Arsenal: If Atletico Madrid want Granit Xhaka, please, come and get him

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - MAY 29: Granit Xhaka of Arsenal takes a corner kick during the UEFA Europa League Final between Chelsea and Arsenal at Baku Olimpiya Stadionu on May 29, 2019 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - MAY 29: Granit Xhaka of Arsenal takes a corner kick during the UEFA Europa League Final between Chelsea and Arsenal at Baku Olimpiya Stadionu on May 29, 2019 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) /

Atletico Madrid are reportedly preparing a move for Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka. Quite frankly, if they want him, then please, come and get him.

This week, rumours have emerged from countless sources that Atletico Madrid are keen on Granit Xhaka as a replacement to Rodri. The 22-year-old Spaniard enjoyed a tremendous season at the Spanish giants, but Manchester City are reportedly set to trigger his £62.7 million release clause for his services as a long term replacement to Fernandinho.

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Atletico have since shifted their focus on alternatives, notably from across Madrid. They have been in advanced talks with Real Madrid over 24-year-old Marcos Llorente, but Los Blancos are supposedly asking for £44.4 million, a price surely inflated due to the competitive rivalry between the two clubs. Despite Llorente’s uncle and agent expressing interest at the possibility of moving across the Spanish capital, Atletico are unlikely to meet the demanded price and have supposedly now set their sights on Granit Xhaka.

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The Swiss midfielder has had an up and down career at Arsenal, to say the least. Xhaka moved to north London in 2016 for a fee of £35 million. Somehow, through an over-inflated market and the desperation of Atletico, the Gunners can still flip a profit on the hot-headed midfielder. Yes, Xhaka has his moments of quality. No one will forget his brilliant freekick this past season against Crystal Palace or the countless long balls he sprayed across the field, but consistency and discipline have constantly evaded him.

To this day, he can be slow on the ball, careless in possession and an overall poor defender. That is part of why this rumoured move is so astounding. Madrid manager Diego Simeone has always prided himself on sturdy defending and rigid discipline. It is shocking that he would roll the dice on a player like Xhaka who plays in an area of the field that requires the utmost tactical acuteness and intelligence despite lacking both.

Arsenal do have a need for a player of Xhaka’s quality, but he, in a sense, does not fit into the team. Xhaka operates as a deep-lying playmaker, a quarterback who picks up the ball and attempts to break down the defense from the same space an anchoring midfielder would operate in. This space, however, is already occupied by Lucas Torreira who, as the disciplined ball hawk he is, lurks right in front of the defensive line to cut off any incoming passes or runners. Matteo Guendouzi plays relatively similarly to Xhaka, springing counter-attacks and dictating play with his long passing, but he is more defensively astute and is the long term solution to Xhaka should he be sold. Arsenal would most likely receive a bid in the range of €50m, a hefty fee well worth taking.

Many Gunners still support Xhaka, defending his numerous flaws with evidence of the occasional brilliant play. After all, I was incredibly proud of him for going the last two premier league seasons without picking up a red card, something that had frequently haunted him in seasons prior. His upside may be tempting, but it is not being fully utilised in the current squad and his recklessness has cost the Gunners too many times over the last several seasons.

Although I am not claiming that Arsenal should be slapping a ‘for sale’ tag on Xhaka and desperately search to get rid of him, if a bid in the range of the £45 million that Xhaka is supposedly worth were to come about, a sale becomes the wise move. The money derived from Xhaka’s sale would provide Arsenal with an opportunity to patch up positions that have been a serious weakness with players more consistent and reliable than Xhaka himself.

Every stretch of games Xhaka performs well in, I attempt to convince myself that he is a changed player, free of carelessness and defensive inhibitions. Then comes the game where he slips up. He gets caught on the ball after taking several touches too many in the heart of midfield or lunges in recklessly, conceding a penalty. At a point, Arsenal fans have to look in the mirror and stop convincing themselves that he’s had a bad couple years or has been the victim of a degrading team. Rather, they have to accept that Granit Xhaka will always be Granit Xhaka.

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He’s talented, fun, handsome and has his upsides, but he will always be the error-prone, careless passer and poor defender that he is. He is clearly not a bad player, but he is too inconsistent and unintelligent to anchor the midfield of a team that consistently struggles with conceding goals. And for that reason, if Simeone wants him, please, come and get him.