Joe Willock

Xhaka to miss Arsenal clash with Leicester

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For the second-straight Premier League match, and fourth in all competitions, Arsenal will be without its now-ex captain, Granit Xhaka.

Still dealing with the fallout from Xhaka’s disconcerting exit from Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace and his follow-up half-apology, Arsenal manager Unai Emery revealed on Friday that Xhaka would miss Saturday’s top-6 clash with Arsenal traveling to face Leicester City.

[READ: Top PL Storylines for Week 12]

Xhaka had his club captaincy stripped away from him earlier this week, and while the British media loves to jump to conclusions, there’s certainly a possibility that Xhaka has actually played his last match as a Gunner, driven out by hateful messages from supporters in response to his rough run of form this year.

“I spoke with him,” Emery said of Xhaka. “I spoke with him on Tuesday about how he’s feeling now and how he is in his mind. He’s working well, he’s training well, but he said to me that he’s not feeling good enough at the moment to play. We are going to wait.”

Xhaka’s mental and emotional stability may be teetering, and it’s certainly best for him to take some time now to reevaluate his career and where he wants. to be.

In the meantime, while Xhaka’s situation plays out, it leaves Arsenal with just two first-choice central midfield players, Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira. Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Joe Willock could potentially help out there as well, or even David Luiz in an emergency situation. That position on the field should be important this weekend, with Youri Tielemans and Wilfrid Ndidi both having great seasons.

Liverpool wins 10-goal League Cup instant classic v. Arsenal

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Two second-choice sides provided first-choice thrills as Arsenal and Liverpool accounted for 10 goals on Wednesday at Anfield before penalties helped the Reds advance to the quarterfinal draw.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Caoimhín Kelleher stopped Dani Ceballos after both sides made their first three shootout attempts.

Gabriel Martinelli scored twice and Mesut Ozil also starred for the Gunners, as Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Lucas Torreira, and Joe Willock also scored to seal a place in the quarterfinals.

Divock Origi scored twice, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner joined an Arsenal own goal on the board for the hosts.


Three things we learned

1. Klopp, Emery not bothered with the League Cup: Whichever manager lost this match was going to have to answer questions after playing extremely weakened sides for a quarterfinal against a Top Four rival. With all due respect to an insanely entertaining match and all the kids who got a chance to wear the Liverpool and Arsenal shirts at Anfield, Jurgen Klopp wasn’t bothered to give his team a fighting shot and Unai Emery cared just a little bit more. Both managers are right to make that call and hope their depth comes through, of course, but it seems like this was the round to start thinking about hardware: three wins from a final and 90 minutes from a draw that will include a third-tier and a fourth-tier side.

2. But the thrills! The old cliche is that high-scoring games make everyone happy but the coaches, and we’ll certainly be including the goalkeepers in this, too. Caoimhín Kelleher and Emiliano Martinez were hung out to dry on several occasions, including a rare mistake from James Milner that allowed Ainsley Maitland-Niles to make it 4-2. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s feats of strength from distance continued with Liverpool’s third, which gave us seven combined goals with a half-hour remaining on the clock. Origi’s equalizer came moments later and was gorgeous, only to be topped by Willock’s wonderful moment.

3. Martinelli keeps making his case: Kids hungry for a chance to shine led to risky challenges and some pretty nice feats, and 18-year-old Arsenal striker Gabriel Martinelli falls in the latter category. Having now scored seven times in seven senior matches including two braces in this competition, Martinelli is ready to contribute now despite being stuck behind Bukayo Saka, Alexandre Lacazette, Nicolas Pepe, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Quite a good problem for Arsenal as it navigates several different competitions.

 

Man of the Match: Origi — The man just keeps showing up at big moments in big games, whether in the right spot for Jordan Pickford‘s Merseyside Derby error, the UCL Final, or with two big goals late in this one. Monster day.


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Where to start? Maybe we just give the quickest of explanations for the goals.

6th minute: Arsenal’s Shkrodan Mustafi stabs at a cross with one leg, sees his other leg score an own goal.

19th minute: Lucas Torreira deposits a rebound to tie the match after Mesut Ozil sets up Bukayo Saka for a fine shot.

26th minute: Martinelli gets his first by roofing a shot from extremely close range to give Arsenal its first lead.

36th minute: Saka causes a turnover and gets it to Ozil again, who sets up Martinelli for his second.

43rd minute: Having made the giveaway on Martinelli’s second, Harvey Elliott hits the deck after a challenge from Martinelli and James Milner scored from the spot.

54th minute: An uncharacteristic bad pass from Milner puts Kelleher in no man’s land and Maitland-Niles makes it work for a 4-2 lead.

58th minute: “The Ox” has been money from distance, and strokes home for 4-3.

62nd minute: Origi’s goal could’ve easily been the goal of the night (see below), a tidy turn and finish from the top of the box, but…

70th minute: Joe Willock, take a bow.

