Why Euro 2020 Star Granit Xhaka Can’t Cut It For Arsenal
Few Premier League players flatter to deceive more often than Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka.
The Switzerland captain put in a career-best performance to help his country dump pre-tournament favourites France out of Euro 2020 on Monday, with almost all outlets naming him man of the match.
The 3-3 draw, which Switzerland went on to win on penalties, will likely go down as the most memorable game of what has been a thoroughly entertaining tournament and Xhaka was at the heart of the action, setting up Mario Gavranovic’s injury-time equaliser to force extra-time.
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“He was like Tom Brady!” former Arsenal midfielder Ray Parlour told Gambling.com.
“Like a quarter-back he was pinging balls all over the place, I’ve never seen him play so well.
“He’s captain of Switzerland and you can see real desire in his face. He’s actually quite calm on the ball, not as mobile as you might like for a central midfielder, but then he has other players around him to do that work for him.
“Once he’s on the ball you know he can make a pass and he was certainly man of the match against France, which was the game of the tournament so far for me.
“Switzerland showed all the courage and guts you need to get back into a game when you fall behind. It was a brilliant game and Xhaka was sensational, they’re going to really miss him in the next game after picking up his second yellow card, which was a big blow to Switzerland.”
Indeed, the only flaw in Xhaka’s performance against France was the booking he picked up which will see him miss Switzerland’s quarter-final tie with Spain.
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Xhaka’s Arsenal Form
Arsenal fans watching Monday night’s thriller in Bucharest will have been baffled by Xhaka’s ability to outperform Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kanté on the biggest stage having witnessed the other side of his game all too often since his move to the Emirates in 2016.
So why can’t Xhaka cut it for Arsenal in the Premier League?
“It comes down to consistency,” says Parlour. “He had a really good game against France, but can he do that every game? He’s played well at this tournament, been efficient in midfield.
“He’s had good games like that at Arsenal, but I just think mobility is key in the Premier League and he lacks that. International football can be a bit slower sometimes, the build-up play isn’t as fast which doesn’t suit his game.”
Before the tournament began, Arsenal had been in talks with Roma over the potential €25million sale of Xhaka, but with no fee agreed they may find themselves in a better position to negotiate a better price on the back of his Euros campaign.
Even the club’s finest ever manager, Arsene Wenger, said the performance was “exceptional” but despite his international form Parlour believes a move to Serie A would actually be better for Xhaka’s club career rather than sticking things out at Arsenal.
He said: “If he goes to Roma, I think Italy is perfect for him. It’s a slower game over there and you know Xhaka has got the passing ability to excel there.
“Whether he goes or not, we’ll have to see. I’m sure Mikel Arteta is across the situation.
“Consistency is so important in midfield, you’ve got to be performing like that week in week out and at times he’s had poor games – like 4 out of 10 games – and you need a player who will guarantee you a 7, 8 or 9 every week, which is difficult to find.
“I think that’s why he hasn’t been able to replicate that Switzerland form for Arsenal, although he was much better last season to be fair to him. The pace of the Premier League is maybe just a little bit too much for him.”
His Arsenal days may still be numbered, but Xhaka has steered his nation into the last eight of a major tournament for the first time since the 1954 World Cup and it could breathe fresh life into his club career.
Euros Transfer Talk
Meanwhile, Arsenal scouts will no doubt be glued to the Euros in search of untapped potential and Parlour has spotted a talent he’d like to see his old club swoop for this summer.
“I like Alexander Isak from Sweden,” said Parlour. “Going forward, he’s been excellent, he’s pacy, has really good feet, a bit of strength and very direct.
“He’s been the one that has stood out for me so far in the tournament. He’s a young man with a lot of potential.”
Sweden bowed out at the hands of Ukraine on Tuesday night and even though Isak finished the tournament with no goals, the Real Sociedad forward caught the attention of several big clubs, with Liverpool and Real Madrid supposedly interested.
His former club Dortmund reportedly have a buy-back clause of £26m and may yet utilise that option, but Parlour hopes Arsenal can steal a march on all interested parties now that Sweden have exited the Euros.
He said: “I’ve heard he has another release clause in his contract, whether Arsenal will look at that I don’t know, but he’s one player who has really caught my eye even though they’ve gone out now.
“He looked really lively in all their games and he’s not scared to get the ball and take on players.
“I’ve been impressed with him. He’s got lots of attributes and maybe Arsenal will take a look at him as a potential player to bring in.”
Vieira On Verge Of Palace Job
Elsewhere, former Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira is due to be named the new manager of Crystal Palace this week and rumours are already circulating about a potential raid on his former club.
Palace are being linked with several loan moves for Arsenal youngsters, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles perhaps the biggest target if reports are to be believed.
Former Gunners captain Vieira has strong connections at Arsenal and Manchester City, where he finished his playing career and began his coaching career as manager of their Elite Development Squad.
Having managed New York City FC and Nice since then, Parlour believes the opportunity to return to the Premier League with Palace is too good for Vieira to turn down.
“That’ll be a good move for him,” he said. “He knows his football, knows his tactics and knows the type of player you need in a dressing room.
“He was a great Arsenal captain. When Tony Adams left, I thought it was a big void for us, but Patrick stepped up and he done a great job, a real leader.
“I’m sure he’ll be looking forward to the Palace challenge. He’s still got his house in Hampstead and I think his family are pretty much settled here so that should help. It’s a great move for him.”
Vieira’s Managerial Credentials
Vieira was sacked in his last role with Nice after five consecutive losses in December 2020, so there is an element of doubt surrounding the former France international’s credentials as a manager, but Parlour insists he will be a success at Selhurst Park if given time and money.
“It’s all about giving him the right funds and the freedom to bring in who he wants,” he said. “I know he’s got great connections in France, a little like Arsene Wenger had when he first came to Arsenal.
“If he can bring in a few new players to Palace they could have a really good season, but it’ll be great to see him back in the Premier League, which he knows very well. He’s a passionate man, I think it’ll be a brilliant challenge for him.”
The best betting sites are already taking bets on Vieira being the next manager of Arsenal, putting a 10/1 price on him being Mikel Arteta’s successor, and Parlour admits his old team-mate may see Palace as a stepping stone to greater things.
“I’ve said this in the past but I would really love to see someone like Patrick manage Arsenal one day,” said Parlour.
“If he does well at Palace then that could well be the next step. It’s a little bit like the Steven Gerrard situation. Everyone’s seeing him do really well at Rangers and maybe in the next couple of seasons Jurgen Klopp will move on from Liverpool and Gerrard could come straight in.
“A similar pathway for Vieira would be great for him and I think Arsenal fans would be happy to give him a chance because he was such a great player.
“It doesn’t always work out, like we’ve seen with Frank Lampard at Chelsea, but Vieira would have been my choice before they went for Arteta. I hope Mikel does well next season though, but he needs a bit of help from the board with a few signings.”
Palace fans won’t want to hear it, but if Vieira hits the ground running in south London, a move back to the north side will soon be mooted.
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