Lucas Torreira

Emotions run high amid Xhaka turmoil at Arsenal

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After another Arsenal disappointment, binning a 2-0 lead in an eventual 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace in front of the home fans, Unai Emery may have expected to face the brunt of the blame yet again, the heat turned up on the Arsenal boss.

While the Spaniard still must face the music, temporarily the venom was directed elsewhere.

Controversial captain Granit Xhaka exited the pitch was withdrawn in the 61st minute, marking the second straight match and third in the last five that he failed to complete the full 90 minutes. As he walked off the pitch visibly frustrated with the manager’s decision, jeers swelled in the crowd and he was booed off the field. Xhaka reacted angrily to the crowd, sarcastically gesturing for louder cheers as he walked off before eventually caught swearing at the home supporters in retaliation for the hostile reception.

The incident has blown up to a full-on crisis. The media took the incident and ran with it, with some calling for Xhaka’s removal as captain just weeks after being given the full-time role.

The controversy has left the squad in a difficult situation. According to The Athletic’s Amy Lawrence, who details the team’s reaction to the situation, Xhaka is a well-liked figure in the dressing room, and it has put some players in a bind, unsure whether to support their beloved teammate and friend in fear of supporter reaction. Still, that hasn’t stopped the players from sticking together.

Midfielder Lucas Torreira was caught by team photographer Stuart MacFarlane in tears as Xhaka was booed off the field, requiring consolation from both Emery and Hector Bellerin. Xhaka reportedly left the stadium early, only inciting further anger among the fanbase. Fan favorite Bellerin took to social media pleading for fan support, saying “we only win when we are together.”

According to Lawrence, a handful of players actually visited Xhaka at his home on Sunday, hoping to show their cohesion and offer emotional guidance to their chosen captain. Her report says that Xhaka is “devastated” by the occurence at the Emirates over the weekend and the ensuing fallout.

The job for Unai Emery looks more daunting than ever. The club is fifth in the league table but on pace for its lowest points total since the early 90’s. They sit 12 points adrift of leaders Liverpool after just 10 matches and look to be set for yet another scrap for a Champions League place, in danger of wasting yet another season of high wages and little return. There’s plenty of time to turn things around, but it remains unclear whether Emery is the man to make that happen.

Now, in addition to rebounding on the pitch, Emery must bring his squad together in a time of emotional need and also must placate the supporters who feel the appointed club captain has betrayed them.

Liverpool bests wobbly Arsenal at Anfield

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Liverpool cooked poor, wasteful Arsenal to record the best result of their early season with a 3-1 win over the Gunners at Anfield on Saturday.

[ MORE: Three things | Stars and duds ]

Mohamed Salah scored twice after Joel Matip broke Liverpool onto the score sheet, as the Reds will be the lone 3-0 team after three weeks of the young season. They were denied a clean sheet by Lucas Torreira‘s 84th minute goal.

Liverpool is off to Burnley next week, while Arsenal hosts Tottenham in the North London Derby.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 


Three key figures

  1. Alexander-Arnold will burn you — If teams like Arsenal are going to let Liverpool produce cross after cross to elite crosses like Trent Alexander-Arnold, well, they are going to get burnt. Never mind for a second that Alexander-Arnold’s assist came from a corner, the young English defender was given a limitless budget for his invitations by Arsenal. If you disagree with this, well, so does one of my co-workers.
  2. Salah still the one — The Egyptian wizard scored twice and was a menace all day. Make no mistake about it: However highly you rate Roberto Firmino or Sadio Mane, this is the fella who makes Liverpool a threat to win any competition on Earth.
  3. Emery gets it wrong — We get that the idea of matching attack with Liverpool is daunting, but it could hardly have gone any worse had Unai Emery opted to start Alexandre Lacazette in addition to Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubemayang. The way Arsenal allowed Liverpool to send in cross after cross after cross in the early stages, they wouldn’t have lost much by having a third forward. It’s no surprise that one of his subs, Torreira, got on the score sheet.

Man of the Match: Salah.


A lapse in communication between Virgil Van Dijk and Adrian allowed Arsenal a chance to make it 1-0 in the 11th minute. Fortunately for the Reds, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang couldn’t loft the ball into the back of the goal from distance after failing to spot Nicolas Pepe in the 18.

At the other end, a horrible Dani Ceballos clearing attempt set up Liverpool in the 21st but Sadio Mane could only sting a shot that Bernd Leno did well to save.

