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What will Guendouzi bring to Arsenal?

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Arsenal continue to add new talent over the offseason as Unai Emery’s fifth signing as the new Gunners boss was confirmed on Wednesday.

Matteo Guendouzi is on board.

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The 19-year-old French midfielder is highly-regarded in his homeland after breaking through at FC Lorient in Ligue 2 following his time spent at Paris Saint-Germain’s academy.

Guendouzi joins Arsenal a day after promising Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira completed his $35 million move from Sampdoria, and he joins fellow new recruits Stephan Lichsteiner, Bernd Leno and Sokratis Papastathopoulos.

Speaking about his $10 million arrival at Arsenal, the French U-20 international has high hopes for his future after revealing Arsenal is “the side I’ve wanted to join since I was a child” and is the team that is “closest to his heart.”

“My hope is to become a top player here at Arsenal. A lot of great players have played here. I want to become part of the club’s history and to achieve great things here. I want to win titles, titles, titles,” Guendouzi said. “I want to establish myself here, which would be amazing. Winning silverware, as I said, is very important to me and winning things here at Arsenal would be incredible.”

What can we expect from Guendouzi? Well, first up, his hair game is incredibly strong. I mean, that is a seriously impressively hairdo. Carlos Valderrama, eat your heart out.

But on the pitch he will bring tough-tackling and an impressive range of passing from a holding midfield role. Think, a slightly less flamboyant David Luiz and that is what to expect from Guendouzi.

Emery believes he will challenge for minutes in the first team straight away and given the departure of Jack Wilshere plus the likes of Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka having to prove themselves all over again, having a young, tenacious holding midfielder is something Arsenal have been crying out for.

“We are delighted Matteo is joining us. He is a talented young player and a lot of clubs were interested in him,” Emery said. “He has big potential and gained good first-team experience last season with Lorient. He wants to learn and improve and will be an important part of our first-team squad.”

World Cup, Day 19 – Sweden v Switzerland, England v Colombia

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The Round of 16 comes to a close on Tuesday, but first, two more nations will round out the quarterfinals field.

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A pair of European surprises kick off the day’s action in Saint Petersburg, while the Three Lions meet a South American powerhouse that is seeking its second quarterfinals appearance in World Cup history.

Sweden and Switzerland will meet earlier in the day, as the former aims to carry its rich World Cup history through its current squad.

The Swiss haven’t reached the quarterfinal phase since 1954, giving Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri something significant to shoot for.

Meanwhile, England hopes to see itself into the final eight, after finishing runners’ up in Group G to Belgium.

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Gareth Southgate‘s decision to rest many of his stars in that match will be an intriguing talking point on Tuesday, but the extended layoff should benefit the Three Lions.


2018 World Cup schedule – Tuesday, July 3

Round of 16

Sweden vs. Switzerland, Saint Petersburg — 10 a.m ET — LIVE COVERAGE
Colombia vs. England, Moscow — 2 p.m. ET — LIVE COVERAGE

Xhaka, Shaqiri display controversial goal celebrations in win over Serbia

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A seemingly innocuous goal celebration performed by both Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri has thinly veiled, politically charged undertones and could potentially land the pair in FIFA disciplinary proceedings following Switzerland’s 2-1 win over Serbia.

Both displayed a bird hand signal as they celebrated scoring goals, and considering their pre-match comments, post-match social media posts, and ethnic backgrounds, those were clearly meant to represent the double-eagle symbol in the middle of the Albanian flag.

This is a complicated political scenario, but it could be considered by FIFA to be politically provocative. Shaqiri is Albanian, born in Kosovo before moving to Switzerland with his parents and three siblings when he was just a year old. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 and is not recognized as a sovereign nation by Serbia. Xhaka is of Albanian descent, and his father previously participated in a demonstration against the communist Yugoslavian rule in Kosovo that landed him a lengthy jail sentence. Albania and Serbia have a particularly tumultuous relationship, with their leaders meeting for the first time in over 60 years in 2014, which caused tempers to flare.

Following the match, Xhaka posted a picture of his celebration on his Instagram story, with the caption in Albanian roughly translated to, “Here you go Serbia, this is why they call me Granit Kosovo!” He deleted the post, and replaced it with an image of his celebration side-by-side with Shaqiri’s, with the slightly more cryptic caption, “We did it, bro!” in English.

FIFA is wildly against any type of political demonstration or involvement in the world of soccer. The governing body has punished individual nation federations in the past for government involvement, while political demonstrations on the field are fiercely frowned upon.

Switzerland captain and new Arsenal signing Stephan Lichtsteiner came to the defense of his two teammates after the match. When asked about the celebrations, he said to Goal.com, “We had a lot of pressure, it was not an easy game for us. We have a lot of Albanians, so there is a lot of history between Serbia and Albania. It was a very tough game for them mentally.”

