Xhaka Leaving May be a Günd Thing

Arsenal: Granit Xhaka can't handle heat of high press

Granit Xhaka has been a household name at Arsenal and is just four games short of reaching 300 in seven seasons with the club. However, it’s looking likely that Xhaka may not be an Arsenal player anymore amid rife speculation that he is bound to join Xabi Alonso at Bayer Leverkusen for a proposed €15m fee. Following the defeat to Nottingham Forest, Xhaka dropped some striking words regarding his future,

“You will know the latest next week, for sure I think they (the fans) deserve that and I do myself as well. We have one more week of this Premier League season, the first thing is I want to enjoy and, for sure, you guys will know next week what happens with my future.

If next week we know much more about what happen with my future, I will be thankful to the fans because of how they treat me after this, I didn’t expect that if I am honest. I am thankful for that and I want to give them something back for maybe my last game on Sunday.”

You don’t need to read in between the lines to ascertain that Xhaka’s last appearance for Arsenal might probably be the home game against Wolves this Sunday, which will be rather emotional, because the fans have built all the bridges that were burnt and had a deep connection with him. One may look to the potential transfer and wonder where his ambitions lie, bearing in mind that he was vital in Arsenal finally returning to the Champions League after a six-season hiatus, only to leave to a team currently in sixth place in the Bundesliga and may be in threat to miss out on the Europa Conference League next season if VFL Wolfsburg gets a better result than Leverkusen in the final weekend of the season.

Maybe its a family decision to return to Germany, after leaving his four-year spell at Borussia Monchengladbach to join Arsenal in 2016. However, I trust that there would be no ill-feeling towards Xhaka because he worked really hard to get to where he is with the fans. His performances this season were exemplary, his output better than it has ever been for the club and his leadership on and off the pitch could not be over emphasized. 

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. But with Arsenal competing on four fronts next season, squad depth will be very important, which brings me to the latest speculation linking Arsenal with a move for Manchester City’s captain, Ilkay Gundogan. Ironically, Gundogan, like Xhaka, arrived in the Premier League from the Bundesliga in 2016, and while Xhaka amassed 296 caps for the Gunners, scoring 21 goals, Gundogan has played 301 games for Manchester City, scoring 58 goals.

Arsenal also has a healthy business relationship with Manchester City, with the Gunners selling the likes of Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, Emmanuel Adebayor and Bacary Sagna to the Cityzens in their formative years as football superpowers, while Manchester City recently sold Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko to Arsenal last summer, as well as Pep Guardiola’s assistant manager leaving him for the Gunners a couple of seasons ago. Arsenal isn’t the only team interested in the services of Gundogan – FC Barcelona have been long-term admirers of the German maestro, and Manchester City are very much interested in offering him a new contract extension to keep him at the club for the foreseeable future. 

Despite his advancing age, we have watched Gundogan enough to know what he will bring to the table. His passing is top-notch, he’s a massive threat from set pieces, he has a good eye for goal and most importantly, he is an experienced seasoned professional that would bring his positive mentality to the side. He won a Bundesliga, DFB Pokal and German Super Cup with Dortmund before joining Manchester City, and with the Blue Half of Manchester, he has won five Premier League titles, four Carabao Cup titles, one FA Cup and two Community Shields.

Signing Gundogan would also mean that he could feature in Xhaka’s ‘left #8’ position alongside Partey in the starting XI. In as much I’d love me some Rice or Caicedo, Arsenal might stand a better chance with signing Gundogan on a free transfer than splurging some huge millions to get these other targets – even though we are hopeful the club is successful in recruiting these targets.

There would be a lot of speculation this summer and we are up for it with no meaningful to keep us distracted.

Xhaka leaving may actually be a Günd thing.


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Can Arsenal Assemble a Title Winning Squad?


Manchester City celebrate title glory with win over Chelsea, Leeds in relegation peril | Deccan Herald

Following Arsenal’s tepid showing at the City Ground, Manchester City won their third consecutive Premier League title without having to kick the ball against Chelsea. It was meant to be the game they needed to finally seal the deal, but Arsenal’s actions the previous day allowed Pep Guardiola to make wholesale changes to the squad, bringing on the likes of Stefan Ortega, Aymeric Laporte, Kalvin Philips, Sergio Gomez, Rico Lewis, Cole Palmer, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Julian Alvarez. 

