Mikel Arteta has confirmed that Granit Xhaka will stay at Arsenal having come close to joining Roma earlier in the summer, and the midfielder is also expected to be offered a new contract.
Xhaka’s long-term Arsenal future had been in doubt for some time despite him being regular for Arteta last season, making 31 Premier League appearances and starting 29 of them.
Roma showed interest in the Switzerland international, only for a deal to ultimately fall through over a failure from the clubs to reach an agreement over a transfer fee. Roma are not prepared to meet the £17m (€20m) asking price and Arsenal are not prepared to compromise.
With no breakthrough forthcoming, Arteta confirmed after Sunday’s pre-season friendly against Chelsea that Xhaka will not be leaving the club.
“Granit is going to stay with us. He is a key member of our squad,” were the manager’s words to talkSPORT soon after the final whistle.
Journalist Fabrizio Romano has tweeted that after rejecting an offer from Roma worth a guaranteed £10m, plus a further £2.5m in add-ons, Arsenal intend to hand Xhaka a new contract. That deal is expected to last until 2024 on an improved salary and the Gunners are described as ‘confident’.
Sky Sports had reported on Friday that Arteta has never wanted Xhaka to leave and was a major factor in convincing him to stay in January 2020 soon after taking over from predecessor Unai Emery, with whom the player had previously clashed.
Arsenal are in the midst of a much-needed squad overhaul this summer. They have already ticked some key positions off their wish-list following the signings of centre-back Ben White, full-back Nuno Tavares and midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga.
A goalkeeper and another midfielder are the remaining priority positions left to address, with Aaron Ramsdale and James Maddison the players most closely linked so far. Arsenal are thought to have already had two offers rejected for the former, while the latter is valued at £70m.
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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has suggested midfielder Thomas Partey could be set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines after picking up an injury in a pre-season friendly against Chelsea on Sunday afternoon.
Partey was caught by a heavy challenge from Ruben Loftus-Cheek and was forced off five minutes before half-time, with the Gunners going on to lose the game 2-1.
The challenge that caused Partey’s injury / Marc Atkins/Getty Images
Images of the tackle appear to show the 28-year-old’s foot caught beneath the weight of Loftus-Cheek’s thigh and his ankle turned in an unnatural position.
Speaking after the game, Arteta admitted the injury was ‘not looking good’, suggesting the Ghanaian will almost certainly miss Arsenal’s opening game of the season against Brentford on 13 August.
“I just had a talk with the doc and he’s going to have a scan tomorrow,” Arteta said. “At the moment it’s not looking good because he was in pain.
“He could not continue, which for Thomas is pretty unusual.”
Partey was replaced by Granit Xhaka, who Arteta added would be staying at the Emirates following speculation linking the Swiss with a £15m move to Roma.
Xhaka would go on to equalise for Arsenal with a header from a corner in the second period after Kai Havertz’s fine opener for Chelsea in the first half. However, a horrible defensive mixup involving Hector Bellerin gifted the ball to Tammy Abraham to coolly slot home the winner in the 72nd minute.
Arsenal will be desperately hoping the injury is nothing too serious, with Partey a key part of Mikel Arteta’s new-look side as they head into 2021/22 looking for a swift return to European football having missed out for the first time in 25 years last term.
The Gunners have already spent a combined £75m on Nuno Tavares, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Ben White, and further additions are expected with a £250m war chest at their disposal this summer.
This summer is a big one for a lot of Chelsea players, but you get the feeling that nobody feels as though they have something to prove as much as winger Callum Hudson-Odoi.
The wonderkid youngster on skyscraper wages, Hudson-Odoi is yet to really make that next step in his career, with a combination of poor form and a nasty Achilles injury curtailing any momentum he tried to build up.
Hudson-Odoi had struggled to convince Thomas Tuchel / Pierre-Philippe Marcou – Pool/Getty Images
Those struggles have led to suggestions that Hudson-Odoi could be sold this summer, and to paraphrase the great Michael Jordan, he looks like he took that personally.
Returning to pre-season earlier than anyone else in the Chelsea squad, Hudson-Odoi has had a lot of one-to-one time with Thomas Tuchel already this summer, and the extra fitness that comes with his early return means he has had more game time as well.
Playing more than anyone else in the squad, Hudson-Odoi has had the minutes he needed to prove himself to Tuchel, and the boss will be absolutely delighted with what he has seen from the Englishman so far.
