Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is finally seeking to address the issues at the base of his team’s midfield, with reports suggesting the club is to chase Borussia Monchengladbach’s Granit Xhaka and Paris Saint-Germain’s Adrien Rabiot in transfers which could total £52 million.
That’s according to Tony Stenson of the Daily Star Sunday, who wrote the Gunners have given up in their pursuit of Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and will now seek to add some steel to the middle of the field.
Xhaka and Rabiot are rated as two of the finest young central midfielders in European football. Here’s a look at how they fare statistically in comparison to Arsenal’s current first choice, Francis Coquelin, in league matches this season:
|Apperances (Sub)||12||15||9 (4)|
|Tackles per game||3.2||2.3||3|
|Interceptions per game||2.7||3.2||1.8|
|Passes per game||46.9||81.3||59.7|
While they are both exciting talents, they’re different in terms of style. Xhaka is a much more forceful presence in the middle of the park, capable of carrying the ball from box-to-box, getting across the ground quickly and putting in strong tackles.
By contrast, Rabiot is more of a controlling presence with sharp defensive instincts.
Xhaka is probably better suited to the Premier League. The BMG man relishes the physical side of the game and is already a leader, having been handed the club’s captaincy despite being just 23. Here’s a look at the kind of quality he could potentially add to the Arsenal midfield:
Despite his obvious talent, Xhaka still has plenty to learn. As OptaFranz noted recently, sometimes the Swiss international is a little too keen to indulge in the physical side of the game:
5 - Granit Xhaka is the youngest player ever to concede 5 Red Cards in the Bundesliga (23 years, 2 months, 23 days). Blackout.— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) December 20, 2015
Rabiot certainly seems like a more natural fit for Wenger’s side and his mother and representative, Veronique, “travelled to London yesterday for talks" with the north London giants, according to Stenson’s piece.
If Arsenal can secure a deal for the 20-year-old it’d be savvy business. The youngster has struggled to get regular game time for PSG given the talent at manager Laurent Blanc’s disposal, but with his elegant distribution and technical class, he’d be a regular for most clubs on the continent.
Bleacher Report’s French football writer Andrew Gibney posted recently that, despite interest from elsewhere, PSG should do their utmost to keep Rabiot:
Biggest transfer story this winter could be Adrien Rabiot. He wants to play more, reported Arsenal interest. #PSG need to keep him imo.— Andrew Gibney (@Gibney_A) December 24, 2015
Even if it was a loan move, the youngster could definitely do with getting some more football. At the Emirates, he could potentially be a fine temporary deputy for Coquelin, and Wenger could even use the pair together in some matches.
Bleacher Report’s Sam Tighe feels as though the Gunners have genuine interest in the player, but he has concerns about Rabiot's attitude:
Which player would be the better fit for Arsenal?
At the moment, Rabiot seems the most gettable of the two. Xhaka is currently a vital part of a Monchengladbach team pushing for a spot in the Champions League again. He would cost a lot of money and, as is evident by his disciplinary record, still has so much to learn at the top level of the game.
Rabiot is a footballer who adheres to the Wenger blueprint and while PSG will be keen to keep hold of a player who is very much one of their own, it’s getting to a point where the France under-21 international needs to start playing regularly.
With the Gunners short of quality in this position, chances would surely surface much more consistently at the Emirates.