So after a week of talking about it amongst the fans, the worst kept transfer secret was announced yesterday, with the club Twitter feed clearly making light of it by saying “ok, we’ll announce Xhaka”, which I have to applaud I must say. I’m sure it was a little bit irritating for the club to have their nice surprise spoiled by others, but ultimately the most important thing is that the deal is done and we have a shiny new player to talk about.
And what a potential player we could have. Like many, I am so entrenched in my English football watching, that I rarely venture in to the realms of other domestic leagues outside of the Spanish league, so I won’t pretend to tell you everything about a player I have only just seen a few clips and read about online. But from what I have read, I’m excited, because this guy looks and sounds like an elite player in the making.
Arsenal have paid top dollar for a guy at a perfect age and with perfect attributes for the team. He’s aggressive (he says so himself), he is a ball winner, but he also has the eye for a pass. It looks like he’s exactly the type of player that could slot in to an Arsène Wenger side. Mobile, technically very capable, but also has a bit of ‘blood and thunder’ about his physicality. The English media will have you believe that all Arsenal need is a destroyer in midfield. Wrong. What Arsenal need is a player who can do that and distribute too. In a world where the possession-based game has taken a beating because of what Leicester did in the league, a signing like Xhaka will be the right type of player combined with his Arsenal teammates, that could hopefully prove that you can win things and dominate possession in this ‘new climate’ that everyone talks about now that there’s more money sloshing around the Premier League.
I think everyone is a winner with this signing being done early too. The player wanted the deal done so he could go off to the Euro’s without any issues of his future unresolved. The club wanted the deal done so it could demonstrate to the fans that it is going to address any perceived deficiencies in the squad from last season. Monchengladbach have ensured they get the whole summer to reinvest the fee back in to their squad. And finally we, the fans, get the inevitable adrenalin shot needed after all of the football has subsided and we’re left in this non-football no mans land without The Arsenal.
The player himself was clearly impressed with the manager too. In an era in which managers are coming and going within clubs, the assumption that has been held amongst many football fans are that it doesn’t matter who the manager is as long as the player is paid enough. The fact that Xhaka referenced his delight at getting the chance to play under Wenger, just goes to show that he still has pulling power when it comes to players, so we should certainly tip the cap to the manager in that regard. There will be some that suggest that the player would have joined regardless of the manager, but to those people I would also cite the fact that Arsène is a relationship builder, with this particular relationship beginning about a year ago when Arsène contacted Xhaka for a chat. So what that means is that he had his eye on the player for some time and in between then and now, he has established a relationship with the player, which I’m sure has made the transfer less protracted than it should be.
So how will our midfield shape up for next season? Beats me. But what this signing does do is adds more competition in an area that many of us knew looked on its knees at times last season due to long-term injuries. I am not sure whether all of the current players will start the season at the club, but the fact that we’ve lost two big characters in Rosicky and Arteta and in my mind, replaced one of them with another big character in Xhaka, is great news and well done to the club.
Future Arsenal captain? He’s got to establish himself first, but the signs are positive when you look at his career to date, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
We won’t have to wait long to see him in action though, as Switzerland play in the Euro’s and Xhaka will inevitably have a big role to play in the competition. One things for sure now; there will be a lot more interest now in the Swiss from Arsenal fans than there would have been a couple of weeks ago!
Catch you all tomorrow.