No one would wish to be Unai Emery right now. On the pitch, his Arsenal side are performing woefully and have no wins in their last five outings (Skysports). Off the pitch, it’s all sorts of chaos surrounding the future of a host of players. Earlier on in the season, star midfielder Mesut Ozil and Lucas Torreira were reported to have grown unhappy in London and were both linked with moves to Milan. Much recently, the focus has been on Switzerland midfield star Granit Xhaka who was recently stripped of his Arsenal captaincy after his public outburst to fans in their fixture against Crystal Palace.
The Swiss international has not featured for the Gunners since then and has also apologized in the process. However, it’s far from over and reports are now suggesting he could want out of the club in January, with Milan the front-runners in the race for his signature. As per Transfermarkt, Xhaka is currently valued at €40m and no doubt still has a lot to offer to any side he joins.
And now, according to RSI, the Switzerland international is scouring out property in Milan as he looks to finalize a switch to Italy in January. Arsenal’s loss could yet be Milan’s gain and if things continue as they are, there’s every possibility the move can go on as suggested.
AC Milan chief Ivan Gazidis, who used to work for Arsenal and helped to sign Xhaka in 2016, will lead negotiations as he looks to improve his club’s fortunes.
Fueling further speculation, Arsenal boss Unai Emery also admitted Xhaka may have played his last game for the club after leaving his former skipper out of their last four matches.
Emery said when asked about Xhaka’s future:
‘I don’t know if he’s going to play [for us] again.
‘I don’t know because, if he is available in his mind to continue helping us and continue defending the shirt, I think time is giving us that solution.
‘Then, if I decide he is in the group with us, if he is ready and 100 per cent in his mind with the decision to help us – we have a solution.’
On the other hand, the midfielder wasn’t looking like he wanted to let go of the situation as well. Speaking about the incident which led to his outburst during his side’s 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace, the Arsenal midfielder said:
“When my shirt number lit up on the board of the fourth official and then broke jealous jubilation of their own fans, that hit me very much and stirred up,” Xhaka told Swiss newspaper Blick.
“It was very painful and frustrating. For me, this reaction is still incomprehensible, especially in this vehemence and how extremely hostile I was here.
“Since I can remember, the fans are an integral part of my sport. And I have a lot of respect from the beginning for the commitment and hardships fans take to help us players.
It’s easy to assume that Xhaka is in need of a new place to render his services and he could just be a good fit for a Milan side needing some inspiration as well.
Granit Xhaka would fit the midfield role properly at Milan
Known for his propensity to always make a tackle, the Switzerland international would instil that grit and urgency needed in Milan’s midfield. While Xhaka can give away meaningless fouls on a bad day, he’s generally a disciplinarian and would bring some form of discipline to the Rossoneri midfield.
Much recently, a report by SempreMilan said the Milan hierarchy were looking to bring a revolution to the club by bringing in a combination of talented young players as well as experienced ones.
In terms of experience and leadership abilities, not many have the kind of resume Granit Xhaka boasts of. It’s no surprise that the 27-year-old has captained every side he has played at – both for club and country.
Given the armband at Mönchengladbach when he was just 22 years of age, Xhaka became popular in the Arsenal dressing room shortly after his move in 2016. Hence it was no surprise when former club captain Laurent Koscienly “disrespectfully” left the club, Xhaka would be the prime option to fill that leadership void.
Reportedly, Emery didn’t appoint his captain solely but ordered his players to cast a vote amongst themselves. Not surprisingly, Xhaka was appointed as the Arsenal captain.
On the international scene, his leadership prowess is known as well and he leads the side as the captain and even did so during the presence of an experienced professional like Stephan Lichtsteiner.
Milan would no doubt benefit from Xhaka’s leadership abilities and he could offer that sense of leadership and take responsibility in organizing Milan’s midfield.
In terms of ability, Xhaka is a tactically gifted player as well. As per Whoscored, the 27-year-old has averaged 2 tackles, 0.4 interceptions, 1.9 clearances and 0.6 blocks so far this season. Ismael Bennacer who features in the same holding role for Milan has also managed 2 tackles, a greater 0.8 interceptions but a much lesser 0.3 clearances and no blocks so far via Whoscored.
Xhaka is the kind of player that balances both the defensive and offensive approach in midfield and can switch up both sides of his play when he needs to.
He’s also a good passer of the ball with an average of 61.9 passes per game, compared to Bennacer’s 45.6 passes and Bilgia’s 51 passes per game as per Whoscored.
Moving forward, Xhaka’s superior 4.9 long balls per game could offer more service to Piatek up front and he could ensure more mobility of the ball in general to the Milan midfield department.
Xhaka also has a good shooting range and his tally of 0.9 shots per game is more than that of all Milan’s option in the holding midfield role. The Switzerland international also takes good free kicks and has scored a couple of them in his Arsenal days.
Milan would no doubt need some additions in January and Xhaka could as well need a change of scenario and ultimately his current club. His close relationship with Ivan Gazidis coupled with the uncertainty surrounding his Arsenal situation at the moment means Milan can take advantage of it all and secure the services of an experienced midfielder that will positively impact the squad.