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OPINION: Arsenal youth must step up after Granit Xhaka’s injury

It was heartbreaking to see Granit Xhaka on the field in such pain, and regardless of one's feelings about the player over the years, it's difficult not to sympathize with someone who is now dealing with a serious knee injury. The fact that the injury could have been worse does not diminish my compassion, and I am confident that when he is fully recovered and ready to play for Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, he will be greeted with rapturous applause.

Having said that, and knowing the general timetable for his return, this is a huge opportunity for the team's "younger" players to gain valuable experience in Xhaka's absence. Albert Sambi Lokonga and Ainsley Maitland-Niles are two names that immediately come to mind. Now, one certainly fits into the 'young' category, whereas Maitland-Niles, at 24 years old, does not, even if he is still regarded as such in many people's eyes. Regardless, both players are very capable, and while one was only recently brought in, the other has recently expressed a desire to leave. These two could be ideal for working with and learning from the brilliant and influential Thomas Partey.

Albert Sambi Lokonga and Ainsley Maitland-Niles are two Arsenal midfielders who can step in for Granit Xhaka.

If each player can contribute alongside Partey when Mikel Arteta calls on them, Xhaka will return in three months to a stronger, more resilient, and well-rounded Arsenal squad than the one he left. The first test will be against Brighton at the Amex Stadium, followed by the second international break, but once that time has passed, four more tests in October will pose questions that Thomas Partey will not be able to answer on his own.

While Lokonga, a still-young Belgian midfielder, is unlikely to leave any time soon, the same cannot be said for Maitland-Niles, a player I hold in high regard. The Hale End product was rumored to be on his way out of Everton and has expressed his dissatisfaction with a lack of playing time under Arteta; however, Arteta has told him that he will play more this season and that he is a very valuable piece of this team moving forward. As fate would have it, now is Maitland-chance Nile's to prove his worth even if it is also understood that the Toffees will continue to look for a player of his caliber and versatility in the future.

Now that James Rodriguez has left Merseyside for Qatar, they will have money to spend in January. Maitland-Niles must be feeling pressure to get his career started while he is still young(ish), spry, and capable. Lokonga has the time and continues to find himself in larger and more impressive situations, making the best of them for himself and his teammates around him.

Content created and supplied by: Fameman (via Opera News )

Ainsley Maitland-Niles Albert Sambi Lokonga Arsenal Granit Xhaka


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