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David Luiz is already Arsenal’s lovable new leader

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David Luiz is a lover.

He’s a man who enjoys the beautiful things in life and exploring all that the world has to offer. In the same way he marauds all over the pitch, Luiz is just as adventurous taking in new surroundings.

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The way he plays reflects his personality. Courageous, full of energy and a little unpredictable. Chatting with him is both enjoyable and full of surprises.

Ahead of their trip to Sheffield United on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) his attitude is very much: ‘Why not me? Why not us? Let’s do this!’

Over the international break Luiz, 32, traveled with his fiancee and mom to Rwanda, in partnership with Arsenal’s sponsor Visit Rwanda, as he visited the African country which has transformed itself over the past 25 years after it was torn apart by genocide in 1994.

Visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial, Luiz was humbled as he paid his respects to the victims of the genocide against the Tutsi. He was in a reflective mood as he discussed the work Rwanda has done to get to this stage.

“After 25 years you can see how things have improved and how people have love for their country and you can feel love from the people,” Luiz said of Rwanda’s rebuild. “I am in love with this country and I will recommend Rwanda to all of my friends to take a trip, and I’m going to be here again, for sure.”

Luiz is a people person. There’s no other way to put it.

From leading celebrations with teammates during and after games, to sticking his head out of his car window as he drives through London to sign autographs and pose for photos, he just loves life.

“I feel a connection because I’m a guy who likes to feel a connection from the people. They are so friendly, they respect you and the way they look at you, they want you to feel at home,” Luiz said of his trip around Rwanda.

During his time in the African country he also visited Volcanoes National Park and planted new indigenous trees as he was mesmerized by its beauty.

The boy from Brazil had never stepped foot in a jungle before, and he and his family got the chance to meet the endangered Mountain Gorillas up close in their natural habitat after a long trek through Rwanda’s jungles.

“I am Brazilian, but I never had the opportunity to walk in a real jungle!” Luiz said. “To see the gorillas so near with my family and experience the wildlife, the culture and do something completely different. It was amazing to see all of the gorillas with their babies, their families. It was incredible. For me it has been an emotional trip in a positive way.”

Luiz is an emotional, thoughtful person and his passion for not just football but life shines through when you chat to him. He has a keen interest in helping the environment in any way he can and wants to leave behind a better world.

His summer arrival at Arsenal raised plenty of eyebrows and he has always been a bit of a wildcard, but his experience was supposed to gel the defensive unit together. It was a big deal for him to leave Chelsea, where he was expected to be a key player under Frank Lampard, but he is certainly glad he swapped London giants.

“I really love the spirit of the club. Everyone loves the club and loves to work at this club. I love people,” Luiz explained. “To see everyone who works in the kitchen, everyone who works on the pitch, they are all in love with the club. This is amazing because this is what I enjoy and I enjoy to be with these kind of people.”

The people at Arsenal aside, have the Gunners got the players to improve things defensively and finish back in the top four after a three-season hiatus?

Luiz bristles a little when asked if Arsenal can improve enough defensively to finish in the top four this season.

“We talk about this with every single club. Arsenal is no different,” Luiz said. “I think Unai is working very well with the plan to defend and then the plan to attack. I always say, defending starts with the strikers and through the whole team, and you can see with modern football that the goalkeeper is now like a No. 6. We are going to try and improve, we are already doing well and the last few games have showed that we are stronger in a defensive way. I want this club to improve in every part of the game.”

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Luiz’s game has evolved over the years. His marauding runs from center back aren’t as often as they once were but that doesn’t mean his swashbuckling style has disappeared forever.

We have already seen Luiz take chances on the ball and bring his Brazilian flair to Arsenal’s defense, especially on the ball with goalkeeper Bernd Leno. Is Luiz, the oldest player in Arsenal’s squad, going to change his game now?

“It is the same. But this year my game depends on the team. I have to be someone who can adapt in a quality way, especially because I am a specialty player,” Luiz said. “You have to feel the moment. We need to play games, we need to win trophies. Everything was good where I was at clubs winning titles, so I can’t think in a different way. I want to win titles with Arsenal. I want to improve and adapt myself for the style of Arsenal, as a club and how the manager wants us to play. I think we can do that together.”

Luiz has settled in very quickly at Arsenal.

He is popular with his teammates and  scored the winning goal last time out in the Premier League, a deft header as the Gunners edged past Bournemouth 1-0.

“I’ve had a good relationship with players at all of the clubs, big clubs, I’ve been at during my career. I’m trying to do what I’ve done everywhere. I am working hard to improve myself and the team to have the ambition to win titles. I think this club deserves to shine again,” Luiz said. “We have an amazing team, amazing coaching staff, I think we can have this ambition and this as a goal. And then to achieve these kind of things you need to work hard.”

The hard work never stops for Luiz. He comes across as a professional, humble man, even if his lively demeanor on the pitch and off it can be misconstrued as overconfidence.

