Arsene Wenger has expanded upon his vision for summer signing Granit Xhaka, amid confusion around the lack of starts handed to the Swiss midfielder. Wenger paid £30 million to secure the Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder’s services, and it is unusual for a player of that price tag not to go straight into the side. Only Shkodran Mustafi, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil have cost more than Xhaka and are three of the first names on the teamsheet.
Arsenal host Bournemouth today looking to get back to winning ways in the league after two successive draws against Spurs and Manchester United, and close the gap on league leaders Chelsea to three points. On the subject of Xhaka, Wenger said:
“He’s more a deep playmaker, I think, than a box-to-box player.,
“He does not get into the final third of the opposition half a lot. He is more a guy who has a fantastic pass to play through the lines. His strength is what we call the ‘moderate value’ pass – the passes who come from deep midfield to high midfield.”
Those words only make his situation all the more confusing, because in the absence of Santi Cazorla Arsenal have missed this type of distribution from deep. Star attackers Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez have suffered due to a reduced supply; the Gunners managed just three shots on target against United and PSG. For a side who pride themselves on sharp, incisive and creative play this is simply not good enough. Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth side also like to get the ball on the deck, so it would be huge surprise if Xhaka was not handed a start as Arsenal try to get going again.
Elsewhere, Sanchez has described Ozil as his best friend at Arsenal, something that could bode well as contract negotiations continue with the pair. The pair have a terrific understanding on the pitch, and Arsenal’s fine early season form was a consequence of them playing closer together. The former Barcelona forward has been deployed centrally, with Ozil almost playing as a second striker with licence to run beyond him. The German is expected to sign a new deal. But negotiations with Sanchez could prove more complex. Sanchez said:
“I get on with all my team-mates on the pitch but best of all with Ozil.
“I really enjoy playing with him. We don’t need to say anything during a game.
“It just takes a glance from one of us to play a one-two or a pass.”
Finally, Aaron Ramsey has re-iterated his desire to forge a place for himself in the Arsenal starting eleven, The Welshman missed a number of weeks with a hamstring problem, and recent campaigns have been punctuated by muscular injuries. Ramsey is one of the most complete midfielders in the Premier League, but like Paul Pogba and Dele Alli, he can look like a player without a position. He would benefit from playing as the most adventurous of a midfield three, but needs to be more disciplined at the Emirates because Ozil occupies the number 10 spot. The former Cardiff man said:
“It’s going to be hard work, the team are on a good run at the moment but I know what I am capable of doing and hopefully I can bring something to this team and help them to continue, or if not do even better, than they have been doing.”
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