Jordan Henderson made a terrible error in possession, allowing Pepe to race toward Adrian. The Spaniard bailed out his captain to keep it 0-0 in the 35th.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Matip thumped his header past Leno off an Alexander-Arnold corner kick before halftime.

The next scoring chance will come off a dead ball chance, as David Luiz pulled on Mohamed Salah’s shirt in the box. Salah finished emphatically.

Matip also saved Liverpool in his more traditional office, racing to stop Aubameyang on a breakaway when the Gabon striker took an extra touch.

Salah then skipped past a puzzled David Luiz and dribbled 40 yards too cook Nacho Monreal and Leno.

Aubameyang helped cue up Torreira for a well-taken concession goal with five minutes to play.

Report: Torreira not pushing to leave Arsenal

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According to a report by Sam Dean of The Telegraph, Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira is not actively looking to leave The Emirates, contradicting reports from Italy over the past week that have claimed the Uruguayan is unsettled in England and hoping to return to Serie A.

The Telegraph report cites “sources close to the player” and says that Torreira is “happy” at Arsenal.

There have been heavy links with Torreira to AC Milan, as the new manager Marco Giampaolo was his old boss at Sampdoria before he moved to London last summer. While Torreira himself admitted that he has struggled to adapt to life in England and has faced significant adversity with the language barrier, The Telegraph report calls any suggestions that the player is looking to force his way out “wildly exaggerated.”

However, the report also admits that AC Milan sees Torreira as a “priority” this summer and will hope to make a compelling move, led by former Arsenal sporting director Ivan Gazidis who is now employed by Milan. The 23-year-old has a whopping four years left on his contract, so the club still holds significant power over his future, and with the player supposedly yet to force a move, Milan would likely need to blow Arsenal out of the water with a bid to have a chance. The Telegraph notes that a successful offer would need to provide Arsenal with a significant return on investment of the $32 million they paid Sampdoria a year ago.

Torreira performed well in his first season at Arsenal, endearing fans with his no-nonsense style and a technical ability to help the team play out of the back. He made 32 Premier League appearances, struggling at first to earn a place in the starting lineup with Unai Emery unsure how to fit both he and Granit Xhaka in the formation together, but as the Arsenal boss began to pivot the two, Torreira found more time on the pitch, sometimes at the expense of Mateo Guendouzi.

Emery: Torreira taken off at halftime because ‘atmosphere was against him’

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Unai Emery has defended his decision to remove Lucas Torreira at halftime, noting both the game’s environment and a possible injury worry.

“I decided to do the change of Lucas Torreira because after the red card, the atmosphere is against him and also the doctor said to me in the first half that he has a little pain for Thursday and I decided okay, it’s the moment [to take him off],” Emery said following Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Watford.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Torreira of course was the subject to Troy Deeney‘s elbow that earned Deeney a red card. The holding midfielder had a couple of fouls of his own, with the Watford supporters baying to the referee “off, off, off” asking for a red card. Emery may have felt that as the game went on, Torreira could go hard into a challenge and come out with a red card, and Arsenal needs Torreira healthy and active for future Premier League matches.

On the field, it didn’t seem that Torreira had an injury, but ahead of Arsenal’s crucial return leg against Napoli on Thursday, Emery appears to have decided it was better not to risk Torreira in the second half and instead play with Mesut Ozil in a more attacking formation. That way, Torreira should be good to go at Napoli. Ultimately, the move paid off, with Arsenal holding on to the 1-0 victory.

Since joining in July, Torreira has been a revelation, emerging as the holding midfielder that Arsenal has been missing for a decade or more. When healthy and in form, Torreira eats up opposition attacks, cutting down space all over the field. He’s even scored a goal or two, as seen in one of the North London derbies earlier this year.

From bad to worse: Watford give up rare goal, then Deeney is sent off

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In a one-minute, 38-second span, Watford’s expectations for its match against Arsenal were completely flipped on their head.

[WATCH LIVE: Watford v. Arsenal]

First, goalkeeper Ben Foster‘s lackadaisical touch in the six-yard box allowed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to close him down, resulting in a block that saw the ball ricochet into the net. Then, 98 seconds later, Watford captain Troy Deeney was shown a straight-red card after an assistant referee spotted Deeney leave an elbow into the head of Arsenal central midfielder Lucas Torreira.

That left Watford down a man and down a goal. Perhaps to make matters worse, Watford manager Javi Gracia doesn’t have a star like Gerard Deulofeu available on the bench to add that attacking spark that Watford will need without Deeney on the pitch.