When asked if Arsenal can win the Premier League title this season, Luiz’s tone changed from being the fun-loving, mercurial defender we all know to being all business.

The man who has won the Premier League, the UEFA Champions League, Europa League (twice), three FA Cups and  French and Portuguese league titles wants more silverware.

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He wants it with Arsenal and after starring in Chelsea’s surprise title win in 2016-17 under Antonio Conte, could he help the Gunners pull off an even bigger shock to launch a title push as extreme darkhorses this season?

“For me, if you start something, and we’ve just started the Premier League and all of the competitions, if you don’t think you can win the competition then you won’t start anything in your life,” Luiz said in a defiant manner. “The ambition has to be there, the dream has to be there. Also, you have to be humble and have the humility to understand how you can achieve this kind of thing. This is what you have to do every single day. To understand the plan, to work hard and understand that if you have the opportunity you have to give your best. After that, if you don’t achieve you have to understand why you didn’t achieve these kind of goals. But my vision, my ambition and my will is always to fight for the title. And between the club, the players and the coach, we have the possibility to fight for the title.”

Luiz is a many of many layers. He can be the joker, the thinker and the ultimate professional. All at the same time.

Arsenal will need him to be all of the above, and to be at his best on the pitch, if they’re going to seriously challenge Liverpool and Man City for the title this season. That may not happen, but with Chelsea, Man United and Tottenham all in transition, the Gunners all of a sudden seem to have the edge in the top four battle.

Luiz is up for the challenge and his distinguished career proves he will often prove you wrong and surprise you at the same time.

Just like in Rwanda, Luiz is eager to be a big part of the process and help the development and progress of Arsenal’s youngsters any way he can as they currently sit in third.

“I think we’ve started really well and we just lost one game in the Premier League. I think the team is improving and now we are in third in the table but we want to finish this season fighting for the title,” Luiz said. “This is our goal. I’m trying to my best for the team and for every single player and I’m so happy to be here with all of the talent we have in the club.

“Myself, as a senior play, I have over 600 games in my career, so I’m going to help the young players develop a lot and help the team… I think I’m continuing that role. I’ve been doing that the last few years already and to have the pleasure to do that. I’ve been doing that because it’s a pleasure and I like to see them enjoy improving and finding out the importance of how to play the game. I’ve played a lot of games in my career, and the only game I haven’t played in is the World Cup final, so I want to enjoy this as much as I can.”

Watching Luiz play is never boring, and Arsenal aren’t either.

In many ways this is a match made in heaven.

Tierney, Lacazette available for Arsenal

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Arsenal are edging closer to finally having a full-strength squad.

Ahead of Monday’s prime-time matchup with Sheffield United, Arsenal manager Unai Emery confirmed that Kieran Tierney was in line to make his Premier League debut, while Alexandre Lacazette was back in full training and should be in the gameday squad.

“Today is Lacazette’s first training back with us,” Emery said in a press conference on Thursday. “He finished it well and he’s feeling well with his injuries. Tomorrow we will be training again and he will be with us. We will decide.

“The most important thing is that first he is training, then secondly it’s whether he can be with us and it depends how he can feel in the next days training with us, whether his ankle is not giving him any more problems.”

This is a huge boost to Arsenal, which has had to rely on some youngsters and have made some lineup changes to accommodate not having Lacazette on the field. Tierney meanwhile could step into a position where there’s already a decent starter, Sead Kolasinac.

Lacazette’s return also couldn’t have come at a better time. In Premier League action, Arsenal’s high-powered offense has been stymied, scoring just two goals in the last two league games. Meanwhile, against weaker defenses in the UEFA Europa League and the Carabao Cup, Arsenal has bagged a total of 12 goals.

The veteran Frenchman has scored two goals in three appearances so far this season, including a big goal just before halftime in the 2-2 draw with Tottenham. However, he suffered a long-term ankle injury in that match that has kept him on the sidelines for more than a month.

“[Tierney is] ready to play,” Emery later said. Now we have two options in that left-back role with Sead Kolasinac and him. We’re going to play a lot of matches after Monday. We will need every player. It depends how he comes into the first training with us, Sead, after his international matches. We now have two players in that position and we can use one on Monday, it depends how they are, one or the other.”

Tierney, the 22-year-old Scottish left back, has made two appearances for the Arsenal first team since recovering from a double hernia operation over the summer. Signed from Celtic for around $32 million, Tierney adds a skill that Kolasinac has struggled with – expert crosser of the ball into the box, where the likes of Lacazette, Nicolas Pepe, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can score when given a decent chance.

Ozil: ‘I was scared about my wife,’ but Kolasinac ‘was really, really brave’

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Three months after the terrifying incident, Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil has opened up about the evening that he, alongside his wife and teammate Sead Kolasinac, was targeted by knife-wielding carjackers on the streets of London.

