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Why Arsenal should NOT sell Granit Xhaka this summer


Why Arsenal should NOT sell Granit Xhaka this summer

Can the Gunners really afford to let another crucial player leave this summer?

ALTHOUGH the transfer window only officially opens this week, Arsenal have already been linked with a great variety of deals. Unusually, the one that seems to have prompted the most excited chatter on social media has been a potential sale rather than a signing. The story of Inter Milan’s interest in Granit Xhaka to the tune of around £50 million has seen many Arsenal supporters almost giddy with excitement. 

There are two primary reasons for that: Arsenal’s impoverishment and Xhaka’s inconsistency. In the first instance, fans are understandably alarmed by a reported summer transfer budget of just £40 million. There is an awareness that Arsenal require a grander rebuild than that feeble ‘war chest’ would permit.

Arsenal have, until now, been terrible at selling players at the right time. The loss of Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck, both on free transfers, underlines their dreadful contract management. They must learn to follow the example of Liverpool, who funded their Jurgen Klopp-led transformation by selling the likes of Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho for huge fees, and supplementing that with surprisingly-high prices for the likes of Jordon Ibe and Dominic Solanke.

£50 million or so for Xhaka is, in some respects, a mouthwatering prospect. The positive aspects to his game are constantly undercut by high profile errors. He is someone who seems to struggle with the mental aspects of the game: his talent is not in question, but his concentration frequently is. 

At 26, he is in the prime of his career. He’s also comfortably under contract, making him one of Arsenal’s few high value assets. If Arsenal are to conduct a rebuild, there are only so many players they can realistically use to fund that regeneration. 

However, Arsenal also need to curb their revolutionary instincts. Their disappointing end to the season has prompted a “rip it up and start again” approach to their squad-building process. It’s an entirely understandable response, but it is a somewhat emotional one. The reality is that while Arsenal require significant remodelling, they must be careful not to damage the foundations in the process.

That’s not to suggest that Xhaka is necessarily an integral player. It’s possible that this season Arsenal could begin to evolve away from the Swiss international, especially with two promising young central midfielders in Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi.

However, central midfield is an area of the pitch where depth is not a luxury, but a necessity. With Ramsey already set to depart and Mohamed Elneny clearly surplus to requirements, there’s only so many midfielders Arsenal can afford to lose. Guendouzi is an exciting prospect, but he is still only 20. He can’t be expected to carry the Arsenal midfield next season.

Xhaka might be at a good age to sell, but he’s also at a good age to provide some steadiness and experience to an Arsenal team in transition. It might seem perverse, but as one of Unai Emery’s “five captains” there’s every chance he’ll be wearing the armband semi-regularly next season.

What happens with Xhaka might ultimately be influenced by the fate of another playmaker. It looks to all intents and purposes as if Mesut Ozil’s Arsenal career might be at a natural end; his substitution for youngster Joe Willock in the Europa League a fitting footnote to a difficult year under Emery.

There are obvious economic incentives to move Ozil on. If the club and the player find a deal that is acceptable to both parties, they’ll surely do it. The question then becomes whether Arsenal can afford to lose two players who have become absolutely crucial to their build-up play.

For all their faults, Xhaka and Ozil have been the creative hub around which this Arsenal team has been built. To lose them both in a single summer could potentially be problematic.

To improve their efficiency in the transfer market, Head of Football Raul Sanllehi has admitted that Arsenal must avoid allowing players to get to the final 12 months of their contract. This means making decisions on players when they have two years remaining on their deal.

Xhaka signed his most recent Arsenal contract a year ago: He is believed to have another four years to go. That means there will be many other opportunities to sell Xhaka for a decent return in future. This summer, with so many other midfielders potentially leaving, does not feel like the right time. Xhaka might be unwanted at Arsenal, but that doesn’t make him unnecessary.

 

 


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James McNicholas
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