Daily Archives: May 17, 2023
Balogun a Yankee and Xhaka on the Move?
Just a couple of days ago, I shared my thoughts on the Granit Xhaka contract situation and expected that everything was going to be sorted at the end of the season, with only two games against Nottingham Forest and Wolves left before the curtains close on what has been a grueling campaign. To my surprise, the internet has been swarmed with stories confirming Xhaka’s potential exit from the club,
“Granit Xhaka, set to leave Arsenal at the end of the season. No negotiations over new deal and plan to part ways in June.
“Bayer Leverkusen are in advanced talks to sign him — €15m fee.
“Understand personal terms are almost agreed over four year deal — June 2027,”
We all know that Fabrizio Romano and David Ornstein are two journos that speak assertively when it comes to transfer news, and even though some don’t pan out as they proclaim, the chances are always high that they are absolutely correct because of the ‘sources’ they have in football clubs.
Let me assume this is true for a minute and just think about the ripple effect of losing such a vital cog in the Arsenal midfield engine like Xhaka. First off, we would lose a very good passer of the ball that threads some sumptuous balls behind enemy lines. Thanks to the awesome comparison matrix at Squawka, I was compared his passing stats with his midfield partner in crime, Thomas Partey.
Xhaka created 47 chances and had seven assists, when compared to Partey, who generally had more passes than the Swiss midfielder, but not much in the attacking third. Losing Xhaka will also create a massive crater in the Arsenal midfield, that can only be filled by the likes of Declan Rice or Moises Caicedo. Another thing putting me off on the potential Xhaka sale is the asking price – surely Arsenal can do better than €15m for their 30-year-old midfielder, but when you think of the fact that its either we take the 15 mil this summer, or let him go for free, all grumpy next summer, we are better off letting him go.
I will be saddened to see Xhaka leave as the fans have gone full circle with the Swiss midfielder. It seems like yesterday when he had the bust up with the fans in the Crystal Palace game and already agreed a deal with Hertha Berlin that winter, only to stay after his engagements with the new gaffer, Mikel Arteta,
“I think he’s going to stay. I really like him. The way we want to play, if we get him on board then he can be a tremendous player for the football club.
“It’s his commitment, I like the way he focusses, I like the way he lives his profession, he’s willing to learn and he’s a great football player.
“It’s also his range of passes and I’m just delighted to have him.”
Xhaka stayed back and helped Arteta win the FA Cup that season and Community Shield the season after. He was also one of the major contributors to Arsenal’s title push this season, scoring five goals and supplying seven assists for his teammates, while playing a new role following the acquisition of Oleksandr Zinchenko, whose forays into central midfield allowed Xhaka to be more expressive on the pitch, hence his improved attacking output.
Xhaka’s exit will certainly be on good terms, as he has fixed the bridges that were burned in the yesteryear, and I wish him the very best in his potential new adventure in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen.
Elsewhere, Folarin Balogun is another player that needs to sort out his future with the club, following his hugely successful loan spell with Stade de Reims that has seen him score 20 goals for the French outfit. Balogun would expect to either stake a claim for a first team berth next season, or go to the exit door for a permanent move elsewhere, with consistent first team football the priority, but what we know for sure, is that his international allegiances have been sorted out.
Balogun was born to Nigerian parents and was raised in England. After playing a couple of games for England at Under-17 level, he accepted a call up from the United States Under-18s, and featured in the Vaclav Jezek Youth Tournament, scoring two goals in four games for the American youth team. Balogun then made a name for himself at the England Under-21 level, scoring seven goals in 13 games for the Young Lions. Last October, Balogun expressed his interest to play for the country close to his heart, Nigeria,
“I haven’t heard anything from Nigeria, but I’m open to anything because Nigeria is very close to my heart. My family’s from there. I always have love for Nigeria.”
“That’s a conversation that I need to have with people around me, my agent and obviously my family”.
“But if I was asked about the opportunity to play for Nigeria, then I can have that conversation. But first I need to be asked.”
However, Nigeria did nothing about this declaration from Balogun, as the Super Eagles played two friendlies in November 2022, where they lost woefully to Costa Rica and Portugal, as two African Cup of Nations qualifiers against Guinea Bissau in March 2023. These are four games Balogun could have had a chance to feature.
With Nigeria not reaching out and his prospects of featuring consistently for the England national team slim to none, Balogun has received approval from FIFA to play for the United States. The American head coach is over the moon with Balogun choosing to represent them, and has already confirmed that he will be in his plans for the CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer. The United States are also co-hosting the next FIFA World Cup in 2026, so Balogun will get a chance to strut his stuff in the big time in front of his home fans.
At least, his international football future is sorted. We will need to have a conversation about his club football future in the coming weeks.
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