As Football.LDN reported earlier, Arsenal are close to agreeing a deal with Roma which would see Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka leave the club and join Jose Mourinho in the Italian capital. Xhaka played 44 times across all competitions for Mikel Arteta’s side this season, forming a complementary pairing with newcomer Thomas Partey.
Granit Xhaka is edging closer to signing for Roma. 🔴 #AFC
— Chris Wheatley (@ChrisWheatley_) June 7, 2021
Clearly then, the Swiss international must be replaced before Arsenal head into the new season, which begins in the middle of August. So far, the Gunners have been heavily linked with four options, all of whom will be familiar to Premier League watchers.
Ruben Neves appears to be the front-runner to replace the outgoing Xhaka, and at 24, fits the age profiles that Arsenal are looking for to rebuild their side.
The Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder played 36 times in the Premier League in 2020-21, although the midlands outfit suffered a disappointing campaign, finishing an underwhelming thirteenth in a season that cost their manager Nuno Espirito Santo his job.
Ruben Neves compared to Granit Xhaka pic.twitter.com/y3ihKBruEE
— Scott “says soccer” Willis (@oh_that_crab) June 6, 2021
As the above graphic shows, Neves would not be the worst replacement for Xhaka, although the Portuguese international is less dangerous with the ball at his feet, completing fewer progressive passes and at a lower percentage that his Swiss counterpart.
Where Neves excels, however, is in pressures, meaning that he defends more on the front foot than Granit Xhaka. Neves also provides more tackles and interceptions than Xhaka, although he does play in more defensively-minded side which must be accounted for.
The biggest stumbling block for Arsenal’s pursuit of the Wolves man could well be the price. Wolves are thought to value their midfielder at around £35 million, which is significantly more than Arsenal seem willing to pay.
Charles Watts: Arsenal are interested in Neves at Wolves, with talks having taken place. However, he is not Arsenal’s only target, with his £35m price tag a potential sticking point.
Wolves are open to selling Neves, who has two years left on his contract https://t.co/qTatAMbpfR
— Osman 🎗 (@OsmanZtheGooner) June 8, 2021
Whether a deal can be struck remains to be seen, however, Neves would offer a competent alternative to Xhaka, albeit with a slightly different skillset.
Sander Berge has been subject to much speculation already this summer due to having been relegated from the Premier League with his club Sheffield United. Linked to Manchester City before he ultimately signed for the Blades in 2020, he is thought to have a £35 million release clause in his contract.
Another point in his favour is his seemingly close friendship with compatriot Martin Odegaard, who Arsenal are supposedly keen to try and bring to the Emirates again this summer following a successful loan spell.
Understand that #SUFC‘s Sander Berge is keen on the idea of a move to #AFC. The transfer could be influenced by the future of his close friend and compatriot Martin Odegaard though who could end up returning to Real Madrid this summer. Full story 👇👇https://t.co/vWKo2lBpIZ
— Kaya Kaynak (@kayakaynak97) May 13, 2021
Berge struggled across 2020/21, injury limiting the Norweigian midfielder to just 15 Premier League appearances. At 23, he still has plenty of time to reach the potential he showed in the Belgian Pro League, but at 35 million pounds again seems a little out of Arsenal’s price range.
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa
Another option that may be available at a cut-price due to relegation, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, who has been linked with Arsenal this month. impressed for Fulham despite the Cottagers falling out of the Premier League.
I won’t delve into this one too specifically, but Zambo Anguissa would be representative of an excellent signing for Arsenal. The Cameroonian profiled remarkably similarly to Thomas Partey last season with Villareal and could be available on the cheap if Fulham are relegated. pic.twitter.com/sbYYpWGSll
— Rob (@AFC_Blogger49) February 19, 2021
As a consequence of their relegation, Anguissa could be a cost-effective option that the Gunners explore. The Cameroonian midfielder featured 36 times in the Premier League for Fulham last season, and would likely command a much smaller fee than either Sander Berge or Ruben Neves.
As can be seen above, Anguissa is a different player to Xhaka. The Fulham man finds himself involved more around the box, though whether that is his natural game or a tactical specification is unknown. Although he is less involved in any build-up, he may be more the sort of player that Mikel Arteta is looking for.
Perhaps one of the biggest and most exciting rumours for Arsenal fans has been the club weighing up making a move for Yves Bissouma, who currently plies his trade for Brighton and Hove Albion.
Arsenal have longstanding interest in Brighton midfielder Yves Bissouma who is keen on joining the club this summer. Bissouma has instructed his agent Michael N’Cho that he wants to join the Gunners but as of today, no formal offer or contact has been made. [@ChrisWheatley_] #afc pic.twitter.com/Zdb9D6Agk9
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) June 6, 2021
Although no concrete reports of bids being made for the Malian international, it is rumoured that Bissouma himself is keen on a move to North London. He has featured 36 times in the Premier League for Brighton, and has thoroughly impressed watchers of the Premier League.
I want Bissouma. You want Bissouma. Yves Bissouma wants Bissouma. Come on @Arsenal. Please.
— FK ☕️ (@fkhanage) June 6, 2021
The rumoured £40 million price tag may deter Arsenal, but Bissouma’s desire to join the club could well help them force the move through for a lower fee. The midfielder is close with both Nicolas Pepe and Gabriel from their time together at Lille, and seems keen to rejoin them in North London.
💪 Most tackles in the 2020/21 Premier League season:
1️⃣ Luke Ayling – 108
2️⃣ Yves Bissouma – 104
3️⃣ P-E Hojbjerg – 98
4️⃣ Wilfred Ndidi – 96
5️⃣ A. Wan-Bissaka – 88
6️⃣ Ruben Neves – 86
➖ Youri Tielemans – 86
8️⃣ Nelson Semedo – 85
9️⃣ K. Walker-Peters – 83
➖ Matt Targett – 83
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) May 24, 2021
Out of these four midfielders, it is quite possible that Arsenal end up moving for more than one. Along with Granit Xhaka leaving, Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi may also depart the club this summer, whilst Dani Ceballos’ loan has expired and he has now returned to Real Madrid.
This may leave Arsenal with just Thomas Partey and Mohammed Elneny as recognised senior central midfielders, both of whom will be leaving the club for the African Cup of Nations midway through the season.
The result of this is that Arsenal realistically need two or more midfielders this summer if they want to be able to compete across multiple fronts domestically.
Who they go for, however, remains to be seen.
This article was edited by Josh Barker.
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