Amid plenty of speculation surrounding Granit Xhaka’s future over the last few days, Mikel Arteta gave a guarded update when asked for clarity in his press conference on Friday.
“The clarity is he’s a player that has played [nearly] every minute since I’ve been the manager,” Arteta said. “He’s an incredibly respected figure at the club.
“He has a great story around him with what he has achieved at the club, going through very tough moments. He’s a key and very important part of [our squad].
“Whatever happens is something we certainly won’t discuss now.”
But despite Arteta’s desire to avoid the subject of Xhaka’s departure, various outlets are reporting that the deal is already close to done.
Fabrizio Romano reports that there’s no other club in the race than Bayer Leverkusen, and the deal is “very, very advanced”, with an agreement in the final stages for a €15m (£13m) transfer.
Arsenal fansite Arsenal442 go as far as to say they’ve learned from a source close to the player that all parties have agreed a deal, and the announcement is now just a matter of time.
German outlet Kicker report that Xhaka is set to sign for Leverkusen, and nobody at the club has any doubts that the move will happen. It’s described as a near ‘certainty’ that the midfielder will sign a four-year deal to join the Bundesliga club.
Xhaka will take a cut to his salary to return to the Bundesliga, which isn’t surprising for anyone leaving the Premier League at the moment.
Leverkusen boss Xabi Alonso reportedly had a very long talk with Xhaka on Tuesday, explaining his project for the coming years.
Xhaka’s impending exit could have various knock-on effects for the rest of Arsenal’s summer window.
For a start, an amicable deal with Leverkusen could pave the way for Arsenal to make a move for apparent target Moussa Diaby.
The Gunners reportedly hold an interest in the Leverkusen winger, and you’d imagine the Bundesliga club would be more willing to do business with Arsenal after securing Xhaka’s signature.
But just as significantly, Xhaka’s departure would give us our strongest hint yet that Arsenal are preparing to invest in signing multiple midfielders.
Declan Rice is clearly the club’s top target, but Arsenal probably needed to add depth to their midfield options even before Xhaka’s departure.
Now that he’s going, it’s arguably necessary to make at least two midfield signings. With that in mind, you’d think Arsenal would only let Xhaka go if they fully intended to make those additions.