Xavi Simons and the clutch tekkers that make him ideal for Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal

Europe is a hotbed for up-and-coming youngsters and PSV’s Xavi Simons has caught our attention after a superb solo campaign with the Dutch club. It’s no wonder clubs like Arsenal are now sniffing around.

The 20-year-old has had a fascinating career to date. Having spent nine years in the La Masia academy as a youngster, it’s easy to see where he gets his footballing IQ from.

Capable of turning on a sixpence and threading an eye of a needle through ball, Simons shares plenty of the characteristics with those who went before him in the famous academy.

Things didn’t materialise for him in Spain in the end though and after failing to agree on a new contract, PSG snapped him up in the summer of 2019.

As we’ve seen this season, PSG can be an unforgiving environment, even for some of the best players in the world. Things never quite clicked for the Dutchman in France as the majority of his appearances came from the bench last season.

PSV then swooped in for the 20-year-old last summer and that’s where the fun begins. PSG clearly recognised the talent Simons had, despite his limited game time, as they were adamant in adding a buy-back clause to his new contract. Clever thinking.

The versatile playmaker started the season with a point to prove. Scoring seven goals and providing two assists in his first seven games for the Dutch club.

A particularly eye-opening performance came against Go Ahead Eagles during PSV’s 5-2 triumph back in August. His footballing IQ gleamed through as he produced three goal contributions without breaking a sweat.

To those who regularly watch the Eredivisie, Simons’ talents were immediately recognisable. However, to convince the masses, he would have to put on a show in Europe.

PSV lit up Group A in the Europa League, scoring 15 goals in six matches. Arsenal got to see what Simons was all about as the Dutch club beat them 2-0 in October.

You can’t help but appreciate a talent like Simons. His impressive showing against Arsenal garnered plenty of plaudits. While he didn’t get on the scoresheet himself, he was central to almost everything PSV were doing.

Skipping past players, driving forward with the ball and showing a willingness to work back. Arsenal fans haven’t stopped dreaming about the playmaker since this outing.

“I’m happy, I enjoyed it,” Simons told ESPN after the game. “We knew we had to start full of energy against the number one in the Premier League.”

Some had questioned whether Simons would be able to stack up against the physical threats in the Arsenal side, but he managed them with ease in the end.

“At Paris Saint-Germain I also played against big people, Ligue 1 is also physical, so I had to look for something in myself to defend myself during a match. Practising in the gym is the most important thing for me. Football is my life. I’m small, but it doesn’t matter.”

The Dutch wonderkid has continued to go from strength to strength in the Eredivisie and he saved one of his most clutch performances for the final day of the 2022-23 campaign.

PSV were out of the title race by this point, with Feyenoord having wrapped up the league with games to spare. However, they were in a battle for Ajax for second place.

With a Champions League spot on the line, this was a significant final day for both sides. If PSV needed one player to step up, it was Simons. Luckily enough, he seems to thrive in these pressured situations.

The youngster had given his side the lead before AZ Alkmaar levelled things up with only minutes to spare. With time slowly ticking away, the diminutive playmaker still had one trick left in him.

Entering the eighth minute of stoppage time, Simons picked up the ball on the halfway line. Then in an almost Diego Maradona-like fashion, he took the whole backline on by himself before rounding the goalkeeper and scoring.

Talk about clutch goals. Cometh the hour cometh the man – Simons is one hell of a natural talent.

The goal also wrapped up the Eredivisie Golden Boot for the youngster. Coincidentally, he also became the youngest-ever winner of this award which has previously been won by the likes of Ronaldo, Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten.

Averaging a goal contribution every 104 minutes, the sky is the limit for the former La Masia academy graduate. It’s no wonder that every top club in Europe is chasing his signature.

“You don’t know what can happen in three or four weeks, but what I can say is that I am very grateful to be here and that I was able to prove myself at PSV,” Simons told De Telegraaf.

“I still have five years contract here and in the summer I will have a conversation with Marcel (Brands) and the trainer and everyone.”

PSG will surely exercise their buy-back clause as Simons’ value his skyrocketed this year. However, his next club after that is well up for debate.

As things stand, Arsenal are the side most interested in taking him for next season. His undeniable flair and eye for the spectacular would make him a natural fit under Mikel Arteta for sure.

By Ben Stewart.

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