Tag Archives: Grant Xhaka

Matteo Guendouzi is Arsenal’s most complete midfielder

Recently I had a discussion with our friends over on YouAreMyArsenal about who Raul Sanllehi should be targeting to replace Granit Xhaka in the long term.

The produced this fantastic scouting report on Ibrahim Sangare; putting the 21-year-old Ivorian central midfielder as a long term replacement for Xhaka.

Whilst Sangare is a fantastic physical specimen, and would certainly add some power into the middle of the park, his passing is an issue.

Xhaka sees more of the ball than any other player at Arsenal. He is the main receiver in midfield when the ball is with the defence, and he starts most of our attacks.

On average last season in the Premier League, Xhaka averaged 77.4 passes a game. No player averaged more. He completed 85.3% of those passes.

Compare that to Sangare who averages just 49 passes a game, completing just 80.3% of them. Xhaka is completing 27 more passes a game on average than Sangare.

Xhaka’s pass completion has to be considered when we are discussing players to replace him.

Whilst it is easy to think that we need a hulking 6ft 3in monster of a midfielder who can break up play, we need that player to be able to pass the ball as he sees so much of it.

We are The Arsenal, not Stoke. A player’s ability on the ball is more important than his destructive impact. If he can not pass, he is useless for 60% of the time in the majority of our games.

At Arsenal you need to be able to pass the ball. That is highlighted in the pass competition of Arsenal’s other 2 central midfield options last season: Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi.

Last season Torreira averaged 46.8 passes a game, completing 87.4% of them. Guendouzi with 48.4 passes a game at 87.7%.

Both of these players averaged less passes per game than Xhaka, but it has to be taken into account that both came off the bench 10 times in the Premier League last season. Xhaka was averaging more minutes per game.

Xhaka still comes out on top, but the primary reason for this is Unai Emery sets up for the Swiss man to be the 1st receiver off of the defence.

If we are looking at a long term replacement for Granit Xhaka, we should look no further than someone who is already at the club. Matteo Guendouzi.

At just 20-years-old, Guendouzi has quickly established himself as a 1st team regular.

Last season he might have been outpassed by Xhaka, but we have seen him take huge strides forward again this season, including a man of the match performance against Tottenham

This season Guendouzi has completed 88.2% of his passes. A slight improvement but still an improvement.

The Frenchman has still played 2nd fiddle to Xhaka when it comes to how much of the ball they see – Xhaka is averaging an incredible 92 passes per 90 minutes this season.

In terms of his passing, Guendouzi is a more accurate passer than Xhaka, but plays less passes. As his importance to the team continues to grow, expect both of these to grow.

What has been impressive about Guendouzi this season is his defensive shift.

Whilst last season he was bottom of the table defensively, and some rightly labelled him as lazy at times, this season he has stepped up massively.

He is not too far behind Ibrahim Sangare, when it comes to defensive output. And it has to be remembered Sangare plays in a team who do a lot more defending than Arsenal (Toulouse finished 16th last season) – which also explains why Sangare’s total passes is lower.

So in Guendouzi we have a central defender who is over 6ft, whose passing is already amongst the best in the team and getting better, and who has now added a defensive awareness to his game.

Guendouzi could become the complete central midfielder. Capable of being 1st receiver and dictating the play, whilst also putting in the defensive shift of someone less cultured.

The man to replace Granit Xhaka at Arsenal is Matteo Guendouzi.

He is already better defensively than the Swiss midfielder and with time could become a better passer.

Based on the passing statistics, he is not yet ready to take over from Xhaka as 1st receiver, but his pass completion rate does excite me. He gives the ball away less than Xhaka (his biggest criticism).

Xhaka is going nowhere soon. His importance can be seen in those passing statistics. But as Guendouzi’s influence grows, Xhaka’s will naturally shrink.

It will no longer be a question as to “who should replace Xhaka” but “who should partner Guendouzi”. That man could still be Xhaka. It could also be Torreira or Joe Willock.

Guendouzi is very quickly turning into an all round central midfielder, and at 20-years-old will only get better.


Who’s Arsenal career is Granit Xhaka about to end?

132News on the Arsenal grapevine is that a deal for Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka is only a few days from being completed.

Now before we all get too excited, it is season ticket renewal time soon. We expect the renewal Emails to be sent out over the next couple of days.

Usually, and rightly so, such a heavy link a few days before renewal day can be put down as a bit of hyperboil. A leak by the club to make fans think this year could be different. It usually isn’t.

