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.
Click to play
Tap to play
The video will start in8Cancel
He has found himself in a three-man midfield with some combination of Valon Behrami, Gokhan Inler and Blerim Dzemaili, ensuring at least one tackler to ensure Xhaka is less exposed and freer to use the ball with the luxury of time.
Partey won more tackles last season (45, per StatsBomb/FBRef.com) than any Arsenal player, with Dani Ceballos’ 28 the most from any of Xhaka’s team-mates, while his 28 interceptions also represented a higher tally than any member of Mikel Arteta’s squad.
While things are closer when you consider the return per 90 minutes, with Arteta and his predecessor Unai Emery struggling to find a settled midfield two or three, this is kind of the point: Arsenal are adding a midfielder who has been signed specifically to be a…