Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi’s futures are far from certain this summer, according to reports, as the pair are apparently failing to live up to their hype. Is that really true though?
James Olley writes in the Evening Standard that the pair represent a ‘transfer failure’, and that with hindsight mistakes were made that summer. Let’s have a look at both players:
James Olley wrote: “The Gunners signed Xhaka for £34m three weeks before Chelsea paid Leicester £30m for N’Golo Kante. Kante earns more than Xhaka’s £90,000-a-week wage but the amount was not beyond Arsenal’s pay structure.
“Elsewhere, City paid Dortmund £21m for midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, while Andre Gomes joined Barcelona from Valencia for £42m, fractionally less than the Gunners’ record fee at the time, £42.4m on Mesut Ozil.
“Transfer fees have escalated since but it is difficult to argue then or now that Arsenal got value for money.”
Personally, I think this is complete rubbish. Olley’s attempt to compare the signing of Xhaka with similar signings in 2016 fails miserably.
For a start, anyone who has watched Kante and Xhaka should know they’re nothing alike. They don’t play the same role, they don’t play in the same system, they don’t have similar traits. They’re both midfielders, that’s about it.
It was never a choice between the two of them.
As for the other two options, I’m sure Arsene Wenger is cursing himself for missing out on the injury-prone Gundogan (385 days on the sidelines since May 2016), and the expensive Barcelona flop who has only made four starts in 2018.
It must really hurt seeing Gomes’ zero goals and one assist this season, or the fact WhoScored write that the midfielder is ‘very weak’ in the tackling department and ‘commits fouls often’. Arsenal could really have used a midfielder who doesn’t contribute at either end of the pitch.
Arsenal without Xhaka?
Let’s refresh our memories of the three most recent occasions Arsenal have played without the midfielder:
- The first half against Östersund, when Arsenal went 2-0 down in 23 minutes.
- The opening 76 minutes against Stoke, when Arsenal played some of the most boring and stale football of the season before winning a dodgy penalty. The team scored twice after Xhaka came on.
- The full match against CSKA Moscow, when Arsenal almost threw away a three goal lead. Fortunately, one moment of quality from Danny Welbeck and Mohamed Elneny turned the match back in Arsenal’s favour, after domination from the hosts for 74 minutes. By comparison, the team walked the first-leg with a 4-1 win.
Xhaka had a poor start to this season, but there’s no doubt that he’s much improved in recent months. Arsenal have played some great football when the Swiss midfielder is in the team with Ramsey, Özil and Mkhitaryan. I wouldn’t get rid of him just yet.