Counteracting that, the Bundesliga has a habit of doing business early. Bayern Munich have already spent big on two players.

In the last 10 years, Arsenal have made 3 big signings from Germany. Lukas Podolski, Per Mertesacker & Tomas Rosicky.

Mertesacker was signed on the last day of the transfer window on that day of madness in 2012. Podolski & Rosicky were deals completed in April and May respectively. Deals done early. I think the Xhaka rumour has legs.

So if Xhaka is coming in, where does it leave Arsenal’s other central midfielders?arsenal21jan16-636666

From what I have read of the Swiss midfielder. He is a bit of an all rounder. Defensive but can pass and get forward. I see him being the sides primary defensive midfielder if he signs, replacing Francis Coquelin. He is a good place to start.

Francis Coquelin

He has been a revelation since he broke through at the back end of 2014. Full of energy, works hard for the team, gets around the pitch, a crunching tackle, enthusiasm, heart (and to the most part) discipline.

His main weakness however is his distribution. He is not the best passer. And with him at the back, it has restricted Arsenal’s ability to launch attacks from deep. Our defensive midfielder see’s more of the ball than any other player. We need someone who can pass. Xhaka can. Coquelin can not.

Coquelin flourished when playing next to Santi Cazorla. As he could win the ball, play a short pass to Cazorla, who would launch the attack.

Xhaka will not mean the end of Coquelin. But Coquelin will find himself as a bench player.

Recently he has been demoted as Wenger has gone with the Elneny/Ramsey axis. This will continue into next season with Xhaka playing ahead of him.

Where Coquelin will excel is in the bigger games when we need extra defensive protection from the midfield. Coquelin will come in alongside Xhaka providing a solid defensive duo.

My bet for next season? Ozil for Coquelin will be the most common substation made.

Mohamed Elneny

Over the last few games, Elneny has replaced Coquelin as Wenger realised that we were struggling to transition the ball from defence into midfielder. His partnership with Aaron Ramsey seems to work a lot better than Coquelin / Ramsey.

With Xhaka coming in, the future of Elneny has to be bought into question. Does he have a future?

Xhaka will replace him in the starting 11. And with Coquelin a better option on the bench for a defensive substitution, I can see Elneny being a peripheral squad player.

Such a cheap signing, it could be that he was always a short term option.

Of course, I do not want to write him off, and he could continue his progress, but I see him as no more than a back up player. Being back up for Xhaka if he is out, or a replacement for Aaron Ramsey and/or Jack Wilshere when they get their usually injury.

He will stay another year, but will not get much game time if everyone is fit.

Jack Wilshere

This time last year, Wenger drew his line in the sand. Jack Wilshere would be our new defensive midfielder. We would not be buying anyone else. And we didn’t. It did not work out well.

Xhaka will not be ending Wilshere’s Arsenal career. Merely changing it.

Wilshere has shown he is incapable of staying fit. When he is fit, he is a class player. But the same could be said of Diaby.

His future at Arsenal is surely now as a squad player. Someone who can not be relied upon to be a consistent starter, but can be used as a back up player for any of the 3 central midfield positions, and a good opinion off the bench.

A brilliant player, but there is no point being brilliant if you are always in the medical room.

Aaron Ramsey

A consistent starter this season, despite being in poor form, the signing of Xhaka will add competition to his place in midfield.

Whilst Xhaka will not directly be in competition with Ramsey, an extra quality player in midfield will add pressure to Ramsey.

It would mean that the manager would have the option to play Coquelin alongside in the back games. And then add Wilshere and Elneny into the mix, any loss of form for Ramsey would result in him surely losing his place in the side?

Santi Cazorla

The Coquelin / Cazorla axis worked so well during the early part of the season. But the signing of Xhaka will put an end to that.

Most likely, Arsenal will start the majority of games with Xhaka and Ramsey. Ozil ahead of them. Xhaka’s natural replacements are Coquelin & Elneny, Ramsey’s will be Wilshere. So where does that leave Santi Cazorla?

The only place I can see him fitting in is Ozil’s understudy.

Like Ramsey, this would then see Ozil get a kick up the arse. Having someone quality to back him up and put pressure on him.

If everyone is fit, it could also see Ozil play wide right, drifting inside.


Taking into account the injuries in the middle of the park we get year after year, Xhaka will be a quality signing. A leader. A general. It is certainly one to be excited about.

The domino effect however may see Mohamed Elneny’s Arsenal career being over before it has really begun.

I guess to be a success you must be ruthless.