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Five ways Arsenal can move on from Granit Xhaka

The 30-year-old Swiss international departs the club as a cornerstone piece of the puzzle at the Emirates, and how Arsenal replaces the veteran leader may potentially make or break their 2023-24 campaign

The impending summer departure of Granit Xhaka is set to once again test Arsenal during another key transfer window.

Club boss Mikel Arteta, and technical director Edu Gaspar, have done a phenomenal job putting a young Gunners outfit on course to once again establish itself as one of the preeminent forces in the top flight of English football, with annual incremental progress at the Emirates manifesting an unexpected title push in the recently completed 2022-23 season.

But with the impending departure of their fan-favorite veteran Swiss international midfielder, who looks on course to return to the Bundesliga and join Xabi Alonso’s rejuvenation project at Bayer Leverkusen, Arteta and Edu must efficiently and effectively bring the right man in to pick up the mantle on the left side of the Gunners midfield triumvirate alongside Martin Ødegaard and, hopefully, Declan Rice.

While many Arsenal supporters are adamant that the club add Brighton starlet Moisés Caicedo as part of their summer recruitment drive, a move for the Ecuadorian international is hardly guaranteed to come off on account of interest from domestic rivals Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea. After Chelsea failed to secure a deal for Sporting CP’s Manuel Ugarte, the feeling is that Mauricio Pochettino’s new outfit will accelerate their interest.

Should Arsenal miss out on the Seagulls’ talismanic midfielder, there are plenty of recruitment pathways that still could present themselves to Arsenal. 101 Great Goals takes a look at five such possibilities.

İlkay Gündoğan (Manchester City)

Despite being on the “wrong side of 30″ and offering little in the way of a long-term stay at the Emirates, veteran German international İlkay Gündoğan is, for some, a must in the upcoming summer.

Offering the full range of qualities for a midfielder that is both deadly in the final third, incredibly reliable in build-up play as well as transition, and competent at tracking back on the defensive side of the ball, Gündoğan’s profile is arguably the best possible solution to offer continuity in what Xhaka brought to the table. His leadership qualities and experience are a massive bonus as well, and given that Arsenal is maneuvering to put themselves into a position to challenge once again next season, adding another player that has been there before would go a long way.

Teun Koopmeiners (Atalanta Bergamasca Calcio)

Formerly one of the more prominent names to come in for Xhaka when the Swiss midfielder’s future was unclear in the aftermath of his falling out with the club and its fans after the Crystal Palace fiasco, Dutch international Teun Koopmeiners profiles as a player with very similar qualities to Xhaka when he is the best version of himself.

A deeper sitting midfielder who has a cultured left foot while boasting a strong aptitude in command and control when in possession while also capable of bypassing the press due to his propensity of playing accurate long-balls, the 25-year-old Atalanta midfielder offers a credible presence in defense but truly excels from an offensive standpoint. The former AZ Alkmaar standout regularly eclipsed the 10-goal mark in the Eredivisie before moving to the Serie A and is coming off a fantastic 2022-23 where he added 10 league goals to his CV.

Despite his physical frame, Koopmeiners also is confident on the ball, and after two years of further seasoning in the Italian top flight, he could certainly be more prepared for the rigors of the Premier League.

Dominik Szoboszlai (RasenBallsport Leipzig)

Though not utilized primarily as a central midfielder for current Bundesliga outfit RB Leipzig, Hungarian international star Dominik Szoboszlai certainly is no stranger to operating in central spaces slightly deeper than the number 10 hole on the tactics board. After recent reports have suggested that the Saxony-based outfit is open to allowing him to leave this summer, this could be an avenue that the Gunners should explore.

On the surface, many fans will look at his attacking qualities, and rightly so. A serious goal threat from midfield – especially from range – and incredibly creative while being adept in transition as well as on the defensive side of the ball, Szobodzlai would be quite capable of emulating Xhaka’s offensive output this past season. His age is certainly an attractive side of his profile as well, with the international captain still just 22 years old.

Szoboszlai has hit 10 goals in all competitions in both of his seasons at RBL, 6 of which came in the Bundesliga in both campaigns. Beyond goals, his shot-creating actions sit above the 90th percentile in Europe (according to FBRef), while his assists/90, xA/90, progressive passes, blocks, and clearances are all highly competitive among his contemporaries. Thought to be available this summer at around £60m, should the Gunners sell well, he could be a real addition to the team.

Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace)

An option that would strip the club of certain concerns surrounding the necessity of quickly adapting to life in the Premier League as well as helping the club remain on course when it comes to its homegrown quota, Crystal Palace’s Eberechi Eze could be a sneaky addition to Arteta’s young side.

Much like the aforementioned Szoboszlai, the English youth international has recently come into Gareth Southgate’s thinking on merit after hitting 10 goals in the league in 2022-23 in the wake of brilliantly bouncing back from serious injury in 2021-22. But there is so much more to Eze’s game than just being a goal threat, with the soon-to-be 25-year-old profiling as a player that has sublime technical qualities when on the ball and an ability to drive play in central spaces that would offer a new dynamic into the left 8 role that Xhaka could not measure up to.

Though Eze can press in a credible fashion, his overall defensive metrics are considerably lower than that of Xhaka, which could certainly be offset by the hopeful arrival of Rice who would be sitting behind and covering any gaps in the lines. Overall, the addition of Eze could continue to allow Arteta to look for goals from midfield in a manner that offers continuity regarding the tactics board.

Mohammed Kudus (Amsterdamsche Football Club Ajax)

Last, but certainly not least, Ghanaian international starlet Mohammed Kudus is certainly a budding name around most corners of the continent after many bore witness to his influence in Qatar during the 2022 World Cup that came on the back of a real breakout with Dutch giants Ajax.

Tactical versatility is the order of the day when it comes to the 22-year-old Accra-born Kudus, who is coming into the summer on the back of a season that saw him hit 11 Eredivisie goals for Ajax, with that number expanding to 18 across all competitions. It was a real step forward for the player after some suggested his move from Danish production house FC Nordsjælland came too soon, with all of Kudus’ minutes coming in the front four.

But the Ghanaian has considerable experience in central midfield to fall back on, making more appearances there in his career to date than any other position. Much like Eze, his technical craft on the ball is superb, and his high-success rate at taking players on is incredibly encouraging. An underrated side of his game comes from a creative standpoint as well, and he also receives high marks for his pass completion metrics. If Arsenal has been highlighted by anything of late, it is the desire of both Arteta and Edu to bring in versatile players, and in that light, Kudus could be a real capture for the club.

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Andrew Thompson

US-based Football writer. German football guru with a wealth of experience in youth development and analysis. Data aficionado. Happily championing the notion that Americans have a knowledgeable voice in the beautiful game.

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