90’+4: Youngsters Rhian Brewster and Neco Williams do plenty of work to set up Origi, who has more to do when he blasts home to force penalties.

WATCH: Willock wonder goal in Liverpool-Arsenal thriller

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It takes something truly special to stand out from a game chock full of goals, and Arsenal’s Joe Willock had it.

The 20-year-old scored his seventh Arsenal goal on Wednesday in the Gunners’ League Cup tilt against Liverpool at Anfield, and it sure was pretty.

[ MORE: PL Player Power Rankings ]

With the match tied at 4 between two young, defense-optional sides, Willock went adventuring with a long dribble and daring shot which sent Caoimhin Kelleher back into his goal for a fifth time in just over an hour.

 

Sheffield United beat Arsenal with stellar defensive display (video)

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Sheffield United secured a signature victory on Monday, upending Arsenal, one of the Premier League‘s big boys, 1-0 at Bramall Lane.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Lys Mousset scored the only goal of the game midway through the first half, and Chris Wilder‘s side put forth a defensive clinic to frustrate the Gunners and wrap up their fourth clean sheet of the still-young season.


3 things we learned

  1. Arsenal’s midfield needs a shakeupGranit Xhaka, Matteo Guendouzi and Joe Willock is a thoroughly industrious midfield trio, only lacking someone with the tactical discipline to hold position in front of the backline. All three are at their best when on the ball and pushing forward, which too often leaves the (shaky in its own right) defense far too exposed.
  2. Sheffield United rock-solid defensively — For a newly promoted side to come up and hold the joint-best defensive record (7 goals conceded in 9 games, tied with Liverpool) in the PL is no small accomplishment. The Blades were just short of impenetrable on Monday, allowing just nine shots (three on target) to one of the big-six sides.
  3. No Plan B for Arsenal — Given the speed they possess on the wings and up front, Arsenal are clearly built to be a counter-attacking team that can punish you at the slightest opening. Against a team like United, though, what happens when the game never opens up and presents those chances? When the game sets up for them, they’re great, but Unai Emery could do with a Plan B. The other option would be to continue dropping points against (with all due respect) much lesser sides.

Man of the Match: Chris Basham


Nicolas Pepe whiffed on the game’s first golden scoring chance in the 21st minute. Sead Kolasinac tore down the left wing and delivered a cross to the top of the six-yard box where Pepe was three yards clear of the nearest defender.

United went ahead right on the half-hour mark, when Mousset tapped the ball home from close range after Oliver Norwood‘s corner kick was headed down by Jack O'Connell. Mousset had worked himself free in the center of the goal mouth and applied the finishing touch from three yards out.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The more desperate Arsenal got in the second half, the tighter United’s defensive hold became. The Gunners managed just two shots from inside the penalty area in the second half, as the Blades’ line of confrontation dropped deeper and deeper and refused service into the box.

The victory sees United climb six spots in the PL table, up to ninth place, now four points clear of the relegation zone. Arsenal, meanwhile, fell to fifth place after entering the weekend third, thanks to victories by Leicester City and Chelsea.

Watch Live: Sheffield United v. Arsenal

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Arsenal looks to rise back to third in the Premier League table as they travel to Bramall Road to take on Sheffield United live on NBCSN at 3:00 p.m. ET or live online at NBCSports.com.

The Blades have lost their last three home games but have looked up for the task against other top Premier League sides this season and are hoping to finally secure the upset they’ve been searching.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The Gunners have named a nearly unchanged side from the pre-international break win over Bournemouth, with just Joe Willock coming in for Dani Cabellos in midfield. Alexandre Lacazette returns to the bench for an opportunity at a late appearance that would mark his first minutes since September 1. Kieran Tierney remains on the bench with Sead Kolasinac preferred at left-back, while Calum Chambers starts at right-back with Hector Bellerin not named in the squad.

[MORE: Preview Sheffield United v. Arsenal ]

For Sheffield United, Lys Mousset comes into the squad for Oli McBurnie, who misses out thanks to a knee injury picked up on international duty, while his DUI charge last night certainly didn’t help his chances for selection. David McGoldrick is Mousset’s strike partner with Callum Robinson dropped to the bench as well, while captain Billy Sharp can only make the bench. Chris Wilder deploys a three-at-the-back system yet again with George Baldock and Enda Stevens playing out wide on the flanks.

LINEUPS

Sheffield United: Henderson; Baldock, Stevens, Fleck; O’Connell, Basham, Lundstram, Egan, Norwood, McGoldrick, Mousset.
Bench: Freeman, Jagielka, Besic, Moore, Robinson, McBurnie, Sharp.

Arsenal: Leno; Kolasinac, David Luiz, Sokratis, Chambers; Guendouzi, Xhaka, Willock; Saka, Aubameyang, Pepe.
Bench: Martinez, Holding, Tierney, Torreira, Ceballos, Martinelli, Lacazette.