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Granit Xhaka will give Arsenal a selection headache in central midfield

Granit Xhaka's arrival at Arsenal will certainly add a bit of steel to the Gunners -- but it will also add to Arsene Wenger's selection problems.

Despite the fact that Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini will depart this summer, the Switzerland international will make Arsenal's central midfield even more crowded next season, with six players essentially fighting for two spots.

With Jack Wilshere already having made it clear that he doesn't like playing out wide, and the No. 10 spot occupied by Mesut Ozil, it is difficult to see how Wenger will keep everyone happy.

Wenger has traditionally played with one pure holding midfielder -- Francis Coquelin, Flamini or Mohamed Elneny last season -- and one box-to-box player with freedom to roam forward -- usually Santi Cazorla or Aaron Ramsey.

Xhaka can play either of those roles, giving Wenger added options for how to balance his team against different opponents. Though it's still unclear how Wenger intends to use the 23-year-old, he certainly isn't being brought in to sit on the bench. So the biggest question is: who will start alongside him?

Here's a look at the players fighting for that spot and their chances of starting, in order.

1. Santi Cazorla

Cazorla's importance to this Arsenal team was made even clearer during his long injury absence this year, and he should always be in the XI when fit. The Spaniard makes Arsenal's midfield tick, serving as a link between defence and attack and dictating the pace of the game. Ramsey failed to have the same impact after Cazorla was injured in November, and the Spaniard's absence was a large reason why the Gunners faded in the second half of the campaign.

2. Mohamed Elneny

The Egyptian has impressed since his January transfer from FC Basel and took Coquelin's place in the final months of the campaign. His calm composure on the ball, selfless attitude and tireless workrate make him a very useful presence in the team. But it's hard to see him displacing Xhaka and Cazorla as long as they're fit.

3. Jack Wilshere

Wilshere's only start of last season -- in the last league game of the campaign against Aston Villa -- saw Wenger use him out on the right wing. The England midfielder made it clear that position "is not me" but the question remains: where else he can fit into the Arsenal lineup? He is a very good backup to Ozil in the No. 10 spot, but the Germany playmaker didn't miss many games last season. Meanwhile, his England performances have shown he can play a deeper role but he has plenty of competition to overcome regardless of where Wenger wants to place him. One thing is for sure: a fit Wilshere won't be happy as a bench warmer after missing so many games with injuries.

4. Francis Coquelin

This was a fairly frustrating season for Coquelin, who struggled to recover his best form following a lengthy injury layoff. The Frenchman is still Arsenal's best defensive option in midfield, leading the team in tackles and interceptions. He also shows a level of passion that some of his teammates are sometimes accused of lacking -- even though that spilled over at times, like his needless sending off in the 2-2 draw against Tottenham. But Coquelin doesn't offer much going forward, and Wenger is known for wanting technical players in every position, so he may have to settle for coming off the bench to help protect leads next season.

5. Aaron Ramsey

Because of his workrate and tenacity, Ramsey was pushed out to the right last season when Cazorla was healthy to give the side a little more steel on the flanks, but has made it clear he wants to play in the middle. He starred in a central role in 2013-14 and netted 10 goals in 23 appearances, but has only shown brief flashes of that form since. Some may say that Xhaka's arrival could be seen as an indication that Ramsey failed the test when taking over Cazorla's role in the second half of the season. The Welshman is still formidable when he's at his best, but may have to prepare for more time on right wing.

Projected started pairing in the first XI: Xhaka and Cazorla

Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.


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