Since his arrival at Arsenal two years ago, Granit Xhaka has divided opinion. Whether he’s good enough, being played correctly or makes a big enough impact never seems to be far from debate.
With Unai Emery at the helm, rumours of many of his ex-players following him to Arsenal have also arrived. Midfielders like Steven N’Zonzi, who has gone to AS Roma and more prominently, Ever Banega.
The Argentinian’s name has popped up in the conversation of new Arsenal midfielders on many occasions and has reared its head back. But would he actually be an upgrade on Arsenal’s current midfield playmaker?
Player Comparison: On The Ball
For any midfielder in the top European leagues nowadays, let alone Arsenal, you are going to need to be tidy in possession and both of the above are.
On the ball, Xhaka shows why he was brought to Arsenal as his range and accuracy of passing is quite impressive. Completing 87% of his passes with just under 600 more forward passes than Banega this shows that he may look to start attacks from deep, more often.
However, with Banega producing more key passes, this could see him offering higher up the pitch and putting Arsenal into more dangerous positions.
Last season though, Xhaka did contribute directly to double the amount of goals than Banega, suggesting the Swiss may be the better attacking weapon, despite being deployed deeper on the pitch.
Player Comparison: Off The Ball
Playing in such a fast-paced league, a midfielder’s contribution off the ball is as valuable as his on the ball contributions. Especially in central midfield. This is the main area Xhaka has come in for criticism and that’s understandable, when looking at the stats above.
The pair won almost the same amount of tackles, but Xhaka committed 19 more fouls, which could see many label him as a careless player out of possession. Gifting the opposition a free play, so often could end up being costly and this is where Benega may have an edge.
However, the amount of interceptions Xhaka amassed last season could help him greatly. With Emery wanting his sides to win the ball back quickly, having 25 more interceptions than a possible transfer target should help Xhaka’s cause massively as it allows Arsenal to build attacks almost instantly.
Overall, it doesn’t look as if Ever Banega coming to Arsenal would be warranted, if it meant Granit Xhaka sitting on the bench.
Despite the Argentine being an impressive midfielder, when comparing him to Xhaka, there isn’t much he can add to the team apart from another wage bill. He isn’t a world class talent and at 30-years-old, it’ll be a question of when he’ll start to decline.
Rather than bringing him into the squad, Arsenal fans would probably be more accepting of keeping Xhaka and giving players like Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi and Ainsley Maitland-Niles (when he’s back from injury) opportunities in midfield.
Rather than gathering all his old players together, that’ll probably be a better approach from Emery, who has begun his reign at Arsenal by doing just that.