Granit Xhaka will flourish in Italy but Arsenal will not miss him
- Credit: PA
Granit Xhaka’s time in North London appears to be at an end with the midfielder set to join Roma in the Serie A, a place he will thrive.
His magnificent performance to help Switzerland knock out France in the Round of 16 of Euro 2020 showcased what is to come during his time in Italy, but that is because France afforded him time and space to dictate the game.
Xhaka took the most touches, played the most passes, and had the most final third entries during that game, as well as providing the equalising assist in the 90th minute.
Mobility is one of Xhaka’s main weaknesses and whilst the intensity of Italian football has increased over recent years, Xhaka will not have to deal with the relentlessness of the pressing and physicality of the Premier League.
Jorginho is a similar player who provides a recent example of a deep lying playmaker with limited mobility who flourished in the Serie A.
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This lack of mobility has contributed to him being a divisive figure in North London, resulting in numerous mistakes, conceded penalties and three red cards.
But despite his limitations, Xhaka has been a stalwart of the Arsenal team under Wenger, Emery and Arteta over the last 5 seasons, making 220 appearances and proving himself as one of the most durable players in the league.
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It was Xhaka’s durability and progressive passing from deep which made him so valuable, and at times essential. Last season, Xhaka made 213 progressive passes, almost double the next player, Thomas Partey with 108.
This discrepancy has been a theme for the past 5 seasons, but the key difference last season was that Partey played 1,000 less minutes than his midfield partner, so as the minutes increase, his progressive passes should begin to resemble Xhaka’s.
It appears Arsenal are close to signing Anderlecht’s Albert Sambi Lokonga to help replace Xhaka, as well as being linked with Renato Sanches, Yves Bissouma and Manuel Locatelli, all of which represent more athletic options and signal Arteta’s intent to create a more dynamic side post Xhaka.