Arteta: Xhaka to stay at Arsenal; Partey injury ‘not looking good’

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Mikel Arteta has cast a canopy of certainty over the transfer status of Granit Xhaka, while at the same time revealing the uncertainty surrounding Thomas Partey’s latest injury.

[ MORE: Harry Kane fails to turn up for Tottenham training amid transfer reports ]

Xhaka was rumored to be leaving Arsenal (most commonly for Roma) throughout Switzerland’s run at EURO 2020, but Arteta has clearly had his say on the matter, thus “a key player” is set to remain at the Emirates Stadium.

“Xhaka is staying. He wanted to play. He is a key player for us.”

[ MORE: Aston Villa’s spending spree continues with $40-million Bailey signing ]

To say it’s been an up-and-down five years for Xhaka at Arsenal would be an understatement. One week, he looks like a genuinely world-class defensive midfielder, and the next he’s being stripped of the captaincy after swearing at the club’s supporters as he leaves the field. The truth, of course, is always somewhere in the middle, but the value of Xhaka’s experience and mentality cannot be underestimated.

[ MORE: Arsenal complete $70-million deal for Brighton defender White ]

Every side needs a tenacious, ever-present figure to set the tone every single day, and Xhaka appears to be that player at Arsenal. He’s played 32, 38, 29, 31 and 31 Premier League games since signing for the club in 2016.

Speaking of ever-presence (or a lack thereof), Partey picked up his latest injury β€” to his right ankle β€” in the Gunner’s 2-1 preseason defeat to Chelsea on Sunday. It doesn’t sound like Partey will be fit when Arsenal kick off their 2021-22 PL campaign next Friday, Aug. 13, away to newly promoted Brentford.

“I just had a talk with the doctor. He’ll have a scan tomorrow. At the moment it’s not looking good.”

Partey’s first season at Arsenal wasn’t half-bad, when he was able to take the field, which wasn’t nearly often enough. He made 24 appearances in the PL, but only 16 of them were starts as he missed at least three consecutive games through injury on three occasions.

He missed all of November and December with two separate injuries, the latter of which occurred in his first game back from the previous, then he missed two more weeks in February.

At 28 years old, Partey’s health and fitness aren’t likely to get any better. Given he’s only in the second year of a five-year, $350,000-per-week contract, this is hardly an encouraging sign for Partey’s long-term future.

Southgate takes the blame as England falters in final

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LONDON — In the end, football didn’t come home and it was the same old story for England.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned: England – Italy | Player ratings ]

England lost on penalty kicks.

As the whole of England stopped to watch their team in a major final, they got that familiar sinking feeling as another painful chapter was added to a seemingly never-ending tale of tournament woe.

The Three Lions lost to Italy in the EURO 2020 final at Wembley, their home, as Gareth Southgate suffered the familiar pain of losing on penalty kicks, this time as England manager in front of over 66,000 (mostly English) fans.

Football was so close to coming home, but it didn’t.

[ MORE: “It’s coming (to) Rome”: Italy fueled by England anthem, Bonucci says ]

With England in their first major final since 1966, and playing in front of at raucous crowd at their home stadium, they got off to a flying start when Luke Shaw put them 1-0 up after two minutes.

Three Lions fail to bring it home

But that was the worst thing to happen to England and turned out to be their first, and only, shot on target in the game.

They then sat back and allowed Italy back into it, as Southgate failed to used his incredibly strong bench and the Three Lions dropped deeper and deeper and Leonardo Bonucci (who screamed ‘it’s coming to Rome’ at the final whistle) equalized in the second half and Italy looked the more likely to win in regulation with 20 attempts and 62 percent of possession.

[ MORE: English FA condemns racist abuse sent to England players ]

The most painful thing for Southgate and his players is that England didn’t take the chance to bring it home even though the European title was there for the taking.

England lost 3-2 on penalty kicks, with Southgate left to console teenager Bukayo Saka who missed the final penalty kick, as he joins Southgate and many other England internationals as the player who will be remembered for penalty kick failure.

Asked about Saka having his penalty kick saved to confirm England’s pain, Southgate took the blame.

“That it is down to me. I decided on the penalty takers based on what I’ve seen in training,” Southgate told the BBC. “Nobody is on their own. We’ve won together as a team and it is absolutely on all of us, in terms of not being able to win the game tonight, but in terms of the penalties. That is my call. That totally rests with me.”

Should Southgate take the blame for England losing the final?

Southgate is a decent and honest man and many of his big calls were key in taking England to this final and giving them a chance at glory.

The switch to a back three against Germany. Bringing Saka in. The decision to play Rice and Phillips in central midfield. They were all key.

But he will also know, deep down, that some of his calls in this final were too defensive and too cautious.

[ VIDEO: Celebrations underway as Italy lift EURO 2020 trophy ]

He went with 3-4-3 from the start, which worked for the opening 25 minutes, but then Italy figured it out and Southgate had no answer.