“It was good. Why not? This is the history for them,” Lichtsteiner continued. “The war between them was so difficult. I spoke to the father of one of our players who is Albanian, and he told me about this history. This is more than football. This is more than football because they have this period, this war that gave them both big problems. I understand them. I think it’s normal, it’s part of their life. There was also big provocation ahead of the game from them [Serbia], so I think it’s normal.”

Shaqiri could be in especially hot water. The Stoke City midfielder wore boots with the flags of Switzerland and Kosovo. He has made it clear in the past that he values his roots, saying, “I was born in Kosovo, but I grew up in Switzerland. I live both mentalities, it’s not a big difference.”

Switzerland finishes its World Cup group stage round with a match against Costa Rica on Wednesday in which a win would secure a spot in the knockout stage.

Serbia 1-2 Switzerland: Late Shaqiri break shatters Serbian hearts

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One of the most exciting games of the 2018 World Cup proved entertaining from start to finish, ended by a stunning breakaway goal by Xherdan Shaqiri that capped a 2-1 Switzerland comeback victory over Serbia.

The start of the game was all Serbia, with Newcastle striker Aleksandar Mitrovic the most dangerous option up front, and he delivered on that promise just five minutes in. After a pair of chances just kept out by Yann Sommer, Mitrovic powered in a header off a Dusan Tadic cross to put Serbia in front early on.

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The goal confirmed yet another game without a 0-0 draw, 26 in a row to start the tournament, marking the World Cup record set back in 1954 when every single game in the Switzerland event featured a goal.

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After the goal, the game exploded, with Serbia looking to double its lead and Switzerland hoping to gain a grip on the match. Without a second coming, Switzlerland began to build promisingly, and had its first chance right on the half-hour mark as Steven Zuber through-ball sprung Blerim Dzemaili, but his sliding effort was saved brilliantly by Vladimir Stojkovic at the last second. They had a second chance minutes later, but for some reason Xherdan Shaqiri decided for one too many crosses rather than taking the open shot himself.

Serbia didn’t just look to see out the first half, though, as the star of the first half Dusan Tadic nearly gave his team another lift. First, he delivered a fabulous corner that stunningly skipped through the box untouched. Then, just before the break, Tadic came agonizingly close to what would have been a fabulous half-volley strike that flew viciously wide.

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After the break, the back-and-forth action continued, and Granit Xhaka struck an absolute stunner on the counter to level the match seven minutes into the second half. Shaquiri’s initial attempt from the right edge of the box was blocked and the rebound fell to the Arsenal midfielder outside the penalty area. His follow-up was a laser, curling through the defense and past a wrong-footed Stojkovic.

The chaos continued, with Serbia swinging back into the initiative. Mitrovic had a penalty shout turned down after being bear-hugged and wrestled to the ground by a pair of defenders, and minutes later Aleksandr Kolarov delivered a luscious cross into the box but nobody was there to tap it home.

Serbia began to tire as the game inched towards the final minutes, and Switzerland had most of the late pressure. One moment of brilliance caught the Serbians sleeping, and it proved the difference. Mario Gavranovic fed Shaqiri on the break from his own half, and free on goal the Stoke City winger made no mistake as the last ticks of regulation came off.

The win for Switzerland moves them to four points through the first two matches, leaving them level atop Group E with Brazil on points but in second thanks to an inferior goal differential. Serbia, meanwhile, sits third with three points. Switzerland would advance to the knockout stage with a win or draw in their final match against Costa Rica, while the winner of Brazil vs. Serbia will advance as well, with Brazil advancing in the event of a draw.

Emery hands new Arsenal deal to Granit Xhaka

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Granit Xhaka will start his third season at the Emirates Stadium with a brand new contract for new boss Unai Emery.

The Swiss midfield disruptor and playmaker, 25, is extending his stay at Arsenal with a new “long-term” deal, the club announced late Friday.

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Xhaka played in every match for the Gunners last season. His seven assists were third on Arsenal and his 10 yellow cards paced the North London outfit.

Only 13 players in the Premier League registered more assists, and Southampton’s Oriol Romeu was the only player to be shown more yellows.

New Arsenal defender Stephan Lichtsteiner is Xhaka’s captain for Switzerland, and lauds the midfielder in an interview on the Gunners’ official page:

“I’ve known Granit now for more than six or seven years, so he’s just an amazing player,” Lichtsteiner told Arsenal Player.

“He’s very good and he’s still young. It’s not easy for him to be the direct leader at 23 or 24 years old, so I hope I can help him to become bigger and bigger. He had a very good season and I hope next year he will do even better.Off the pitch he is just a great person, a great character, very calm, he knows when he can joke and he knows when to concentrate. A top professional player on the pitch, great passing and just a great player.”

Like the deal, Arsenal fans? Xhaka seems a lightning rod amongst Arsenal supporters, but it’s hard to debate his impact on games (especially when in form).