It’s day or two old news, but Granit Xhaka is expected to sign a new Arsenal contract imminently, if he hasn’t already. The deal adds at least year to his current contract, tying him to Arsenal through 2024. It’s also thought to include a slight pay raise, supposedly something around the bump that he would have gotten on a move to Roma.
It’s no secret that Xhaka was open to a move to Roma — the reports were that he’d agreed to personal terms. But the Serie A side refused to meet or even come close to Arsenal’s valuation for the Swiss midfielder. The Gunners wanted something in the £20M neighborhood, and the best I saw Roma had bid was £15M. That’s a significant gap.
So Arsenal offered him a contract extension to “protect his value” and he signed (or will soon). That doesn’t read “we’re desperate to get rid of you” on the Gunners’ part or “I want out” from Xhaka. My sense is that he’ll move next summer when clubs have recovered a bit from the financial stress caused by COVID and have more money to spend, that he’s fine to spend another year in North London, and that Arsenal are happy to have him.
I’m absolutely fine with the move. Xhaka is a solid player who has been incredibly important to Arsenal’s setup over the past few seasons and is highly rated by Mikel Arteta. He also just had a really good tournament at the Euros. If you’re in the “trust the process” / Mikel and Edu have (at least some) idea what they’re doing camp, you should probably trust their assessment on Xhaka, too.
I like that Edu & Co. are sticking to their guns on player valuations, specifically with Xhaka and Hector Bellerin. Neither are superstars, but they’re not duds, either. Xhaka is an international captain, incredibly durable, and in form. And Bellerin, despite the dip in form that may be related to his ACL injury (which will presumably get better), is still only 26 years old and should have good seasons ahead of him. Arsenal are apparently in a financial position where they don’t need to hold a firesale and generate funds this instant. So all else being equal, I like when my club doesn’t get fleeced on transfers.
I also think that for this season, Arsenal are better with Granit Xhaka than they are without him, especially given Thomas Partey’s injury. The season starts next week, and they aren’t replacing Xhaka’s minutes or contribution in that time-frame.
It’s a tough tightrope to walk — the Gunners need to be conscious of the future and plan for the longer term without completely undercutting the short term results. Because getting back into Europe speeds up the clock on longer term, sustained success. And that’s before you get to the effect that this season’s results may or may not have on Mikel Arteta and Edu Gaspar’s continued employment by Arsenal Football Club.
Basically, these decisions are much more complicated than we think, and I’m glad that I’m not the one who has to make them. I think Arsenal, given how everything has played out and Roma’s refusal to pay up, made the right choice on Granit Xhaka.