Tielemans In, Xhaka Out

It feels like Mikel Arteta is not far from having all the players he needs for the forthcoming season.

The impending acquisition of Oleksandr Zinchenko is another piece in the jigsaw as he continues to build a young, hungry, versatile team.

One name that we have been continually linked with since before the summer starts is Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans.

Many probably would have expected the Belgium midfielder to be one of the first through the door. He seemed to be an ideal fit for Arsenal.

But he is still a Leicester player.

We have now recruited Fabio Vieira and Zinchenko to bolster our midfield options. Add in Mohamed Elneny’s new short term deal and we are fairly well set for central midfielders.

The above also does not take into account the likes of Albert Sambi Lokonga, Lucas Torreira, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Charlie Patino.

The middle two are surely expected to leave this summer (has Torreira sulked off to Italy?). But that would still leave us with 8 options for 3 positions.

Tielemans will not join unless we sell a midfielder. And the only logical options to sell would be Xhaka.

Vieira and Zinchenko are new signings so will not be going anywhere, whilst Odergaard is set to be named Arsenal captain (I might have missed the official announcement?)

That would leave Partey, Xhaka and Elneny.

Tielemans does not play deepest in a midfield 3 – for Leicester and Belgium he always has at least one (and often 2) in behind him. That leaves one man – Xhaka.

Xhaka turns 30 in September and has had a rollercoaster of a career with Arsenal.

The Swiss midfielder has looked on the verge of leaving us for the last 2 summers. But he is still with the club.

Last season, playing in a new role further forward, he excelled and was one of our most consistent players.

However Tielemans is clearly an upgrade – at least when it comes to attacking football.

But it is not as easy as “well lets get rid of Xhaka and sign Tielemans”.

For a start we would need to find a buyer for Xhaka – something which we have not been able to do for the last 2 summers. And it would have to be someone who he would want to join

Secondly Arteta would need to make the decision that he prefers Tielemans – and we know he likes what Xhaka brings to the football pitch.

And thirdly we need to decide to make ourselves a little more defensively fragile swapping Xhaka for Tielemans.

Xhaka and his family have now been in the UK for 6 years. His daughter was born in 2019 and will be starting nursery soon.

His daughter is key to all of this.

Three is a key development age. Language will be improving every day as they move from being a toddler to a pre-schooler.

I imagine his daughter is being bought up speaking fluent English. Therefore it would be a huge wrench to take her from England and move to Italy or France and begin developing language all over again.

Arteta also likes Xhaka. He would not have stood by him so long if he did not.

You only realise what Xhaka actually brings to the team when he does not play.

He is fantastic on the ball, excelling in both short and long passing.

There are not many players in the Premier League who are better at switching the play than him.

He bridges that gap between passing it round the defence and getting it into the forwards – often being the link man between defence and attack.

Tielemans does have similar qualities. But the right foot / left foot thing has to also be taken into account. It might not seem huge but it is.

Would Arteta think that Tielemans is an upgrade on Xhaka? I am not sure.

Xhaka is also more defensive than Tielemans. It is a key factor.

If Arteta wants to g more attacking, he has already recruited a man in Vieira to do that. We will see Vieira and Odergaard take the field together with just Partey behind a many times next season.

But to that ying you need Xhaka’s yang.

Xhaka is that more defensive option that will either start in tougher games – or be bought on to see a game out.

Zinchenko can play this role, but if he is required at left back it leaves only Elneny as the more defensive option.

There is still a cloud over Partey, who has had his injury problems in recent years. Xhaka’s defensive contribution can not be discounted.

Tielemens simply does not have the defensive output of Xhaka.

Without this turning into a debate between Tielemans and Xhaka (I actually think Tielemans is the better player), it is clear and obvious that we can only buy if we sell. And I just do not think we will sell Xhaka.

More likely is that we buy a winger that can also “play inside”.

Someone like Lucas Paquetá of Lyon.

The Brazilian would be cover and competition for Bukayo Saka on the right hand side, but can also drop inside to provide a more attacking option if needed.

For now, we just do not need another central midfielder.

It will only be Tielemans In if it is also Xhaka Out.

Keenos

6 thoughts on “Tielemans In, Xhaka Out

    1. Christian Uzor

      I understand your fears, I believe you are also underestimating the defensive traits of Tielemans.
      Tielemans is an upgrade to Xhaka.
      All we need is a reliable DM to compete with Partey, once we get a good cover for Partey that would do the defensive duties, Xhaka would become irrelevant.

      We did well with Cazorla – Coquelin partnership and also dominated many teams, Xhaka doesn’t just fit into our philosophy, the earlier we realize that the better, imagine Partey and Tielemans bossing the middle, it gives us so many options and flexibility whether to go with 4 3 3 or 4 2 3 1 which is hard with Xhaka.

      Xhaka with all his attributes is yet to prove himself either as a DM or CM but a mixture of two which affects our flow and makes us mediocre.

      We should define what we want in the middle and Tielemans is simply the answer.

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  1. theghostinside

    I don’t think it is as black and white as you make it out to be. Tielemans and Xhaka can both fit in our squad. Xhaka won’t go anywhere, I am sure. He is absolutely vital to this team. Tielemans would provide the competition for places Arteta wants to see in our squad. Zinchenko’s versatility makes him not a pure midfielder and with Tavares probably going out on loan he may be used in midfield and at LB. Vieira will be competition for ESR and Odegaard. Maitland-Niles and Torreira are the ones to leave. Elneny will be used spradically I guess. So we would have Xhaka, Tielemans playing centrally. I get where you take your guess from, but our midfield players are very versatile, so I am sure Arteta has plans that go beyond the positions shown on transfermarkt for each of these players. I am sure Xhaka will stay. And I am sure our interest in Tielemans is genuine too, as someone who can rotate with Xhaka. As we can see with Tierney/Zinchenko, Martinelli/ESR, Jesus/Nketiah, White/Saliba, Xhaka/Tielemans, Odegard/Vieira/ESR, Saka/new winger or Pépé, Turner/Ramsdale, Arteta tries to get two strong players for each position. Not just one and a back up option. But again, this is a very fine article.

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  2. Bertie Mee

    Interesting and well-argued article . I am known on the blog where I write as someone who really doesn’t rate Xhaka. His stats are underwhelming. He’s not creative or fast he can’t tackle and his goal output is negligible . On top of tgat he istemperamentally unsound. There is a correlation between him joining and us failing to qualify for tye Champions League.
    As you say we haven’t been able to find a buyer for him for two seasons . If he is that good , why not? I think a Fantasy has built up around Xhaka that suggests he is better than he is. He is bang average and I’d love to see Tielemans in his place . Untilwe sell on Xhaka we won’t mske progress. He slows down our ball movement and has zero pace . We need much more dynamism in that position

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