Arsene Wenger has revealed his plan to use Granit Xhaka as a box-to-box midfielder, suggesting he still plans to re-shape his team.
The £35million Switzerland international is yet to dislodge Wenger’s preferred central midfield pairing of Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin, but the manager is adamant he is capable of more.
After watching his team improve with the Coquelin-Cazorla pairing allowing his creative players freedom in the final third, Wenger appeared to be tweaking his starting XI with the additions of striker Lucas Perez and defender Shkodran Mustafi.
Xhaka was expected to vie with Coquelin, Cazorla and Mohamed Elneny, but the manager’s intention is to use the 23-year-old in a new role in his team.
“I personally prefer him as a box-to-box player,” said Wenger. “Because he has the engine, he has the power, he has the long pass. He likes to come deep and distribute the game, but he has the engine to have the impact with his runs.
“It’s not about his quality at the moment – he adapts to the pace of the English game – and for me it’s about pairs as well, who work together. Coquelin and Cazorla have worked well together. He will play games; every week he’s stronger and better. He will have a huge impact
“We are (in) September; we started in August so it’s one month. Many players take time to get into the team; he will do that without any problem.
“He and Elneny are top-class players. There’s big competition in midfield at the moment but I’m sure both of them will get in the team.
“We lost our first game; you go a bit for stablity. (Xhaka’s) highly-focused – Elneny as well – they are top, top quality.”
Wenger hopes to again have Theo Walcott available for Saturday’s Premier League fixture at Hull, but Aaron Ramsey remains sidelined with a hamstring injury, Gabriel Paulista remains short of match fitness and Olivier Giroud requires a late fitness test after receiving a knock.
Hull have impressed so far this season, securing seven points from four games despite the difficult circumstances they have been working in.
Their caretaker manager Mike Phelan earlier on Friday revealed he had been offered the manager’s job on a permanent basis, and Wenger said: “He’s doing very well.
“He’s experienced after working at big clubs in big competitions. He has done really well. He is a real football man and has given some stability to Hull. They are difficult to beat.
“What is important is he has experience of the big games and the knowledge you get from these big games.”