Granit Xhaka’s absence due to a right knee ligament injury has shown how important he can be to Arsenal’s play, but some believe he isn’t the long-term solution to the Gunners’ midfield options.
In north London, where he is now in his sixth season, Xhaka is a figure of intense debate and controversy. Some believe he can do no wrong, while others doubt everything he does.
A growing number of Arsenal fans have been calling for the club to improve on Xhaka for some time, but the club has been unable to do so – and has made no concerted effort to do so, aside from signing Thomas Partey from Atletico Madrid two summers ago, a man who has mostly partnered, rather than superseded, Xhaka.
As Arteta continues his overhaul of the Arsenal squad, which intensified before to this season, finding a long-term successor for Xhaka will be vital.
Arsenal has shown its financial muscles in recent years, spending almost £400 million over the last three seasons, but the club is always on the lookout for low-cost recruits.
In the last three summer transfer windows, just one transfer for more than £50 million has been completed: Nicolas Pepe for £72 million. Only Ben White (£50 million) and Partey (£45 million) have made more than £40 million.
Aurelien Tchouameni, who has already signed with Real Madrid, is maybe the most exciting young defensive midfielder in the world. He’s from France – and Monaco, as one might anticipate.
Tchouameni, who turns 22 in January, has been a mainstay in Monaco’s midfield since the start of last season.
Last season, he appeared in 36 games in Ligue 1 and has already made 16 appearances this season. In the last 365 days, he has played about 3,000 minutes of league football, and his statistics are among the best in the world.
Frank Kessie of AC Milan, who is having a terrific season at the heart of the Italian team’s midfield, is another high-ranking midfielder who could be out of Arsenal’s price range next summer – although the same could be said of Partey.
Milan are currently in first place in the table, and Kessie has appeared in 13 of the team’s 16 league games. Despite genuine concerns over the Africa Cup of Nations, the Ivorian, who turns 25 later this month, is a slightly more offensive player than Xhaka, but he may work well with Partey.