Good morning everyone.
Today’s blog has a taste of midfield. First, Granit Xhaka spoke after the game against Nottingham Forest about his future. He was heavily linked with a move to Bayer Leverkeusen, and he said:
You’ll find out next week, I definitely think they (fans) deserve it and so do I. We have one more week of this Premier League season, the first thing is I want to enjoy it and you will definitely know next week what will happen to my future.
If we find out a lot more about my future next week, I’ll be grateful to the fans for how they treat me after, I didn’t expect that to be honest. I am grateful to them and I want to give them something in return for what may be my last game on Sunday.
I don’t think you need a PhD in reading between the lines to understand what’s going on there. You can’t be 100% sure in football, deals can fall apart at the last second, but it looks like he will be leaving this summer. It’s interesting because not only is he a fixture in Mikel Arteta’s team (only three players have more minutes than him this season), but he’s also a fixture in the dressing room. Whatever your opinion of Xhaka, he is a popular guy, has a lot of experience, and his departure would leave a gap in that regard.
Which might explain how much we see stories about interest in Man City’s Ilkay Gundogan. He’s out of contract in the summer and apparently we’re putting a lot of pressure on him. City want him to stay, Barcelona are interested too, so it won’t be easy to do that and this is one of those situations where I have very mixed feelings.
At 32, he’s hardly a spring chicken, and given the age of our current midfield team, that’s something we need to focus on. Xhaka is 30, Partey will be 30 in June, Jorginho is 31, Mohamed Elneny is 30. It’s not retirement age, but it won’t be any younger. I know we’re also looking for Declan Rice (24) and Moises Caicedo (21) which would sort of address that issue to some extent, but we’ve had so many difficult experiences signing players late in their careers or hitting a certain age and falling from metaphorical cliff, it’s hard not to worry a little. Not least because his wage demands would be substantial, which is where we’ve run into trouble in the past.
That said, he is a fantastic player who has been in top form this season. If Xhaka leaves, you will replace his experience with a player who, by the end of this month, will win everything at Man City (even with a big star to accompany his success). When we try to build a team ready to tackle the Premier League and Champions League next season, his intelligence and quality would be very, very useful. The reality is, as we keep saying, we’re going to need a bigger squad to give the manager better options to make rotation more normal. You need players who are ready to play and he would certainly be one of them.
Of course, City could offer him a longer deal, Barcelona could be an attractive target if they find more economic leverage to pull, so that is very far from certain. This suggests that a player of his profile is someone Arteta is looking for in this legendary left eight position. Fabio Vieira has tried this season with little success, but given what we’ve seen so far with the former Porto player, it would be a big risk if he decided he was the future of the position. Perhaps a Gundogan-style transfer will give him more time to develop after what was a very disappointing first season at the club.
The other thing that comes to mind is that the stories of Emile Smith Rowe being re-qualified for the position may have been accurate, but perhaps not as successful as we would have hoped. Whatever’s going on with our number 10, his lack of minutes speaks louder than anything else, and it’s getting harder to see how he’ll change his current situation.
Either way, Gundogan is an interesting nexus, but as the season isn’t over yet, I don’t expect to get anything close to clear on that anytime soon – unless it’s about him staying at Manchester (which I think is probably the most likely outcome) . This is one for the back burner, for now anyway.
It looks like we’re in for a long, hot summer of transfer rumors. We have needs and also a long list of players who may be available. Let’s hope Edu and Richard Garlick have their phones charged. Of course, we will inform you about all this during the off-season, here and on Arseblog News.
Okay, let’s leave it for now. Have fun.