Arsenal fans had their first chance to catch a glimpse of new signing Granit Xhaka as his Switzerland side pitched up against minnows Albania in their first EURO 2016 match on Saturday.
The Swiss came away with a hard-fought 1-0 victory, but in truth, the result could have gone either way with Switzerland missing a barrage of chances whilst Albania were denied a handful of times by Borussia Monchengladbach keeper, Yann Sommer.
But it was Xhaka’s steely performance in the middle of the park that really stood out for the Swiss, and there were many reasons for Arsenal fans to be impressed.
So with that in mind, here are FIVE reasons why Gunners supporters should be truly optimistic about Xhaka’s future at the club…
As we saw against Albania, Xhaka was everywhere. He definitely styles his play on that of a typical box-to-box midfielder and with this in mind, the Swiss man may find it easier to adapt to the Premier League than others have.
His perseverance and determination to hunt down anyone in a Red Albania shirt was a massive factor behind his side’s victory and he could be a massive factor behind a successful Switzerland campaign.
Kung-fu fighter? Not quite, but Xhaka certainly isn’t a player to shy away from a crunching tackle. He was actually fortunate to be let off the hook when he flew in on Amir Abrashi but his intent was clear to see. His physicality was well known back in Germany with some branding him too aggressive, but as we know, the Premier League loves a tough-man.
With Flamini nearing the end of his career and some of Arsenal’s midfield players not quite cutting the mustard, it seems that Arsenal may have found a proper ‘engine man’ for their side. Xhaka was instrumental in the middle of the park and he was throwing passes all over the pitch.
Although predominantly left-footed, Xhaka showed the ability to use both feet and switched the play when possible. Really promising stuff.
At just 23, Xhaka has years ahead of him at the top level, making him a real coup for the Gunners. He’s shown maturity past his young years for both club and country and his leadership from the middle of the field is admirable for such a young player.
He not afraid to bark orders when needed, and Xhaka showed real leadership when Albania began to pick up some ground towards the end of the game.
Whilst Arsenal generally have ‘attacking’ and ‘defensive’ minded midfielders, Xhaka seemingly combines the two. Take Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla for example – both are extremely different players despite playing in a similar position.
This is where Xhaka performs so strongly – he has the skills to combine both of these roles. He’ll be a real asset to Arsene Wenger’s side.