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football | Wednesday, May 24, 2023 6:05 PM

Arsenal can replace Xhaka on-field but his departure will leave a leadership gap

Arsenal can replace Xhaka on-field but his departure will leave a leadership gap
IMAGO / Pro Sports Images

As the season comes to a close, the transfer market is abuzz with rumours and Arsenal are in midst of them.

Granit Xhaka, one of the club’s best players this season is rumoured to join Bayer Leverkusen. Hale End product Emile Smith-Rowe is also reportedly on his way out and the Gunners have also been linked to swoop in for a couple of Man City players again – Ilkay Gundogan and Joao Cancelo.

Former Man Utd and Arsenal defender Mikael Silvestre gave his views on the reported moves.

In this article:

Xhaka can be replaced technically but Arsenal will also need to find a new leader

The former France international spoke about Xhaka’s potential departure, stating that from a technical perspective, he is replaceable but the Gunners will also need to find a new locker room leader.

“I think technically Xhaka has done very well this season, especially in scoring goals, playing in a more offensive position.”

“Technically, you can replace him but in terms of leadership, strong mentality and he was also Arsenal’s previous captain.”

He continued that Arteta, Edu and co. will need to bring in a player who is a locker room leader or one of the existing players will have to step up in that role.

“I think it’s important that they acknowledge that they need to find someone who can fill that gap or maybe emerge from the existing group and take the leadership responsibility as well.”

Gundogan and Cancelo would be excellent signings but I doubt Guardiola will allow it

On the links with Ilkay Gundogan and Joao Cancelo, Silvestre believes the quality they have would make them amazing reinforcements.

“They are excellent players. They would reinforce Arsenal, they would reinforce any team in the Premier League.”

“The quality, the level they bring to the team in their respective positions, the experience. They are top players, top performers.”

That being said, the four-time Premier League champion doesn’t think Pep Guardiola will allow them to join Man City’s title rivals next season, considering the impact Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko have had.

“If they were to sign for Arsenal, they would be good additions but I don’t think City wants to give more power to Arsenal. They already gave Jesus and Zinchenko. It wasn’t a mistake for City but it did help Arsenal for sure.”

Emile Smith-Rowe is talented and needs to fight for his chance again

After a fruitful 2021-22 season, Emile Smith-Rowe was expected to be a major part of Arteta’s plans but a combination of injuries and poor form limited his playing time this season.

The Hale End product has been linked with a move away from Arsenal as the Gunners are looking for major midfield upgrades.
Silvestre has urged caution as he believes it is hard to judge Smith-Rowe because he didn’t have a regular run of games.

“I think it’s difficult to judge because when you don’t get a run of games, it is hard to find your form. So it’s almost like a catch-22.”

The Frenchman also believes that Smith-Rowe needs to fight for his spot as he’s talented and a very good player.

“He is a very good player. There was competition and he just needs to fight to get his chance again.”

“He’s talented enough and mentally he has to break that barrier so that he can play regularly for Arsenal.”

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