England reverted to a 4-2-3-1 formation, which worked okay, but Southgate left Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford (who both missed their penalty kicks) on the bench until the 120th minute and gave Jack Grealish too little time to make an impact.

“They played so well in the first half of a final where the expectation and pressure was so high,” Southgate said. “In the end we haven’t been able to keep the ball well enough in the second period of normal time, especially, that invited more and more pressure. That is something we know we have to better at. That time to analyze that in-depth is not at this moment, really.”

Southgate has huge resources at his disposal and one of the best squads England has ever had, but his lack of big-game experience as a coach was shown up in this final.

Asked if England’s fans will be behind him and his team as they have now reached the World Cup semifinal and European Championship final in back-to-back major tournaments, Southgate hoped so.

“We built strong bonds in Russia [2018 World Cup] and that has continued through this tournament,” Southgate said. “Tonight the balloon has burst, hasn’t it? And the feeling around the country will be very empty I know, that is hard for everybody to take.

“We wanted to give everybody one more night and to continue the biggest party ever. We haven’t been able to do that. I hope we have given everybody some incredible memories and the players especially should feel very proud of what they’ve done.”

Fans backed this England side throughout this tournament and lined up at bars at 6am for an 8pm kick off, the Queen and Prime Minister wished them well and spoke of their pride as they inspired an entire nation.

Only for the same story to unfold once again.

But this does feel a little different. This England squad is so young and so talented that they can recover from this crushing blow.

The future is bright for Southgate’s boys

Since the last 16 loss to Iceland at EURO 2016, England’s young squad has come a long way under Southgate and there is huge promise for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

But there’s no doubt that they let this opportunity slip.

Southgate and his players must be savvier and more ruthless.

That is their biggest takeaway from what has been a hugely positive tournament on so many fronts.

But in the end, like they usually do, England lost on penalties.

“For certain this team can get better and can improve,” Southgate told the BBC. “You can see the number of young players we have blooded in this tournament who have been absolutely fantastic. The future, I need a bit of time to reflect on that.”

“The devastation of getting so close and not giving the trophy to the country that we wanted to,” Southgate continued. “That is difficult to put into words at moment. In terms of the players they have given everything and I am very proud of them.”

Southgate vows to lead England at 2022 World Cup

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Gareth Southgate has vowed to honor his contract as England managed through the end of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

[ MORE: EURO 2020 hub ]

After England’s bitterly disappointing loss on penalty kicks in the EURO 2020 final against Italy at Wembley, many questioned Southgate’s tactics and player selections for the final.

Speaking to the press less than 24 hours after that defeat, the Three Lions boss was asked about his future.

The FA had previously said they wanted to extend his contract beyond the end of the 2022 World Cup, when it is currently due to run out.

Here was the response of the man who has led England to a semifinal berth at the 2018 World Cup and a runners up finish at EURO 2020.

“I don’t think now is an appropriate time to be thinking about it. We have to qualify for Qatar. I need time to go away and reflect on Euro 2020. I need a rest,” Southgate said. “It is an amazing experience but to lead your country in these tournaments takes its toll. I said at the time it is great to have that internal support, you greatly value that as a manager.

“I don’t want to commit to anything longer than I should and I don’t want to outstay my welcome so all of those things need consideration. I want to take the team to Qatar, I feel we have made progress over the four years, we have had a fourth, a third and a second-placed finish and that is as good as anyone.”

Are England in good hands?

There’s no doubt Southgate has made huge progress with this group of players over the last five years since he took charge.

But has he taken them as far as he can?

After the debacle of being knocked out by Iceland in the last 16 of EURO 2016, England hit rock bottom.

Southgate then arrived and has rebuilt this team with youth and there has been clear progression between being knocked out of the World Cup in 2018 in the semifinals and losing in the European Championship final (their first major final in 55 years and first-ever EUROs final).

Yet Southgate will likely rue certain player selections, tactical decisions and the penalty takers he selected against Italy in the final, and it felt like the likeable manager was just out-thought by Roberto Mancini and was perhaps over-cautious when it mattered most.

England are on the right path with this talented young team and it is only right that Southgate should lead them at the World Cup in 18 months’ time (if they qualify) and they will be right up there with the favorites to win it all.

UEFA president Ceferin ‘would not support’ another multi-host Euros

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UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has revealed that he “would not support” staging another European Championship in multiple countries across the continent, as EURO 2020 has been, as “it is not correct” and “too challenging” that some teams (and their fans) traveled as few as 600 miles between games, while others traversed over 6,000.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned: England – Denmark | Player ratings ]

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the tournament, EURO 2020 was originally set to be played in 13 different cities, but that number was reduced to 12 after plans to build a new national stadium in Brussels were abandoned, and again down to 11 after Dublin couldn’t guarantee that fans would be allowed inside due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ultimately, EURO 2020 games were played in London, Glasgow, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, St Petersburg, Seville, Munich, Baku, Rome, Bucharest and Budapest β€” quotes from the BBC:

“I would not support it anymore.