The World Cup winning forward, Julian Alvarez, scored the only goal of the game against Chelsea (had one more cancelled after a VAR check) and Manchester City went into party mode. With two games left to play for Guardiola’s men, they were on 88 points while their challengers, Arsenal, are currently on 81. Arsenal’s final game of the season against Wolverhampton Wanderers is a dead-rubber game, as we wind down on what has been a good season for the Gunners, but all eyes would be on the likes of Reiss Nelson and Granit Xhaka, who have been speculated to have one foot on the exit door

Arsenal was in pole position for a considerable chunk of the Premier League campaign, so it must really hurt to see Manchester City carry that trophy as the champions, which brings me to an all-important question – can Arsenal assemble a title winning squad?

One way to ascertain that is to have a review of the squad of the Premier League title winners, Manchester City, to see how they edged past the challenge of Arsenal to win their fifth League title in six seasons. 


Ederson Moraes has been a mainstay in the Manchester City squad since his arrival from Benfica in 2017. He hasn’t had any real challengers to his position, after ousting the likes of Joe Hart and Claudio Bravo. In Aaron Ramsdale, Arsenal has a goalkeeper capable of making important saves to aid a title challenge, like he did this season, rightfully earning his place in the Premier League Team of the Season


Pep Guardiola played an orthodox formation that saw his right full back invert and provide an additional body in midfield, which is akin to what Oleksandr Zinchenko does for the Arsenal team. Jurgen Klopp tore a page from the Guardiola manuscript and in recent weeks, we have seen Trent Alexander-Arnold in the central midfield slot alongside Fabinho.

In terms of quality, Manchester City boasts of great defenders like Ruben Dias, John Stones and Nathan Ake, and in Manuel Akanji, they added another intelligent defender to their repertoire. Laporte was an ever-present in the yesteryear, but his injury worries has seen him lose his starting berth, but it takes nothing from the fact that he remains an excellent defender. Kyle Walker is a full back with loads of experience at center back on club and international level, so he fits in adequately to the Guardiola philosophy.

At Arsenal, the defense proved to be their undoing, following the unfortunate injury suffered by William Saliba in the Europa League Round of 16 clash against Sporting CP. Gabriel remains a hard worker and has done well to improve himself, but if we are being honest, he still lacks the consistency required to be a top level defender, as he makes the occasional odd error here and there. However, he forged a great understanding with Saliba, and with more consistent game time together, they can be our Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, who were standout performers in their time for the Gunners.

Beyond Gabriel and Saliba, Arsenal doesn’t have the required quality at the heart of their defense to stand up and be counted when the chips are down. Jakub Kiwior just joined the division from Spezia and is still acclimatizing to life in the Premier League, while Rob Holding is… let me stop right there. Feel free to insert your own thoughts of Holding.  There’s also Auston Trusty that will be returning to the team after a great spell at Birmingham, so it will be interesting to see what he has to offer. 

Arsenal has another great defender in Ben White, but he moved to full back, shunting Takehiro Tomiyasu out of the team and was a model of consistency in that position. Arteta and Edu have to make a critical decision regarding the center back / right full back conundrum. Tomiyasu has shown yet again that he can’t be trusted to stay fit, so Arsenal has to go for genuine quality in the center back / right full back position, if they want to be title challengers.

There has been some chatter linking Arsenal with Joao Cancelo, and I hope those rumors are true. Cancelo’s versatility will be a major plus for Mikel Arteta. 


Manchester City has some midfield juggernauts in the forms of Kevin de Bruyne, Jack Grealish, Rodri, Bernardo Silva, Foden and Ilkay Gundogan that have played together for a considerable number of years turning into a very well oiled machine. These midfielders are stacked with creativity, which has allowed a world class forward like Erling Haaland to score 52 goals this season.

At Arsenal, Martin Odegaard has been tasked with the role of being the chief playmaker while the likes of forwards like Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka providing support in the final third. While de Bruyne created 97 chances and provided 16 assists with 1,333 passes, Odegaard created 73 chances and provided seven assists with 1,640 passes, showing off Arsenal’s poor conversion rate.

Arsenal would need better protection in the middle of the park to allow the attacking talent strut their stuff, as well as give stability to the team, as it became evident in the business end of the campaign that needed improvement in that area of the pitch. With Granit Xhaka close to a move out of the club, Thomas Partey in very poor form and Jorginho in the September of his career, Arsenal would need some freshness in the middle, and the acquisitions of Moises Caicedo and Declan Rice would be next level stuff. 


