Arsenal have found their Granit Xhaka replacement as Swiss midfielder nears Roma transfer

Granit Xhaka was much maligned during his time at Arsenal but it could not be argued that he did not play a crucial part in the team.

While there were individual errors and moments of indiscipline that will forever blot his Emirates Stadium copy book the Swiss international was the Gunners’ top progressive pass maker per 90 last season and his personal upturn in form cannot be ignored when looking at the club’s improvement in the second half of last season.

However, despite this the 28-year-old looks set to leave North London this summer, with Roma likely to secure a move for him imminently understands.

With that in mind finding someone to replace Xhaka is absolutely crucial this transfer window and it seems that Arsenal might have already done so.

The role of getting the ball forwards from defence to attack is something that has is absolutely crucial to the way Mikel Arteta wants his side to play.

Getting it from A to B as soon as possible is key to taking advantage of the pace and finishing ability that the Gunners front line possess when they are in top form.

In the first part of last season this is something they really struggled with.

Up until December they ranked 4th for touches in their own defensive third, but just 13th for touches in the opposition third of the pitch.

The arrival of Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard into the side helped fix this, although as previously mentioned Xhaka’s own post-Christmas improvement was crucial in causing the side’s upturn in form.

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Thanks to his progressive passing alongside Thomas Partey – who played far more regularly in the second half of the campaign after missing much of the early part of his Gunners career with injury – Arsenal ended the season in fifth for touches in the opposition third as per fbRef.

While the Gunners are expected to replace him with an experienced transfer this summer, the signing they have already made may well be up to the job.

Albert Sambi Lokonga arrived from Anderlecht last week with a reputation for getting the ball forward, and doing it quickly. The Belgian midfielder ranked in the 93rd percentile for accurate passes into the final third and progressive passes among players in the Jupiler League (as per WyScout) and the 94th percentile for accurate through passes.

Albert Sambi Lokonga in action for Anderlecht
Albert Sambi Lokonga in action for Anderlecht

He continued this trait into his Arsenal debut against Milwall on Saturday where the 21-year-old was constantly looking to play forward from deep. The highlight was probably a through ball to Kieran Tierney that invited the Scot to cross to Nicolas Pepe whose shot inside the box went over.

When discussing the players he admired most Sambi seemed to suggest that this is something we can expect to see much more often at the Emirates this season.

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“I never wanted to be like a player, I always wanted to be Sambi, so I took a little bit of all the players I used to watch,” he told

“I never said to myself that you need to be like this player, I always wanted to be Sambi and to do Sambi on the pitch,

“If I had to tell you some players, I will say Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Modric, yeah, all the top players, Marco Veratti as well. All the top players.”

Of course there is the step up in league quality to consider and the opposition he’ll face week-in-week-out will be far more testing than the Millwall team he played at London Colney on Saturday.

But with his mobility to cover his teammates when they get forward to attack, there is an argument that he has the potential to even be an upgrade on Xhaka.

The likelihood is that Arsenal will replace the Swiss midfielder this summer, with Yves Bissouma, Ruben Neves and Manuel Locatelli among the players to have been linked.

But if they choose not to go into the market again then it appears that in Sambi they have a player capable to make the step up despite his young age.

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Source by Football London

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