Last month, Arsenal confirmed the signing of Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka from Borussia Monchengladbach for a fee around £30 million.
The 23-year-old played the full 90 minutes in Switzerland’s nervy 1-0 win over the spirited ten men of Albania and he provided Arsenal fans with a glimpse of what they can expect from him next season.
Lining up in defensive midfield alongside Watford’s Valon Behrami, Xhaka produced a strong display to help his country in what was a frantic, derby-like atmosphere. In the first half, the tenacious youngster closed down the opposition well and tidily swept things up in front of his back four.
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He covered the spaces left by marauding full-backs Ricardo Rodriguez and captain Stephan Lichtsteiner and looked very comfortable receiving the ball under pressure. Xhaka, who received three yellow cards last season, also wasn’t afraid to fly into tackles, even when he came up against his brother Taulant, who played 62 minutes in Albania’s midfield.
The no-nonsense midfielder helped Switzerland keep the ball, especially in the second half when they looked to lower the tempo of the game. He intercepted play multiple times and tracked back well as Albania desperately tried to get themselves back into the game.
Xhaka was almost always available, he constantly got his head up when in possession and sprayed some wonderful long-range passes across the pitch. On the rare occasions where the holding midfielder ventured forward, he tried to find space in order to create a goalscoring opportunity.
Xhaka is a Swiss superstar
Along with Stoke winger Xherdan Shaqiri, Xhaka is one of Switzerland’s most talented footballers and there is no doubt that he will be an instrumental figure in their Euro 2016 campaign. The ex-Basel star, who could’ve played for Albania, represented the country of his birth at each and every youth level and has already made over 40 appearances for the senior team.
Room for improvement
Despite the victory, Switzerland failed to add to their very early goal even though they played against ten men for 53 minutes. They will need to improve if they want to progress to the latter stages of the tournament, starting with Tuesday’s match against Romania at PSG’s Parc des Princes. The new Arsenal signing will hope that he can keep his good form going as the Swiss aim to make it out of Group A, which includes the hosts and favourites France.
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