21st May 2016: Xhaka resplendent in red and white + Bellerin’s loving London

Saturday greetings. It’s FA Cup Final day today of course and I’m sure I’m not the only Arsenal fan to be thinking that it should have been us taking to the Wembley field against Manchester United later rather than Crystal Palace.

A win over Watford in the quarter-finals would have set up a semi against Palace of course but as we all know, we f*cked it up big-style, like Jose Mourinho in his third season at a club. Anyway, good luck to the Eagles because as much as I dislike Alan Pardew, I do have a bit of a soft spot for the club who sold us Ian Wright.

But back to Arsenal and after the BBC yesterday reported a deal to bring Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka to Arsenal was close, today pictures emerged online seeming to show the player at London Colney wearing an Arsenal shirt.

Now normally, I’d say: “I’ll believe it when I see it” when it comes to transfer speculation linking us with new recruits, but we’ve seen it now, so: “I’ll believe it when it’s confirmed”, which if reports are accurate, should be imminently.

Xhaka’s signing does make you wonder what our first-choice line-up in central midfield will look like next season, seeing as Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are all candidates, not to mention a youngster like Gedion Zelalem, who may stake his claim in pre-season after this season’s loan spell at Rangers.

Then there’s Alex Iwobi, who has also shown he can play there, so we’re certainly okay for numbers. That said, I still think we’re short an understudy for Cazorla, who’s passing and vision from deep we sorely missed after he was injured in late 2015.

In terms of potential departures, and I’ll admit I’d be surprised if we did because Arsene Wenger seems to rate him very highly and he’s also versatile enough to play wider and further forward, I’d give serious consideration to selling Ramsey this summer. More so than Theo Walcott even, because the latter appears willing, if not content, to play a squad role, and for all his obvious deficiencies as a footballer, is still a good option from the bench when we’re chasing a goal.

Ideally I’d like us to keep the Welshman and also sign a Cazorla-type, but if it’s one or the other, I’d much rather we cut Aaron loose and brought in a central midfielder who’s as good on the ball as Santi and who can orchestrate our play with the same quality of passing  as the Spaniard. That’s easier said than done but I’m sure we can find one if we looked hard enough. I’d start in Spain and Italy …

One player who definitely won’t be leaving Arsenal anytime soon though is Hector Bellerin, after the former Barcelona youth player explained why he doesn’t see himself in any other club’s colours. He said:

I say every year that England is my home now. I’ve lived there for many years; my family and my girlfriend are there. I’m very happy there so I don’t see myself anywhere other than Arsenal.

Excellent news. Bellerin has clearly seen a certain other Catalan leave Arsenal for Barcelona in the fairly recent past and decided that’s not a road he wants to follow and who can blame him? Nobody wants to be turfed out by their home-town club and end up turning out at a bus-stop in Fulham.

But Hector did admit it was once his dream to represent Barcelona and described how it felt to play at the Nou Camp, having faced his former employers in the Champions League with Arsenal earlier this year. He said:

How did it feel to play against Barca? For me, Barca was where I grew up since I was tiny, from eight years old. My dream when I was at Barca was to play at Camp Nou and I did – just not wearing the shirt I’d expected when I was little. It was something very special and beautiful.

Not as special and beautiful as playing at Emirates stadium though hey Bellers?

See you on Sunday.

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