in their quest to reaffirm themselves as one of the elite clubs in English and World football, the squad knows that they can go a long way towards fulfilling their undoubted potential by winning a major piece of silverware or two for Wenger before he hangs up his faulty zipper having winter coat.
Full Name: Granit Xhaka
DoB: September 27th, 1992 (23)
PoB: Basel; Switzerland
Nationalities: Albanian, Swiss
Caps & Goals: 47 Caps, 6 Goals & 5 Assists
Position/s: Ball-Winning Midfielder, Deep-Lying Playmaker, Attacking Midfielder, Advanced Playmaker, Trequartista, Inside Forward, Winger (L/R/C)
Height: 1, 85m
Preferred Foot: Left
Club: Arsenal FC
Jersey No: #29
Former Clubs: FC Basel 1893 (2010-2012), Borussia Mönchengladbach (2012-2016)
Development Nest/s: Concordia Basel (2000-2002), FC Basel Youth (2002-2010)
Transfer Fee: £30m + add-ons
Wage: £120k p/w
Contract Expiry: June 30th, 2019 + 1 Year Renewal Option
2015/16 Club Stats: 36 Games, 3 Goals, 2 Assists, 7 Yellow Cards, 2 Double Yellow/Red Cards & 1 Red Card
Total Career Stats: 207 Games, 12 Goals, 15 Assists, 45 Yellow Cards, 5 Double Yellow/Reds & 1 Red Card
GSV Deal Grader: Patrick Vieira to Arsenal from Inter Milan on August 14th, 1996 for £3.5m (5/5)
Signing Granit Xhaka is a sign of intent from Arsenal, the former Gladbach skipper brings leadership traits and a physical prowess that has been sorely missed at London Colney; Xhaka may take a few months to fully adapt to the style of play at Arsenal, yet he seems like a long-term replacement for the pivotal Santi Cazorla in the deep-lying playmaker role. Xhaka affords Wenger more flexibility in tactical outlook and personnel selection, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see the team change formations more often in the coming season, as Wenger looks to get the best out of an already talented midfield group, one that can be said to have underachieved given the plethora of talent battling for the 5 starting positions.
A combative, yet intelligent midfield general, with a good eye for the pass and an instinctive positional sense that allows him to keep the midfield ticking over on both sides of the ball, Granit Xhaka has all the tools required to develop into an elite level regista for Arsenal and Switzerland.
Granit may have played in a more direct system at Gladbach, yet he has always been the player who starts most attacking moves, with a decisive pass or a defensive line shifting run. An average passing accuracy of 85%, with an average pass length of 20m, in the 2015/16 season, proves that Xhaka will not necessarily take too long adapting to the constant passing demanded in an Arsenal side; Granit is well adept at looking to play with his head up and look for the forward pass first, before going sideways or backwards to retain possession if the pass is not on, this trait makes him akin to Santi Cazorla in many ways, and that places him in good stead for the future in an Arsenal jersey. An 81% success rate in take-ons, 30 out of 37 attempted, is a testament to the brilliant combination of guile and strength that is Granit Xhaka; the midfield general is well versed in the art of breaking from deep in midfield, ala-Aaron Ramsey or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and forcing the opposition defenders to break out of shape to halt him, it’s on such runs that Granit makes his living, picking out teammates with pinpoint through-passes.
A return of 3 goals in 28 games during the previous campaign is a poor showing for such a talented midfield player, Xhaka will have to up his goal tally and aim for double figures in all competitions if he seeks to be an upgrade to the players he seeks to play over regularly; Arsenal have largely failed to reach the lofty heights of the great Wenger sides before them, due to a drought of goals from midfield, where they used to get a steady supply in the past from players like Marc Overmars, Robert Pirès, Fredrik Ljunberg, Patrick Vieira, Sylvain Wiltord & Ray Parlour. It’s worth noting how Xhaka had a 48% shot accuracy for Gladbach in the 2015/16 season; as a technically gifted player with a powerful shot on him, the Basel born star can expect to get tons of encouragement from the terraces to have a pop from range when there is an opening for him to shoot on sight, something that seems to be currently largely unencouraged from within the team.
For a deep-lying playmaker ,with good positional sense and a frame that allows him to compete with the best of them, Granit Xhaka still seems a tad bit naïve in some defensive situations, and that will be something which has to be worked on, if Arsenal aren’t going to stop turning-over the ball in midfield as often as they do; a 41% success-rate in tackles, 49 out of 121 attempted, is also not flattering for a player that carries so much defensive responsibility in the double-pivot. Xhaka has also seemingly unfairly developed the tag of being a hot-headed player, due to his determination to succeed, coupled with his inability to time tackles as well as he should, much like a modern age Paul Scholes. The lad is maturing with each season, and his defensive game can only improve when playing in a side that forces defenders to earn their keep more often than not, due to their more expansive style of play and obvious defensive fragilities.