Pundit Adrian Clarke has detailed two reasons why Arsenal are not in as good shape as previously at the moment, with the sale of Granit Xhaka a major blow.
Arsenal came on leaps and bounds last term from where they’d been the season prior. Indeed, they were leading the Premier League for much of the season last time out, after finishing fifth the year before.
While they didn’t end up winning the league, there was a lot of promise shown by Arteta’s men.
Ahead of their last game this term, Arsenal were second in the league, two points behind leaders Manchester City. While they then lost 1-0 to Newcastle United, dropping down to fourth, they’re still very much in contention.
However, it’s been suggested that they’re actually worse off than they were last season, as a result of a transfer that occurred this summer.
Indeed, Granit Xhaka moved on after arguably his best season in an Arsenal shirt – he was directly involved in 14 league goals – heading for Bayer Leverkusen.
Former footballer Clarke believes the midfielder moving on has hurt the Gunners.
Xhaka move left a ‘big dent’
“They haven’t been as fluid, they haven’t been as cohesive as they were last season,” he said on talkSPORT.
“Obviously, Xhaka leaving has made a big dent in the team and they’ve not really found the solution yet to who comes in for him.”
Indeed, Xhaka’s departure and the subsequent signing of Kai Havertz have led to some outside-the-box thinking from Arteta.
Firstly, utilising Havertz as a midfielder, and then shifting Thomas Partey to right-back to accommodate both him and Declan Rice.
Had Xhaka still been at the club, those decisions wouldn’t have been made, and the balance of the midfield might have been better.
Jesus injury also hindering Arsenal
Clarke also believes Gabriel Jesus being absent at the moment is hindering Arsenal.
The forward is sidelined with a hamstring injury, and has missed the last three games in all competitions. While the Gunners won their last Champions League game 2-0, Clarke clearly feels they were below the level they had been at with Jesus in the side.
“Yeah, I think a lot of it is to do with Gabriel Jesus’s absence. He’s played in all three Champions League games until last night and Arsenal have been excellent in those by and large,” Clarke added.
“I think he brings a chaos factor that no one else can, I think he’s got a little bit more.”