Granit Xhaka is one in a long line of Arsenal midfielders to be compared to one of his predecessors in north London, and such comparisons can often leave a player with big shoes to fill.
While injuries cost Abou Diaby the chance to have a real crack at his ‘Next Patrick Vieira’ tag, it was one of Vieira’s compatriots who invited Xhaka comparisons from none other than Arsene Wenger.
“He is a guy who plays naturally behind the ball, he is a bit similar to (Emmanuel) Petit in the way he plays football,” Wenger said back in 2016, when Xhaka’s Arsenal career was still in its infancy.
“He likes to sit, give good long balls and be available with the centre-backs.”
While Xhaka’s Arsenal career hasn’t brought the high points enjoyed by Petit at Highbury, the Swiss midfielder still has time on his side. And now, with the arrival of Thomas Partey, he may have the ideal midfield set-up to help Wenger’s prediction come true.
In the last three major international tournaments, Xhaka has settled well into a Swiss side with at least one player in a role not far from that played by Partey.
He has found himself in a three-man midfield with some combination of Valon Behrami, Gokhan…