Granit Xhaka is facing a lengthy spell on the sideline after the midfielder suffered a knee injury against Tottenham over the weekend.
As reported by Football London, the Swiss international could be out for some time, with reports suggesting that the 29-year-old might not return for as long as eight weeks. Xhaka had only just returned from suspension.
Moreover, it means that Arsenal once again don’t have a fully fit squad, with every player in the first team being available for Sunday’s clash against Spurs. However, the injury to Xhaka could present itself with a unique opportunity for Mikel Arteta.
Whilst the Basque manager is a fan of Xhaka, it would be an understatement to say that the Swiss midfielder is a conflicting figure amongst Arsenal supporters. And potentially two months out on the injury table could mean some experimentation from the Gunners boss.
Indeed, whilst Xhaka has had some positive moments, the former Bundesliga star is simply not cut out to partner Thomas Partey in the midfield for the long-term. And with the Swiss international now out, Arteta has a chance to solve a huge problem, for the Gunners.
Xhaka injury could lead to a midfield pivot revamp
It has been almost five years since Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla dominated the midfield for Arsenal. The tough-tackling no-nonsense French destroyer paired alongside the magical Spanish wizard was a duo that should not have worked on paper.
And yet, it was the best midfield pivot Arsenal have had since the days of Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva. And nothing since the Coquelin/Cazorla partnership has come even remotely close to matching the duo’s qualities or balance.
Arsene Wenger tried to replace Cazorla with the £35m signing of Xhaka in 2016. But as we know, the Arsenal midfield has never looked quite right without the Spanish playmaker nor the ball-winning midfielder that was Coquelin.
Arteta has time to strike the balance
With Xhaka out injured and Partey up to full fitness, Arteta has a great opportunity to experiment with the midfield. And there is no doubt that the Arsenal manager can find a balance with what he has to choose from.
Mohamed Elneny can prove solid defensive work and simple play whilst Partey acts as the Rolls Royce of the midfield. Ainsley Maitland-Niles can add more athleticism and versatility. And Albert Sambi Lokonga can act as an understudy to the Ghanaian international, with the summer signing already impressing Arsenal fans.
A strong midfield base can build the foundation for a team that can challenge for titles and cups. And with Xhaka now out with injury, Arteta has the time and options to mix and match with the personnel in the centre of the park to find the perfect balance that can solve a problem that has been lingering for five years.