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Arsenal: Wholesale changes expected; Xhaka discusses style of play; Possible replacement for Wenger?

There is an opportunity for Arsenal to qualify for a semi-final tonight as they host Southampton in the EFL Cup. Although it isn’t a priority for the Gunners, it is a good chance for Arsene Wenger to bring in some of his fringe players ahead of the Christmas period. The Guardian report that the Frenchman will opt to make several changes for the match with the likes of Lucas Perez, Gabriel, Carl Jenkinson and Rob Holding set to feature. The report also mentions that Olivier Giroud is not going to play after picking up a knock against Bournemouth.

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There is a chance that youngsters Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Ainsley Maitland-Niles will get a chance in the first team, which will encourage supporters as both are well thought of in the youth ranks. It is a good move from Wenger to make wholesale changes as the side are approaching a busy period in the league and he needs to prioritise that competition. It would be a major blow for the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Laurent Koscielny and Mesut Ozil to pick up an injury in the EFL Cup that rules them out of league matches. That said, Arsenal will still fancy their chances against a Southampton side that is likely to also contain several changes from the team that beat Everton at the weekend.

Granit Xhaka has been speaking about his robust style of play and has suggested that his tough-tackling style is why Arsenal signed him. He has already picked up three yellow cards and one red since arriving from Borussia Monchengladbach in the summer, and he is already beginning to form a reputation for himself in the English press. The Express carries these quotes from the Swiss international:

“Yellow cards and red cards are part of what Granit Xhaka is.

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“I’d no longer be the same player without my rigorousness, and certainly not the player Arsenal wanted.”

Arsenal have lacked a robust player in their midfield in recent years and what Xhaka provides is so much more. He is full of energy and is able to contribute on the ball, with his passing range and driving runs. Arsene Wenger has yet to find his best combination in midfield, but surely Granit Xhaka has to be a part of it. He is a complete midfielder and it is crucial that Arsenal find a role for him that allows him to show all parts of his game. There is definitely more to come from the midfielder over the coming months.

Finally, various sources report that Arsenal are already planning for life after Arsene Wenger and have started to draw up a shortlist of possible replacements. One of the names believed to be on that list is Ralph Hasenhuttl, who has led RB Leipzig to the top of the Bundesliga this season. The German club have made a lot of headlines in recent weeks and the manager has some admirers in North London.

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This does appear to be just gossip at some stage, but Arsenal fans will be happy to hear that the board are already sourcing possible replacements for Wenger. The current problems at Manchester United show how important it is to find the correct replacement for an iconic manager and Arsenal need to do their due diligence if they want to avoid making the same mistakes. It is too early to talk about a leading candidate, but Hasenhuttl is certainly a manager that could be in the race. He will need to prove himself over a longer period of time if he is to get the job. That said, he has done superbly at Leipzig to date and if he manages to keep the German club in the upper echelons of the Bundesliga, bigger clubs will come knocking.

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