There’s a midfield flavour to the blog today. First, Granit Xhaka spoke after the Nottingham Forest game about his future. He’s been linked heavily with a switch to Bayer Leverkeusen, and said:
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.
I don’t think you need a PHD in reading between the lines to figure out what’s going on there. You can’t be 100% sure in football, deals can fall apart at the last second, but this sounds very much like he’s going this summer. It’s an interesting one, because not only is he a fixture in Mikel Arteta’s team (only three players have more minutes than him this season), he is a dressing room presence too. Whatever your own opinion of Xhaka, he’s a popular guy, has plenty of experience, and his departure would leave a gap in that regard.
Which might explain how we’re seeing a lot of stories about interest in Man City’s Ilkay Gundogan. He’s out of contract in the summer, and reportedly we’re pushing hard for him. City want him to stay, Barcelona are interested too, so it won’t be easy to get it done, and this is one of those where I have very slightly mixed feelings.
At 32 he’s hardly a spring chicken, and when you consider the ages of our current midfield crop it’s something we need to focus on. Xhaka is 30, Partey will be 30 in June, Jorginho is 31, Mohamed Elneny is 30. Not exactly retirement age, but definitely not getting any younger. I know we’re also after Declan Rice (24) and Moises Caicedo (21) which would go some way to addressing that, but we’ve had so many difficult experiences with signing players in the late stages of their career, or them hitting a certain age and falling off a metaphorical cliff, that it’s hard not to worry a little. Not least because his salary demands would be considerable, and that’s where we’ve run into trouble in the past.
That said, he is a fantastic player, who has been in excellent form this season. If Xhaka goes, you replace his experience with a player who – by the end of this month– will have won it all at Man City (even with the big asterisk that comes with their success). As we try and build a team ready to cope with the Premier League and Champions League next season, his intelligence and quality would be very, very useful. The reality is, as we keep saying, that we’re going to need a bigger squad to give the manager better options so rotation becomes more normal. You need players who are ready to play, and he’d definitely be one of them.
Of course City could offer him a longer deal, Barcelona could be an attractive destination if they find more economic levers to pull, so this is very far from a sure thing. It does suggest that a player of his profile is something Arteta is looking for in that now-fabled ‘left 8’ position. He has tried Fabio Vieira there this season to little effect, but it would be – based on what we’ve seen thus far from the former Porto man – a big risk to decide he’s the future of that position. Maybe a Gundogan type signing gives him more time to develop after what was a very underwhelming first season at the club.
The other thing that occurs to me is that stories about how Emile Smith Rowe was being retrained in that position might well have been accurate, but perhaps that hasn’t been as successful as we’d have hoped. Whatever is happening with our number 10, his lack of minutes speaks more loudly than anything else, and it’s increasingly difficult to see how he turns his current situation around.
Either way, the Gundogan one is an interesting link, but with the season not yet finished, I don’t expect we’ll get anything approaching clarity on this soon – unless it’s about him staying in Manchester (which I think is probably the most likely outcome). This is one for the back burner, for now anyway.
It does feel like there’s gonna be a long, hot summer of transfer rumours. We have needs, and also a long list of players who might be available. Let’s hope Edu and Richard Garlick have their phones charged. Obviously we’ll cover it all throughout the off-season, here and on Arseblog News.
Right, let’s leave it there for now. Have a good one.