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21/22 First Team General New Contracts

Granit Xhaka Pens New Four-Year Deal

Granit Xhaka has signed a new long-term contract with the club. Xhaka, who had been expected to leave the club this summer amid interest from AS Roma, has put pen to paper on a new four-year contract, with manager Mikel Arteta thought to have been instrumental in convincing the Swiss international to remain with the club.

The move is a little strange, given how close Xhaka was to leaving for José Mourinho’s AS Roma, who personally asked for the player. Roma were very keen on Xhaka, but were unable to agree a fee close to Arsenal’s £17m fee. Rumours of a €12m + €3m in add-ons offer are the last known attempts of the Italians to prize away the Swiss captain.

Xhaka’s bridges looked burned after he left the field in a hailstorm of boos against Crystal Palace.

Though the move is considered strange by many, given his yo-yoing form, the move seems to be to protect the player’s value and to ensure that Arsenal do not run into situations that have seen players walk for lower fees or for free, like in the case with Alexis Sánchez.

Signed from Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2016, Xhaka seemed to be a very smart buy from Arsenal under Arsène Wenger. Though Wenger initially saw Xhaka as a box-to-box midfielder (evidently watching a different player to everyone else), Xhaka was then moulded into a more deep-lying playmaker with a more defensive focus.

Xhaka seemed to understand his role more when Unai Emery came to the club, however, following his appalling reaction to being booed off the field against Crystal Palace, Xhaka was stripped of the Arsenal captaincy and looked to have played his final game for Arsenal.

A move to Hertha Berlin was mooted in the January of 2020, however, newly appointed Mikel Arteta was able to convince Xhaka to remain with the club, where his form improved dramatically.

José Mourinho has always been a huge admirer of Xhaka’s.

Though he was still a yo-yoing form kind of player, the 2020/21 season, largely forgettable for the Arsenal side, was one of Xhaka’s best in recent memory. While he was asked to deputise at left-back in Kieran Tierney’s absence, his presence in midfield was extremely calming fro the team that needed a tuning fork, which Xhaka was.

The hope seems to be that Xhaka will provide some much needed experience for youngsters such as summer signing Albert Sambi Lokonga and for academy graduate Miguel Azeez, who is expected to feature a lot this season.

Xhaka reportedly personally spoke to José Mourinho to inform him that he would be remaining at the club. With Xhaka’s deal announced, Arsenal will now focus on the final two weeks of the transfer window.

The move is unlikely to impress many Arsenal fans, especially given Arsenal’s opening day defeat to Brentford and Xhaka’s (un)popularity with the fans.

Moves for Héctor Bellerín, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock, Lucas Torreira and Sead Kolašinac are still yet to be sorted, however, the club’s interest in Martin Ødegaard could see them end the summer with a bang.

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