Interestingly, Hudson-Odoi isn’t doing much different to last year. He does seem to have an extra yard of pace and some extra swagger, but his game is still focused on charging up the wing and burning defenders.
The important thing about this summer, however, is that he’s been doing it on the left wing.
Back on the wing in which he made his name in the academy, Hudson-Odoi has looked like an absolute animal. In the latest friendly, a 2-1 win over Arsenal, he completely terrorised Calum Chambers and dummied his way past Pablo Mari with terrifying ease.
Using his stronger right foot, Hudson-Odoi almost drags the ball forward and encourages defenders to bite, at which point he will scoop the ball around and fly towards the box before the opponent has even picked themselves up.
When deployed on the left, Hudson-Odoi clearly feels unleashed. That swagger comes from confidence in his own ability, and when he is humiliating fellow professionals with his skills, can you blame him for feeling himself?
Tuchel simply has to use the 20-year-old on the left from this point on. It’s a role in which Timo Werner has spent a lot of time, but the German is nowhere near as dynamic as Hudson-Odoi. If you want your forwards to create chances, you’ve got to go with the latter.
A good chat with Tuchel in pre-season looks to have revitalised Hudson-Odoi. The pair now know better what they expect from one another, and the results are already starting to show.
Premier League defenders will already be having nightmares about the idea of facing him, but if Hudson-Odoi can add some more reliability with his end product, it could be game over.
For the best part of half a decade, Tottenham fans felt blessed to have Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen marshalling Spurs’ defence.
They were among the most comfortable centre-backs on the ball in world football and had a seemingly telepathic connection after playing together for years with Ajax and Belgium. Spurs, notably a team who simply did not care for defending, became a world-class outfit at the back.
With both having now departed north London – Alderweireld left for Qatar last week while Vertonghen joined Benfica a year ago – Spurs are having to completely rebuild at the back.
Eric Dier and Davinson Sanchez have been given chance after to chance to prove their worth, and they have proven time after time that they are not up to the task. Joe Rodon and Japhet Tanganga are decent prospects, but can’t be trusted at the heart of a European contender on their own just yet.
Step forward, Cristian Romero – reigning Serie A defender of the year, Copa America winner with Argentina, and still only 23.
It’s an impressive CV for any young defender, let alone one who’s only played senior club football for Belgrano, Genoa and Atalanta. Spurs’ new director of football Fabio Paratici is desperate to bring the Argentine to the club, level with Chelsea-bound Jules Kounde – who rejected a move to Spurs last month – at the top of his list of defensive targets.
Barcelona have long been rumoured to be in the picture, but their advances have never been too serious. Romero is intent on a move to Tottenham, and getting him over the line would truly signal a fresh start for the north London club.
Spurs have often set their sights unrealistically high in the transfer market before settling for lesser and often cheaper options (Federico Fazio, Benjamin Stambouli, Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, you get the point). Should Daniel Levy grant Paratici the power and finances to sanction a deal for one of his personal favourite targets, then great strides are already being made off the pitch in order to safeguard Spurs’ future.
Paratici is keen to bring in Romero / MARCO BERTORELLO/Getty Images
And on the pitch? They’ll be getting one of the world’s best young prospects, an aggressive centre-back who can have the defence built around him – the exact sort of profile that Tottenham have been crying out for.
Reports say that Atalanta are holding out for an up-front fee of €50m plus bonuses, which would make Romero Spurs’ third most expensive player of all time after Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso, two players who have only shown their worth in glimpses so far.
Under a good defensive coach in Nuno Espirito Santo, there’s every chance for Romero to make another leap, to instantly come in and become one of the Premier League’s best defenders, to be at the forefront of Spurs’ new identity. The alternative plan to bringing in Romero would be to target three lesser centre-backs, which would ensure Spurs’ identity remains as ‘what the hell are we doing?’.
It’s very easy to sit on a phone or behind a computer and say ‘pay up’ to football clubs operating in the transfer market, and that’s not what this is, but Tottenham have a genuine chance to change their ways for the better and must seize that opportunity while they can.
Chelsea kicked off the pre-season Mind Series tournament with a composed 2-1 victory over London rivals Arsenal.
The Gunners began the game on top, causing some trouble down the left wing, but it was Chelsea who took the lead as Kai Havertz thundered home a two-on-one chance 26 minutes in. Both Emile Smith Rowe and Hakim Ziyech saw strikes come back off the post, but the score remained 1-0 heading into the break.
