Lucas Torreira

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Lucas Torreira unhappy with Arsenal role, says agent

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According to Lucas Torreira‘s agent, the 23-year-old Uruguayan has some reservations about how he’s being used tactically by manager Unai Emery.

Torreira has become a fan-favorite at Arsenal since joining from Sampdoria in the summer of 2018. His prowess as a holding midfielder has branded Torreira a tenacious player who excels in preventing counters and progressing the ball forward.

Yet with Arsenal struggling for results and Emery under fire, the players are apparently struggling to accept the tactical makeup of the squad. The Gunners have gone five matches without a win across all competitions, including four in league play, dropping them to sixth in the Premier League table, a whopping 17 points back of leaders Liverpool.

“Torreira is doing well at Arsenal, although the change of role doesn’t make him happy,” said Torreira’s agent Pablo Bentancur to Italian radio station Radio Marte, as quoted by CalcioMercado, “but it must be said that this year the whole team is not doing well. It was difficult to take Torreira at the time, now I don’t know how things are, but I think Arsenal wants to retain him. In the new role he is not at ease, but we respect the coach’s decisions, after that we’ll see what happens.”

Betancur wouldn’t go into specifics, but a closer look at Torreira’s usage this season specifically points to a neutering of his ability to move the ball forward in Arsenal’s attack, instead seeing him pass laterally to hold possession conservatively.

Being an Italian station, the agent was also asked about Torreira’s prospects of returning to Italy, which Betancur answered positively, saying he would especially be open to a move to Napoli, citing his Uruguayan heritage. “Why? Because he is Uruguayan. To tell you, he wants to end his career at Boca and Napoli is an environment very similar to that of Boca. Naples future destination? In football anything can happen.”

Torreira’s contract runs for another three full seasons, expiring in the summer of 2023, so Arsenal has significant control over the player’s immediate future. However, should the club continue to struggle and miss out on Champions League play yet again, there could be some tough decisions to make at the Emirates regarding how to control the wage bill with yet another season outside Europe’s top competition.

Leicester City punishes sorry Arsenal

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Leicester City continued its fine home cooking with a straight-forward 2-0 defeat of unorganized Arsenal at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.

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The Foxes go second in the table with 26 points, a point more than Man City before the defending champs visit Liverpool on Sunday.

Arsenal is now eight points back of fourth place, sinking below fifth place Sheffield United on goal differential.

Three things we learned

1. Unai Emery‘s race is run: Yeah, it’s dangerous to make judgments on a week-to-week basis, but the Spaniard’s work at Arsenal has been tremendously disappointing. Opting for a 3-5-2 with Rob Holding, David Luiz, and Calum Chambers at the back, he demanded plenty from his midfield; Lucas Torreira and the usually strong Matteo Guendouzi failed to impress behind Mesut Ozil. He has no firm idea how to best deploy his talent, and again left Nicolas Pepe to rot on the bench while Leicester rang up a 2-0 lead.

2. Leicester onto something special, especially at home: There’s been luck along the way, but the Foxes have now taken 16 of 18 points at home during an unbeaten start to the season at King Power Stadium. Their proverbial tails are up and the style, freedom, and confidence of the opening goal tells you all you need to know about the vibe at KP this season. In the words of Arlo White… “Barnes… Tielemans… VARDY!!”

3. Leicester City built for style: If Rodgers’ Foxes are given room in the midfield, they are going to run through most teams. Arsenal opted to try and match the Foxes in fluidity and possession, and were unable to do so. Outdone in possession (52-48) and shots (19-8), Arsenal rarely looked prepared to challenge despite a couple early chances for Lacazette.

Man of the Match: Maddison will be the easy shout here, but Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi were magnificent in the center of the park. Any of the three works for us.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Alexandre Lacazette missed an early chance for Arsenal, while James Maddison won a dangerous free kick for the Foxes. It came to nothing, bounding past the far post.

Lacazette stabbed wide after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cried for a handball off a prone Wilfred Ndidi.

James Maddison skimmed a free kick off the top of the bar in the 42nd minute, as a rain-soaked pitch saw increasing moments of opportunity.

Vardy sliced Leicester into a 68th minute lead with his 11th goal of the season, the clinical end of a clever bit of passing from Youri Tielemans and Harvey Barnes to set up the veteran Englishman.

Bernd Leno stopped a Vardy rocket moments later, but Maddison gave Leicester a cushion when he drilled a low shot through the legs of Bellerin for 2-0 in the 75th.

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.

Emery’s use of attackers may be his Arsenal downfall

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When the Premier League season began, many joked that Arsenal was built to try and outscore teams 3-2 each week over 38 weeks.

It was a nod to the Gunners’ extraordinary attacking prowess and limited defensive additions. Arsenal had signed three defenders in the summer, one who wouldn’t arrive until the following season (William Saliba*) and another who would miss some time with injury (Kieran Tierney).

The third was David Luiz.

