The internet was awash with rumours that Arsenal, in their search for more solidity in midfield had signed the 23-year-old Swiss international Granit Xhaka from Borussia Monchengladbach. The midfielder has been on the radar of many clubs and him moving to Arsenal would make sense since the Gunners have been actively looking for more compactness in midfield.
The Gunners might have the likes of Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey at the moment but the likes of Mathieu Flamini and Jack Wilshere have not played enough games this season and to cover for players such as Wilshere who get injured regularly and for Mikel Arteta, who might be leaving the club next season, getting Xhaka will surely make sense.
The Swiss international is a no-nonsense midfielder and is known for his robust tackling and great vision when it comes to spreading the ball around. Arsenal need help in the middle but is he the right person for the job?
A reported fee of £33 million is certainly no bargain, though his age might suggest that he has time to get better, we look what Xhaka could do and compare him to Arsenal’s best defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin, who is again having a stellar season.
Using stats from squawka.com, we compare the two midfielders based on their performances in this season’s league games alone.
Xhaka to take over from the Frenchman?
Passing the ball around would be the most important facet for any Arsenal player and well passing it with accuracy. Coquelin is the better passer of the ball with an accuracy of 89% per 90 minutes this season while Xhaka just comes in a little behind the French midfielder with an 85% rating.
However, Xhaka is known for his long-range passing and that shows in the distance covered with each pass on an average of 20 metres while Coquelin has an average pass length of 16 metres. The greater range of passing leads to more chances being created with Xhaka averaging 0.5 changes per 90 minutes while Coquelin creates just 0.21 chances per 90.
It is the same number when it comes to key passes as well with Xhaka coming in with 0.5 per 90 minutes and Coquelin coming in with 0.21 per 90 minutes.
The defensive or dirty side of the work is where Coquelin excels as he has averaged 3.14 tackles won per 90 minutes for the Gunners this season while Xhaka only comes in with 2.17 tackles won per 90. In fact, in all the duels that the midfielders have to do on a regular basis, Coquelin wins more with a success rate of 56.8% compared to Xhaka’s 48.6%.
Even in interceptions, it is the Arsenal midfielder who does better with 4.4 interceptions per 90 compared to Xhaka’s 3.0. Xhaka might not be the replacement for Coquelin but the youngster could well play a great role next to him, he doesn’t go into tackles all that much as Coquelin but has a greater passing range and chance creation stat that could help Arsenal launch attacks from the heart of midfield.
Any club would love to have the Swiss international at their side and with a midfield of Xhaka and Coquelin playing for Arsenal for a number of years, who knows what they might be able to achieve?