In a way, it is not correct that some teams have to travel more than [6,000 miles] while others have to only travel [600 miles].

“It is not fair to fans, who had to be in Rome one day and in Baku over the next few, which is a four-and-a-half-hour flight.

“We had to travel a lot, into countries with different jurisdictions, different currencies, countries in the European Union and non-EU, so it was not easy.

“It was a format that was decided before I came [into post] and I respect it. It is an interesting idea but it is hard to implement and I don’t think we will do it again.”

EURO 2024 will be played, in its entirety, in Germany.

[ MORE: Football’s Coming Home? England, at home, one win away ]

It should be noted that, while Ceferin only now (48 hours ahead of the final) admits the logistics of EURO 2020 were far from ideal for teams and their fans, the majority of the outside world (i.e., anyone not set to profit off every off of nearly every game being played inside stadiums with a capacity of more than 50,000) criticized UEFA for those very reasons when the format was announced in 2014.

It’s also worth pointing out that even though Ceferin was not president of UEFA in 2014 (Michel Platini still held the post at that time), he was part of the UEFA legal committee at that time and has been UEFA president since 2016.

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Five things to know ahead of EURO 2020 semifinal round

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EURO 2020’s amazing run through our imaginations has left four teams vying for the trophy of European champions.

Two teams might’ve expected to be here, another would’ve hoped it could reach this point, while a fourth may well be stunned to have made it this far after a near-tragic start to EURO.

[ MORE: Kane opens up about EURO, Tottenham ]

Denmark’s players have stayed out of the headlines but are now being monitored by several big name clubs with the transfer window open in Europe.

And statistically, having the ball has been key and shooting very important… unless, of course, you’re the team trying to make sure it comes home to England.

Christian Eriksen update

With Denmark in the final four despite the absence of star midfielder Christian Eriksen, it’s worth updating the status of the former Tottenham and current Inter Milan playmaker following a scary on-pitch cardiac arrest in the Danes’ tournament opener.

Eriksen was spotted in public for the first time since surgery to implant a cardioverter defibrillator when he was photographed with a young fan at the beach this weekend.

Possession’s not dead

Pep Guardiola’s gonna love this stat: Three of the four semifinalists rank 1, 3, and 4 in possession through five matches of EURO 2020.

So counterattackers beware at Spain’s absurd 67.5% possession record at this tournament, as well as third-place Italy’s 56.1% and fourth-place Denmark’s 54.1%.

England is ninth, but at 52.3% is closer to fourth than dropping out of the top 10, so having the ball has most certainly mattered in this tournament.

And perhaps it follows, though doesn’t surprise, that Italy, Spain, and Denmark are 1-2-3 in shot attempts per game. England’s 7.4 is 22nd (!!) and the Three Lions are behind all three in shots conceded per game.

It’s not definitely coming home, but England has

England’s quick trip to Rome for a 4-0 demolition wasn’t just its best performance of the tournament.

The Three Lions are back in London for the semifinal and final (if necessary), having a distinct home-field advantage against Denmark and (again, if necessary, Italy and Spain).

Despite the statistics above, England is likely considered the bettor’s favorite to win not only to encourage betting but not also because Italy and Spain will be expected to bear the marks of a brutal top-half of the bracket (although either Italy or Spain will have an extra day’s rest on their final opponent).

Spain v Italy history; Mancini, Enrique seek legacy

Italy and Spain have staged some beauties on big stages, with the Italians responsible for a 2-0 Spanish ouster at EURO 2016.

That Round of 16 match saw goals from Giorgio Chiellini and Graziano Pelle, but Chiellini is one of few players who will be in the fold again come Tuesday.

Seven of Spain’s starters from that day are not in the squad at EURO 2020, while only three Italian starters remain in the team for this tournament.

Antonio Conte and Vicente Del Bosque are also gone, of course, and Roberto Mancini and Luis Enrique can join elite company by adding to their club trophies. The 51-year-old Enrique won a bunch of trophies leading Barcelona, while Mancini has spearheaded silverware grabs for Man City, Inter Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio, and Galatasaray.

Transfer targets in focus

Jadon Sancho’s already moved and Harry Kane’s demand was going to be high regardless of this tournament, but some semifinalists have driven their value sky-high.

Joakim Maehle (Atalanta) has been a bonafide star with Eriksen out for Denmark, while Sassuolo’s Manuel Locatelli has certainly buttressed his value with dominant displays for Italy.

Matteo Pessina (Atalanta) is another Italian who will be attracting attention, and Dani Olmo (Spain, RB Leipzig), Mikkel Damsgaard (Denmark, Sampdoria), and Declan Rice (England, West Ham) also fit the bill.