After securing their highest league finish since 2005, Arsenal got their plans for the 2016/17 season underway early by signing Swiss international midfielder Granit Xhaka to a long-term deal.
The former Borussia Monchengladbach captain is rumored to cost the Gunners somewhere between £25-30 million according to reports. The 23 year-old is set to join up with his new teammates after Euro 2016 concludes later this summer.
Xhaka is a player who has been on Arsenal's radar for some time, with many journalists linking him with a move to North London earlier this year during the January transfer window. Arsene Wenger has long been an admirer: "We have been watching him for a long time now and he is a player who will add quality to our squad."
I'm really excited to see what Xhaka can bring to this team. I've only really seen him play in a handful of Champions League games in recent years, so I'm not an expert by any means, but it appears he will bring some much-needed steel to our midfield. A deep-lying playmaker with an eye for a pass, Xhaka is adept at playing pinpoint long-range passes in attack, as well as putting in a shift in defence. I assume Wenger is looking to him as an upgrade over Francis Coquelin, a player with similar toughness but perhaps the more refined Xhaka can bring a bit of finesse to the position. I'm already looking forward to seeing a midfield trio of Xhaka, Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil. With the impending departure of veterans Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini, the club needed to bolster the midfield this summer and they have gone one step toward doing just that.
I'm both impressed by the acquisition of a quality player and by the swiftness of the transfer. It's not often Arsenal are early birds to the transfer worm, so it makes a nice change. I don't expect (nor do I hope) that this is the end of Arsenal's transfer activity but it's a great start to what will hopefully be a busy off-season for Mr Wenger and co.
It is expected Xhaka will wear the number 34 shirt as he has done for the majority of his career, both at FC Basel and Monchengladbach. Of course, he will have to pry it away from Coquelin first, who I expect will jump at the chance to take a vacant First XI number, likely the departed Arteta's number 8.
I know I'll be tuning in to watch every Switzerland game I can during Euro 2016, that's for sure. Welcome to the club Granit Xhaka.
The eagle-eyed among you will notice this is my first post in a while. Over 3 years in fact. This blog has been dormant for a host of reasons, but I'm going to endeavor to post on here more often. I'm well aware the internet doesn't need yet another Arsenal blog but I don't care; I'm going to write about them anyway.
Thanks for reading.