After watching Ziyech miss an excellent chance for a second, Granit Xhaka headed Arsenal level from a corner midway through the second half, but Tammy Abraham answered back immediately with a composed finish after more sloppy defending from Arsenal.
Joe Willock thought he had fired home an equaliser late on, but despite the ball looking to have bounced over the line, the goal was not given and Chelsea instead managed to see the rest of the game out comfortably.
Tierney had a solid showing / ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images
Bernd Leno (GK) – 5/10 – Didn’t look happy at all during the game, but a lot of the blame must go to his non-existent defence.
Calum Chambers (RB) – 4/10 – Not good enough in attack for someone who spent so long at that end of the pitch. Caught out of position far too often and regularly struggled with Werner’s pace.
Rob Holding (CB) – 4/10 – Was Holding a false centre-back? He roamed around far too often and left Arsenal so exposed for Havertz’s opener.
Pablo Mari (CB) – 5/10 – Did have some good moments of defending but was left painfully isolated at times. Didn’t always help himself but needed far more support.
Kieran Tierney (LB) – 6/10 – Arsenal’s best defender by far (barely a compliment), Tierney feasted on Pulisic’s unconvincing performance at wing-back. His end product left a little to be desired but he asked a lot of questions of Chelsea’s defence.
Partey was forced off injured / Marc Atkins/Getty Images
Thomas Partey (DM) – 5/10 – One of Arsenal’s best players before being forced off shorty before half-time through injury. Tried to carry on after picking up a knock but couldn’t.
Mohamed Elneny (DM) – 4/10 – Caught in possession alarmingly often and had his defenders scrambling to cover for him. Did little to suggest he will start over Albert Sambi Lokonga.
Nicolas Pepe (RM) – 4/10 – Didn’t get the better of Hudson-Odoi on the right and was worryingly quiet during his time on the pitch.
Emile Smith Rowe (AM) – 6/10 – Looked very sharp and was a post away from getting a well-deserved goal.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (LM) – 5/10 – Looked lively down the wing and enjoyed space behind Pulisic, but proved why so many fans want him back at striker with a poor end product.
Lacazette was quiet / Marc Atkins/Getty Images
Alexandre Lacazette (ST) – 4/10 – Looked off the pace against Chelsea’s three centre-backs. Found it hard to link up play and looked a step behind the rest of his team-mates.
Granit Xhaka – 6/10
Ben White – 7/10
Hector Bellerin – 4/10
Sead Kolasinac – 5/10
Bukayo Saka – 6/10
Eddie Nketiah – 6/10
Joe Willock – 6/10
Nuno Tavares – 6/10
Albert Sambi Lokonga – 7/10
Chalobah was solid again / Visionhaus/Getty Images
Edouard Mendy (GK) – 6/10 – Had to be alert to claim a few crosses and did everything required of him. Did well to save Lacazette’s free-kick early in the second half.
Trevoh Chalobah (CB) – 7/10 – Did his chances of staying in the squad no harm. Looked very calm in possession and was solid in the tackle.
Kurt Zouma (CB) – 6/10 – A very Zouma-esque performance. Powerful in the tackle (a little too much so at times) but wobbly when on the ball.
Antonio Rudiger (CB) – 7/10 – Managed the first 45 minutes and looked as solid as ever. Had Arsenal’s forwards scared to take him on at times.
Christian Pulisic (RM) – 5/10 – Had a very tricky start as a wing-back but was moved further forward after the break. Looked a little more comfortale but didn’t do much.
Mateo Kovacic (CM) – 5/10 – Hauled off at half-time after trying to rack up 1,000 yellow cards. Ended up with just one but could have easily been sent for an earlier bath.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (CM) – 7/10 – Began incredibly hot, bursting forwards and playing some decent passes. Quietened down somewhat as the game went on but continued to make an impact.
Callum Hudson-Odoi (LM) – 7/10 – Cooked on the left wing. Really enjoyed being given space and time to fly forwards and nearly sent Mari back to Brazil with a dummy before the break.
Kai Havertz (AM) – 7/10 – Made up for his miss against Leno last season with an emphatic finish here. Capped off a solid 45 minutes.
Hakim Ziyech (AM) – 7/10 – Got in a lot of good positions and wanted the ball all the time. Should have bagged a goal after the break but hesitated for far too long.
Werner had a mixed showing / Marc Atkins/Getty Images
Timo Werner (ST) – 6/10 – Had some sloppy moments at times but enjoyed the chance to get in behind Chambers out wide. Looked to have wasted the chance for Havertz’s goal but did well to dig the pass out.