Arsenal have been in parlay with Borussia Monchengladbach over the sale of star midfielder Granit Xhaka, according to reports in Germany.
Sky Sports have funneled the story to their UK readership this weekend, reliably informing us the Gunners are prepared to pay around £34m for the Swiss international.
It’s a move that would shore up the troublesome holding-midfield area in the team that Arsene Wenger has for so long sought stopgap solutions to fill.
Veteran duo Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta are expected to depart the Emirates this summer, while alleged interest in a blockbuster buy like Xhaka suggests the likes of Mathieu Flamini and Francis Coquelin, the former overnight answer to Arsenal’s defensive-midfield prayers, don’t feature prominently in Wenger’s future plans either.
But what type of player is the man around whom the French coach wants to restructure his entire midfield?
Technical proficiency is preferred by the Arsenal recruiting team over any kind of brawn, so it’s fair to assume Xhaka will be better on the ball than equally-revered alternatives like William Carvalho.
It’s a sentiment reflected in his stats for the season, with no Monchengladbach contemporary coming close to the 84.5 passes he averages every time he takes to the field. Of these, 84.9% find their desired target.
Xhaka’s average is a figure that surpasses every Arsenal player this term too, with Santi Cazorla’s 82.1 the closest any current Gunner comes.
There are 11 players in the ranks with greater passing accuracy than the Switzerland superstar, but only Coquelin averages more tackles and interceptions.
The key difference between Xhaka and the Frenchman he would presumably replace, however, is that the former’s all round ability make him a far greater attacking threat.
Coquelin averages 0.2 key passes per match, as he simply shifts the ball along in his role as middleman in the transition between defence and midfield; a mere recycler of possession. Xhaka, by contrast, averages one key per pass per match and has contributed three goals too.
His addition would add variety to a midfield too dependent on Cazorla to create chances from deep. The ammunition would come from two sources instead of one and the new arrival’s inclusion wouldn’t compromise the defensive diligence instilled by incumbent anchorman Coquelin.