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Xhaka still divides opinion but his absence was felt in Brighton rain


M

ikel Arteta is now going to have two weeks with plenty of thinking time and one of the things he can ponder is how Arsenal move forward without Granit Xhaka for the next three months.

This first match without the Switzerland international, who is injured for three months due to a knee issue, was not the greatest start as the Gunners were held to a 0-0 draw by Brighton.

It was played out in biblically wet conditions, which no doubt contributed towards the style of the game, but you couldn’t overlook the feeling Arsenal were lacking some control in midfield.

Xhaka, as we know, is a divisive figure among fans but you cannot ignore what he brings to this side.

We saw it last week against Tottenham, and when he has pace and dynamism around him, his game can flourish.

Arsenal could have done with his stability here at the Amex and, while it is of course early days, there is plenty for Arteta to think about over the upcoming international break as he tries to work out how his side should setup without the Swiss.

The plan for this clash was simply to bring Albert Sambi Lokonga straight in and he was tasked with doing exactly what Xhaka does. When Arsenal had the ball, he dropped into the left-back role so Kieran Tierney could bomb on, and without possession he played centrally.

Lokonga did fine, he was neat and tidy, but wasn’t quite a Xhaka replicate and there was an element of control missing form Arsenal’s game.

We, of course, need to give Arsenal and Lokonga time. The sample size is currently small and there are plenty more matches to come.


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