If most Arsenal fans would have read that Leverkusen were buying Granit Xhaka for £13million in the summer of last year, I think a big chunk of Arsenal fans would have been absolutely fine with it. For me he’s always been a talented player that I think has improved steadily under Arteta, so I’m not sure I would have been in that camp completely, although possibly based on the price I might have had a question over it.
Fast forward to this week and the confirmation via multiple media sources that Arsenal had all but finished the touches on his move back to Germany after nearly 300 appearances for The Arsenal, and I think it is fair to say that the number of people who are delighted with this move has most certainly dwindled.
That’s because this season he has been excellent for us. He has switched his position to play in a more advanced number eight, we have made the most of his strengths through passing, control of the ball, as well as adding what I believe is the most goals and assists in a season for us, with seven and seven to date. He’s turned around his Arsenal career from a guy who was booed off and flicked ‘v’ signs to the Emirates crowd, telling us to ‘f*ck off’, to a guy who only really this season got his name sung with any kind of gusto. He is a player who until the last 18 months has divided opinion, but I think when he says his farewells on the Wolves game in 11 days time, will get a rousing reception and will go with pretty much all fans’ blessings I think.
And I think to those fans who couldn’t stand him at one stage, who didn’t see his value to the team, who didn’t rate him for so long, will all ultimately have a positive feeling towards a player who has pretty much always been available, who is clearly an important guy in the dressing room and at a time in which we’ve had one of the youngest teams in the league, has been a mentor and a positive influence for so many Arsenal players in our current squad. When he gets his send off, I hope he gets one of the biggest cheers.
Of course none of this has been confirmed by the club, but pretty much every major media broadcaster, transfer specialist, etc, are all reporting it. And there is no smoke without fire, as they say. Apparently Xhaka himself spoke to Arteta about wanting a new challenge, Arteta accepted this and the wheels were put in place to make this transition. I suppose this has been in the pipeline for a while though. For all of the details to emerge now about Leverkusen and a €15million bid coming out now, surely means that this will have been sorted weeks ago. Which then leads me to think that this is probably something that Xhaka and Arteta have had planned for a long time. He got a new deal last summer which extended him for another season and I think a lot of people wondered why we would do such a thing. But now it feels pretty obvious; Arsenal wanted to retain a little bit of value on the player, the player himself gets a bit of a buffer in terms of his contract, but as well as that it means any transition in to life without Xhaka can be well-planned out and all set up as part of the evolving process of this squad.
He will leave a hole in terms of a first team spot, but also in terms of a great personality in the squad, which I’m sure Arteta is mindful of. However, in the fullness of time, I suspect it will work out for everyone in the end. We get a bit of cash in to the coffers, which will also be boosted by the increase in Champions League revenue and better placed finish in the Premier League, as well as the probability that we will also get a bit more in through player sales through a number of players expected to leave this summer. And it will need to be a busy summer indeed.
What I do think is interesting, however, is the talk that I have certainly played down in terms of signings. I am of course referencing the fact that I did not expect us to go for both Caicedo AND Rice this summer. It very much felt like one or the other. However, having seen this news about Xhaka emerge yesterday, it seems like this could be a reality after all. I think we all knew that we needed somebody to eventually take over the number six spot and I think most of us thought that would either be Rice or Caicedo. But perhaps the reason Arsenal wanted to move quickly for the Brighton player in January was because they wanted to get in there with him in January, before going after Rice in the summer. What I suspected was a ‘play your cards close’ as well as a ‘red herring’ in the shape of talking up Rice in the summer but actually go for Caicedo now, appears to not be a smokescreen at all.
Perhaps Arsenal’s ambitions are a lot loftier than I gave them credit for.
Of course we’ve already started to see the annual ‘war chest’ stories start to emerge as our season peters out, but I’m not engaging with those. I already did a piece mapping out what I thought would be some of our revenues generated and this ‘war chest’ will simply amount to money already coming in to us, rather than any kind of mega injection from KSE, so there’s no point going over it again, but suffice to say I think Arteta and Edu will need to move quickly and demonstrate how we are looking to step up with the summer additions. And I hope they can get all of this sorted early in the window so we can see what shape we go in to the new season with sooner rather than later. That hasn’t historically been our style though, so I’m not quite holding my breath just yet.
Right, I think I’ll leave it there for today. Have a good one and I’ll catch you all tomorrow.