Why a swap deal involving Xhaka and Eriksen can suit Arsenal
According to Corriere dello Sport (h/t Metro), Inter Milan are looking for a swap deal with Arsenal for Granit Xhaka in exchange for Christian Eriksen. Antonio Conte has been looking to bolster his midfield and was told by Chelsea in the summer that N’Golo Kante was not up for sale.
Christian Eriksen has voiced his frustration and indicated that he can be open to leaving Serie A. The Dane has failed to gain Conte’s trust this season. On the other hand, Xhaka has spoken about how he is enjoying his stay at Arsenal and the role Arteta played in making him stay.
The 28-year-old Swiss midfielder was close to leaving the Gunners after a bust-up with the fans during Unai Emery’s stint. (h/t Metro)
Out-of-favor Eriksen could benefit the Gunners
Since his move to San Siro almost 10 months ago, Eriksen has started only 15 matches. The 28-year-old has failed to impose himself at the club. Central midfield is also one area where Conte is spoiled with options. However, Conte has no quality cover in defensive midfield for Marcelo Brozovic, a position vital in Conte’s setup.
Arsenal have been woeful going forward this season, scoring just 9 goals in 9 league matches. Their entire attack has been faltering, including Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has no open play goals in the league this season. Fingers have been pointed at Arteta’s 3-4-3 formation that does not feature a creative playmaker down the middle.
Xhaka has settled well at Arsenal under Arteta, but that doesn’t mean he is not expandable. Arsenal have started with Elneny and Partey recently and may stick with the duo in the future. A player with ample Premier League experience like Eriksen will certainly benefit Arsenal but under specific conditions.
Eriksen for Xhaka will suit Arsenal, but under two conditions
Looking at the heatmaps of Xhaka and Eriksen, it becomes clear that the latter is not adept in the defensive role of a central midfielder. If Arteta is to sign the 28-year-old Eriksen, he must ask more of him off the ball. While Eriksen will certainly provide goals and assists from midfield, he may not suit Arsenal in the role he played at Spurs and Inter.
If Arteta, a central midfielder in his playing days, can transform Eriksen into a midfielder that plays deeper than a traditional number 10, then the Dane may be the solution that Arsenal want. Another way of fitting Eriksen can be shifting to a 3-4-1-2 formation. However, this would require Willian and Pepe to either change their role or be benched.
The other condition that Arteta must fulfil is replacing Xhaka with a current squad player. The 21-year-old Joe Willock can be nurtured into playing Xhaka’s role when needed. If Arteta can shape Christian Eriksen or Arsenal’s system a certain way, then the Dane would be the answer to Arsenal’s attacking problem.