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Arsenal: Arteta must unleash Granit Xhaka tonight

Arsenal return to Premier League action tonight as Mikel Arteta’s men take on West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium.

The north London side currently occupy top spot in the table, five points clear of their nearest challengers Manchester City, and there is a genuine hope that the Spaniard could be the one to lead the Gunners to their first top-flight title in 19 years.

However, Arteta will be without forward Gabriel Jesus, with the Brazilian suffering a knee injury at the World Cup, and he is expected to be out for around three months, which is a blow for the manager and for Arsenal.

Despite concerns over William Saliba and Oleksandr Zinchenko, Arteta should have them available against West Ham. In midfield, another man who the manager should definitely unleash tonight in the Gunners’ first competitive match since 12 November is Granit Xhaka.

The Switzerland international has become a lot more dynamic this season, with Arteta moulding him into a midfielder who can push forward and utilise his attacking capabilities.

In 14 Premier League matches before the World Cup break, Xhaka registered three goals and three assists, matching his tally of goal contributions from his previous two league campaigns combined. Such a renaissance is one that “deserves an Oscar” in the words of Sky Sports’ Nubaid Haroon who has clearly been left staggered by his turnaround.

Indeed, the manager has certainly delivered a masterstroke in transitioning the player into a more attacking-minded figure.

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The £100k-per-week earner has also averaged 1.4 key passes per game while succeeding with 67% of his dribbles, clearly proving that he is more confident in an attacking sense, and it has worked wonders for Arsenal this season.

Former Gunners midfielder Ray Parlour has enjoyed the club’s start to the campaign and in particular Xhaka’s performances, saying that the 30-year-old has been “absolutely brilliant this year”.

Elsewhere, Arteta previously described the Swiss maestro as “phenomenal”, and it’s clear that he has become one of the team’s most integral players.

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Xhaka carried his domestic form into the World Cup, averaging a Sofascore rating of 6.92 across Switzerland’s four matches in Qatar; and despite the Swiss crashing out at the last 16 stage to Portugal following a 6-1 defeat, Arteta will just be glad that his player returned to north London without any injury concerns.

Unleashing the 30-year-old against West Ham tonight after his break from club action could give Arsenal the edge in the midfield battle, and you wouldn’t put it past him to grab a goal or an assist either.