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Ozil says that above all else he was scared for the safety of his wife, Amine, and recognizes how brave and heroic the actions of Kolasinac were that day. If not for Kolasinac’s instant reaction to jump out of the car and go after the attackers, Ozil fears they would have entered the car through the passenger door, where his wife was sitting — quotes from the Athletic (subscription required):

“Sead’s reaction was really, really brave because he attacked one of the attackers. The second one was in front of my car on his moped so I couldn’t drive.

“We were newly wed and I was scared about my wife. I was scared about Sead. I wasn’t thinking about myself. I was worried they were going to open my wife’s door and they tried, so I reached across her to keep it closed.

“Nothing happened to us, that’s the most important thing. We were worried these guys had been targeting us, but the police said they found them and, a few hours earlier, they tried to robbed other people nearby in a similar way.”

Since the incident, Kolasinac has returned as a first-team regular (when healthy), while Ozil has remained just on the outside of Unai Emery‘s squad. The 31-year-old German international has made just one Premier League appearance this season, now more than a month ago, on Sept. 15. Though there has been much speculation over his future, Ozil insists he only sees himself remaining an Arsenal player for the foreseeable future.

“I have a contract until the summer of 2021 and I will be staying until then. When I signed the new deal, I thought about it very carefully and said it was one of the most important decisions of my footballing career.

“I didn’t want to stay for just one or two more years, I wanted to commit my future to Arsenal and the club wanted me to do the same. You can go through difficult times, like this, but that is no reason to run away.”

Six young stars of the early season in Europe

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Erling Braut Haland’s UEFA Champions League coming out party has the teenage striker’s name on the tip of the transfer market’s tongue.

The 19-year-old is being linked with Liverpool after scoring against the Reds last week to join his group stage opening hat trick against Genk.

[ MORE: USMNT players in focus ]

Haland has — no, we’re not kidding — 18 goals and five assists in 785 minutes for Jesse Marsch’s Red Bull Salzburg and is going to cost someone a pretty penny.

Here are some other top performers to start the season, names certain to move from whispers to shouts in January and beyond.

Donyell Malen, PSV Eindhoven — The 20-year-old has 10 goals in the Eredivise alone, five of which came against Vitesse, and has chipped in another six across European competition. The smallish striker — 5’9″ — is an elite passer and finisher.

Victor Osimhen, Lille — Another 20-year-old, the 6-foot plus Osimhen scored against Chelsea in the UCL and has seven goals and two assists in league play. He’s had no problems making the transition from RSC Charleroi in Belgium to Ligue 1.

Tiemoue Bakayoko, Monaco — There was no room for Bakayoko in Frank Lampard‘s midfield at Chelsea, so he’s on loan again and thriving back at Monaco. With 4.2 tackles and 1.4 interceptions per game, he’s showing even better than he did when Maurizio Sarri sent him to AC Milan last season. He’s not a baby, but it might surprise you to read he’s 25.

Eberechi Eze, Queens Park Rangers — At 21 years old, Eze is chewing up minutes for QPR and boasts four goals and three assists. The R’s are a point off the playoff places in the Championship, and the free-dribbling attacking midfielder is a big part of the operation.

Aleksandr Sobolev, KS Samara — The Russian 22-year-old has reportedly caught the attention of Arsenal and Manchester United. At nearly 6-foot-4, the youngster has bagged 10 goals and three assists in 12 matches.

Wenger has turned down Premier League job offers

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Arsene Wenger has revealed he’s turned down offers to get back into management in the Premier League.

The Frenchman, 69, has been out of work since leaving Arsenal in the summer of 2018 and despite many believing he would move to the international game for his next coaching gig, he could still pop up in the club game.

Speaking to our partners Sky Sports at the Nordoff Robbins Legends of Football gala dinner event in London, as Wenger was the recipient this year, Wenger revealed his 22 years in charge of Arsenal meant he could not take another job in England.

“I’m an Arsenal man and after that I’m a professional. I can’t stop working,” Wenger said. “I decided to move out of the Premier League because I am too linked with Arsenal. I had opportunities to work in England but I turned them down. I don’t want to tell you [which clubs] because there are people in charge and it would unfair to them.”

Plenty of distinguished guests, including former rival Sir Alex Ferguson, lavished praise on Wenger for his success.

“The career you had as a manager at Arsenal was absolutely fantastic – an absolute legend,” Ferguson said. “I loved the competition against you. We had some great times and it’s wonderful you’re getting this award tonight. So good luck, my blessing with you.”

Wenger is expected to be appointed to a senior role at FIFA, as he’s applied to become their Chief of Football Development for the game.

Given these comments and the potential gig with FIFA, have we seen the end of Wenger as a manager after his 22 years in charge of the Gunners?

There is no doubt he’s a legend of the game and his team played some of the best football the world has ever seen. Despite his final few years at Arsenal, Wenger’s legacy is intact and he will now wait for the right opportunity to crop up, wherever that may be.

All we know is that it won’t be in the Premier League.