Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta already feels he has a replacement for Granit Xhaka, it has been claimed. Former Gunners striker Kevin Campbell claims Emile Smith Rowe is being worked on as a No 8 on the training pitches at London Colney.
Xhaka is set to leave after seven years in north London. Arsenal have given him permission to go and a £13million move to Bayer Leverkusen is close to being agreed.
The Switzerland international spent much of his first few seasons playing as a defensive midfielder. However, Arteta used him in his preferred No 8 role this term and it has worked wonders.
Xhaka has enjoyed his best season in an Arsenal shirt and has won over many of the club’s supporters after his public falling out in 2019. But he looks set to finally be on his way after years of being linked with an exit.
Arsenal want to sign West Ham’s Declan Rice and Brighton’s Moises Caicedo. But they may also have another option to fill in for Xhaka.
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Smith Rowe has barely featured this season after missing much of the first half of the campaign due to injury. He has been linked with an exit but Campbell reckons that won’t be the case and says he has heard that the 22-year-old is being primed to play in a midfield role from next term.
He told Highbury Squad: “He stays, I think Emile Smith Rowe stays. I think Smith Rowe has to stick to one position.
“I know he can play a couple, but he needs to say ‘I want to be a number eight’ for example, and that’s his position. He can play here, there or anywhere.
“If you bring in a specialist they will play. Rumour has it that they’re teaching him the Xhaka role, so we don’t know, it’s been one of those seasons.”
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Smith Rowe hasn’t started a single match in all competitions this season. He was one of Arsenal’s best players last term but mainly operated in a wide-attacking role.
Arteta said in April that Smith Rowe is getting closer to a starting spot. However, that is still yet to be the case.
Arteta said: “He’s pushing, and in football what you did a year ago, a month ago is not important, it’s about what you do now, what you do yesterday and what you do tomorrow.
“The player has to have that mindset and the contribution has to be now to the team has to make us better and to make us win games. He’s very close.”
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