'Playing as well as anybody': Merson says Arsenal 30-year-old can spring big World Cup surprise
Arsenal legend Paul Merson has backed Granit Xhaka to help Switzerland spring a surprise at the World Cup.
The Highbury icon, writing in the Daily Star, has tipped the Swiss to be dark horses at Qatar 2022.
Xhaka has played a key role for an Arsenal side that has well and truly exceeded expectations so far this season.
The Gunners sit five points clear at the top of the Premier League table and are in the Europa League last 16.
Mikel Arteta has given Xhaka licence to go further forward, a decision which has brought out the best in him.
And Merson feels that the 30-year-old could play a role in exceeding expectations for his nation too.
‘My dark horses this year are Switzerland,’ he wrote.
‘They rarely turn up at tournaments but I just have a little sneaky feeling about them.
‘They’re one of the teams that you watch and say to yourself ‘I didn’t know he was Swiss’.
‘They always do well in qualifying and always seem to make these major tournaments but it never quite ticks for them.
‘They matched both France and Spain at Euro 2020 and took them both to penalties – beating the French.
‘Granit Xhaka is playing as well as anybody this season in the Premier League with Arsenal and you can’t underestimate what that will do for their confidence.
‘Switzerland are just one of those teams that have the capability to upset a few sides along the way.
‘They are very hardworking and it will be a team that wins this World Cup – not a side made up of individuals.
‘Nobody would have predicted Croatia to make the final in Russia but when you break it down, they’re a proper team.
‘The same applies to Switzerland.’
A fan favourite again – TBR View
Xhaka’s time at the Emirates has seen him go from hero to zero and back again – a real redemption arc.
The £100,000-a-week ace was captain, then fell out with the fans, lost the armband and was on the verge of leaving.
Xhaka stuck around, but he continued to split the fanbase – until this season.
Now, he has become an undroppable figure in the heart of the Arsenal midfield.
Could Xhaka’s Arsenal form help him lead Switzerland into the latter stages of the World Cup? Anything can happen.
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