So it isn’t surprising that the Gunners are still allowing goals. It is surprising that they are not scoring more, and perhaps a bit stunning that the expected goals table says that Unai Emery‘s men aren’t even hard luck victims.

Arsenal has scored 16 goals and allowed 15 through 11 match days, but the xG table says the North London outfit has actually finished a bit better their chances and been worse on the other end (15 xG for, 17 xGA).

Luiz has made several head scratching errors to go with his wonderful long passes and forays forward. He’s a player capable of both the ethereal and the tragic, not unlike Granit Xhaka, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that a move across London.

There are plenty of reasons to be upset with the defense, of course, and it’s one thing if that anger is put at the board instead of Emery. The league-worst 7.7 interceptions per game points a bit to the tactics, but there’s no question the Gunners have made mistakes above field level even if the Laurent Koscielny exit to Bordeaux caught them by surprise.

But what should be damning is what Emery has been unable to do with an unbelievable batch of attackers. Given Nicolas Pepe to go with Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the tactician has not been able to find a way to play them together. Breakout teens Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka were both used over unused sub Pepe on Saturday despite the Ivorian not playing in the midweek League Cup loss to Liverpool.

Don’t get us wrong, both players are exciting pieces for the future, but the decision is so short-sighted (let alone that Emery put on Saka for Lucas Torreira with a one-goal lead and 17 minutes to play. Perhaps coincidental but no surprise tha it was 1-1 three minutes later).

Some if not many have argued that Pepe has been a disappointment since arriving in a mega money deal from Ligue 1, and the 24-year-old’s three goals and three assists in exactly 800 minutes in all competitions certainly aren’t eye-popping from a player who scored 22 and 11 in 3300 at Lille last season.

Yet Pepe is capable of the sensational, as evidenced by his pair of free kick goals in 15 minutes off the bench in the Europa League on Oct. 15. He’s third in the PL in successful dribbles (34) and is the 19th ranked player by SofaScore and 24th in WhoScored’s ratings. That’s the best of any Arsenal player, with Aubameyang 38th and 62nd according to both sites, respectively.

And stats say Pepe has been somewhat unlucky in PL play to boot, with one actual goal to go with 3 expected goals. His xG plus xA per contest is below only Lacazette and level with Aubameyang.

Arsenal is ninth in the PL in key passes, with 12.9 per game. Pepe’s 1.7 are behind only Mesut Ozil, whose sample size is two matches.

Look at this pass from Pepe to Lacazette between three bodies to set up Arsenal’s first goal in its memorable North London Derby comeback. It’s just one example, sure, and all players need time to integrate to a new league and culture, but not using a healthy Pepe for 180 minutes should never happen even with the five-pack of attackers.

*A silver lining for Arsenal fans: Saint-Etienne boss Claude Puel is furious with his club for selling the 18-year-old Saliba, calling him the “best player” on the team. He’s coming, eventually, even if Real Madrid are reportedly trying to find a way to hijack the sale/loan.

Arsenal boss Emery to sit Xhaka against Wolves

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Arsenal manager Unai Emery confirmed on Friday that he will not play embattled midfielder Granit Xhaka against Wolverhampton Wanderers at home this Saturday, and would not confirm that Xhaka will continue as club captain.

Xhaka has come under fire for his aggressive reaction towards supporter abuse while being subbed off against Crystal Palace, appearing to swear at supporters who booed his performance as he exited. Opinions about Xhaka’s actions began to fly every which way, with many calling for the club to sanction the captain or sell him at the earliest possibility.

“I think that tomorrow, he is not going to play,” Emery said in his pre-match press conference on Friday. “Because I think that now, we need to be focused on the match at 100 per cent. Now we are going to train but at the moment, he’s not in my mind.”=

The 27-year-old did not play against Liverpool in the EFL Cup on Wednesday and issued an apology for his actions Thursday, explaining how supporter abuse has overstepped its bounds both in-person and via social media, causing him to eventually release pent-up anger when the boos rained down. Still, he apologized for reacting “in a way that disrespected the group of fans that support our club.”

“Xhaka’s issues last week is one issue that needs time,” Emery said. “He needs time to recover the normality in him. He said sorry. He gave apologies to the supporters and everybody. Now is the focus on tomorrow’s match.”

It is not surprising that Emery would not wish to subject Xhaka to the home crowd at the Emirates so soon after the player showed harsh animosity towards the fans. However, it was somewhat surprising that Emery would not confirm that Xhaka still serves as captain, and there will likely be more on that in the near future.

“The next step is tomorrow’s match,” Emery said when asked about Xhaka’s future as captain. “The focus is tomorrow’s match. It’s not in my mind that he will play tomorrow.”

For Saturday, Xhaka’s absence could mean the return of Mesut Ozil above the midfield duo of Lucas Torreira and Mateo Guendouzi. Ozil has not seen Premier League action since mid-September when he played the only 71 league minutes he has logged this campaign. The German international was excellent against Liverpool in the wild EFL Cup match on Wednesday, and after being substituted in the second half, speculation grew that Emery was saving Ozil for a Premier League run-out over the weekend.