Erling Haaland is a monster of a player that is pretty much the model for a ‘complete’ striker. At Arsenal, we have Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah, who are no where close to Haaland in terms of his attacking output, but Jesus tends to offer a bit more with his all-round play. However, strikers are judged on goals, and this season, Jesus hasn’t delivered as expected, even though we would need to factor the fact that he missed close to five months out with a knee injury he suffered at the World Cup.

Arsenal can actually do better than Nketiah as a backup for Jesus if they want to really challenge for the title, and I would have loved an Ivan Toney, but his ban will not make him an attractive proposition anymore. One striker I wouldn’t mind is Dusan Vlahovic from Juventus, and I hope that Arteta and Edu can make some improvements in this regard, because in my honest opinion, you can’t challenge for the Premier League title if you don’t have a 20-goal striker within your ranks.

In conclusion, it has been a stellar campaign by Arsenal’s standards based on the start of the season expectations, but I can understand that the expectations changed in the course of the season, following the mesmerizing football on display from Arteta and his lads.


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Nottingham Forest 1-0 Arsenal: Much Possession, Little Penetration

Awoniyi sinks Arsenal, hand Man City Premier League title

Awoniyi scoring the goal that ended the title dreams

Match Report  Match Highlights – Post-Match Press Conference

Final Result: Nottingham Forest 1-0 Arsenal (Awoniyi 19′)

Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1, I think?!): Ramsdale; Partey, White, Gabriel, Kiwior (Tierney 63′); Jorginho, Xhaka (Nketiah 63′); Saka, Odegaard, Trossard (F. Vieira 70′); G. Jesus

Following the loss to Brighton in front of the Emirates faithful, it was only a matter of time before Manchester City pushed hard to win their third Premier League title in a row, as well as their fifth in the last seasons, establishing a level of dominance that has not been witnessed in quite some time. The Gunners have gone through a roller-coaster campaign that saw them push the Cityzens to the edge, before capitulating in grand style with that atrocious run of form, so it was important to at least end on a high with two games left against Nottingham Forest and Wolves.

Nottingham Forest has promoted to the Premier League this season and have endured a topsy turvy campaign that saw the club flirt with relegation for a considerable chunk of the season. Following a win over Leeds in February 2023, Nottingham Forest went on a shambolic run of eight defeats and two draws in 10 games, and the bookies wasted no time in tipping them to make the drop to the Championship but with vital wins over Brighton and Southampton, as well as a draw with Chelsea, Nottingham Forest’s Premier League destiny was in their hands again, and they knew that a victory over Arsenal will all but secure their status in England’s elite division.

The game itself was somewhat troubling from the start with Mikel Arteta deploying a formation that was confusing to say the least – Thomas Partey was at right back, Ben White was back to center back and Jakub Kiwior played left back. Initially, I thought Kieran Tierney had suffered one of those his famous warm up injuries but to my bewilderment, he was among the substitutes. Arsenal had the lion’s share of possession against Nottingham Forest, but offered little or no penetration. The home defense always doubled up on Bukayo Saka, and on the left flank, Leandro Trossard, who was deputizing in Gabriel Martinelli’s stead was very ineffectual. 

Against the run of play, Nottingham Forest opened the scoring when Martin Odegaard lost the ball further up the pitch, and Taiwo Awoniyi was sent clean on goal with Gabriel on the prowl, but the Brazilian defender inadvertently cleared the ball to the forward’s path, allowing him to side-foot the ball past an onrushing Aaron Ramsdale to make it 1-0. This is the umpteenth time that Odegaard has missed a simple pass that ended up leading to a counter attack that saw the team concede. I really hope he improves on this. 

Despite offering nothing concrete from an attacking perspective in the first half, Arsenal got a chance early in the second half when Saka finally managed to evade his marker, but his near-post drive was saved by Keylor Navas. Bar a couple of half chances from Morgan Gibbs-White, it was a dire encounter with Arsenal making a 1,001 passes with no penetration to break Nottingham Forest down. 

Sadly, this loss ensured that Manchester City won the Premier League with three games to spare and it’s back to the drawing board for Arteta and his coaching staff. More focus would be on Edu Gaspar and the higher ups to sign the players required to take Arsenal to the next level, but we have a whole summer to ponder and sort that.


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