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Granit Xhaka set to make Arsenal debut against MLS All-Stars
San Jose (Calif.) — Arsenal’s £30 million star signing Granit Xhaka is prepared to make his Gunners debut in tonight’s 2016 Major League All-Star game at Avaya Stadium.
The twenty-three-year-old midfielder was absent for Arsenal’s 1-1 friendly draw with RC Lens in France last week but coach Arsene Wenger confirmed that Xhaka would appear in the high anticipated All-Star game. The French manager told reporters in his pre-game press conference at Arsenal’s team hotel: “He was short fitness-wise last week but will play a part (against the MLS All-Stars).”
Xhaka joined up with the Arsenal squad after appearing for Switzerland at this summer’s European Championships in France. He played in all four of Switzerland’s games but was unable to get on the scoresheet and missed a vital penalty in their Round of 16 shootout defeat to Poland.
Arsenal have trained in San Jose for a week ahead of the All-Star game and despite the fact that Wenger openly resents extended pre-seasons tours, he will use the All-Star game as an enjoyable opportunity for his players to recover from the Euros.
“We know that we have a very short period to prepare,” he said in his press conference. “Many of our players have been at the European Championship.
“We start in mid-August so we have to make the absolute maximum of each game we play. That’s why it will be a very interesting game for us on Thursday.
“My first impression [of the US] is that there are more and more people here in the States who love football and know our players, which is a bit unusual for us in the States. That’s a good sign that football is taking off in the States.”
Xhaka, for one, has used the tour as a chance to endear himself to his Arsenal teammates and fans. On Wednesday, he was filmed singing an initiation song to his teammates at the team hotel and new teammate Jack Wilshere spoke highly of the central midfielder in an interview with Arsenal’s official website.
“I’ve played against him a few times at youth level for England and also for the first team with England, so I know him quite well,” Wilshere told Arsenal.com. “I’ve always thought he was a good player, he’s very strong and has got a good left foot. He’s a leader, he can hold the midfield together and can get things going from back to front. He’s a good signing.”
Xhaka was also present at a fan club meeting earlier in the afternoon where Arsenal supporters sang a new chant in his honor.
To the tune of the classic “Frere Jacques,” the song goes:
These guys just came up with a new Granit Xhaka chant pic.twitter.com/t8nqjjJ405
— ArsenalFanTV (@ArsenalFanTV) July 27, 2016
The chorus will undoubtedly be heard emanating around Avaya Stadium, home of the San Jose Earthquakes, as Xhaka steps onto the field for the first time in Arsenal colors Thursday afternoon to face the likes of All-Star players Kaka, Andrea Pirlo, David Villa and Didier Drogba.