After injuries to Thomas Partey and Mohammed Elneny, Arsenal made a series of late moves for Aston Villa star Douglas Luiz on deadline day in attempt to bolster their midfield options, but a deal couldn't be agreed. It has left the Gunners light in the midfield department and many supporters will be expecting them to make reinforcements in that area of the pitch in January.
However, they could solve their midfield issues before then, with the Gunners still able to sign a free agent if they wish. Arsenal only submitted 21 players in their 25-man Premier League squad earlier this week, meaning there is room for a free agent to come straight into the squad if they do sign one.
A free agent who has been linked with a move to the Emirates Stadium is former Lille midfielder Xeka. Here, football.london has everything you need to know about the Gunners-linked man.
Who is Xeka?
Xeka is a Portuguese central-midfielder who was released by LOSC Lille this summer. It brought an end to a five-year spell at the French side, where Xeka racked up well over 100 appearances and helped the club to the Ligue 1 title in 2021. Lille also won the Trophee des Champions in the same year, where Xeka scored the only goal of the game to help beat PSG.
Before joining Lille, Xeka had spent his whole senior career in his native Portugal. He made his debut for Braga B in 2013 before spending two years on loan at Sporting da Cohilva. He then made his break into the Braga first team a couple of months into the 2016/17 season, however he found opportunities limited when Jorge Simao took over as manager, and he was loaned to Lille.
Xeka became a regular in Lille's midfield during his loan spell, and the French club made the move permanent in June 2017, but he was almost immediately loaned out to fellow Ligue 1 side Dijon. However, opportunities increased at Lille during the 18/19 season, and Xeka ended up making 144 appearances for the club.
What can Xeka bring to Arsenal?
The midfielder has a wealth of experience at the top level with a Ligue 1 title and plenty of games under his belt with Lille. He was a regular for the French side during their title-winning season, accumulating 33 appearances in total - although most of those were from the bench.
He also has Champions League experience, playing seven games in the competition just last season. He started both games against Chelsea earlier this year in the last 16, with Lille losing 4-1 on aggregate to the then reigning European champions.
Xeka is a combative midfielder, picking up 48 yellow cards in 158 games - nearly recording a booking in every three matches. Given that he's only started 38 league games over the last three seasons, Xeka would by no means be a first-choice midfielder if he was signed by Arsenal, but he would be a capable back-up to step in when injury problems in the squad are experienced.
What has been said about Xeka?
The Portuguese was a popular member of the dressing room at Lille and was key to their success in the 2020/21 season.
When he signed a new deal at Lille in 2019, the club's CEO Marc Ingla said: “Xeka is one of the important faces of our project. He had a very good season and he made up a lot of second place. He arrived at a complicated time and hung on, progressed, proof that hard work pays off.
"Xeka also has this added value in the human dimension. He is perfectly integrated into the club, the region and very popular in the locker room.”