Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka was furious after his side's 2-0 Premier League defeat against Newcastle United, saying Mikel Arteta's team "don't deserve" Champions League qualification after the damaging reverse.

A Ben White own goal gave the Magpies the lead in a must-win clash for the Gunners, before Bruno Guimaraes sealed Newcastle's victory late on, leaving Arsenal's top-four hopes hanging by a thread.

Arsenal are now two points behind Tottenham in the standings with one match remaining, where Spurs will need to lose to Norwich City to allow the Gunners a chance to sneak back into the top four, courtesy of their inferior goal difference.

The Gunners were comprehensively outclassed in the crucial encounter, producing just 0.40 expected goals compared to Newcastle's 1.38, and only controlling 33 per cent of the first-half possession.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the loss, Xhaka called it a "disaster performance", accusing his team-mates of not following Arteta's gameplan and asserting the team did not deserve European football after producing such a showing.

"So difficult to find right words after the game," he said. "We came here to show a different game, but from the first minute until the 90th minute we didn't deserve to be on the pitch today.

"I can't explain why we didn't do what the game-plan was. Not listening to the coach, [it] was a disaster performance.

"[If you] play like this you don't deserve Champions League, don't even deserve Europa league. Very hard to take it at the moment, I don't know why we are not doing what the coach is asking of us."

Xhaka went on to declare Arsenal had not shown the necessary fight at St James' Park and his told team-mates that if they didn't "have the balls", they should have stayed at home.

"I don't know if someone is not ready for this game, stay at home." he added. "Doesn't matter the age. You can be 30, 35, you can be 10, you can be 18 – [if you're] not ready, stay on the bench, stay at home, don't come here. 

"We need people to have the balls - sorry to say that - to come here to play, because we knew this game is maybe one of the most important games for us.

"A performance like this… [we cannot] accept it, very very sad for us. Sorry for the people that came over here to support us. I feel sorry for Arsenal supporters, this is the only thing I can say – to say sorry to them."

Arsenal play Everton at the Emirates Stadium in their final fixture of the Premier League season on Sunday.

Ousmane Dembele's signing for Barcelona had become emblematic of Josep Maria Bartomeu's turbulent presidency.

An untenably ballooning wage bill saw the club face bankruptcy in the aftermath of Covid-19 restrictions and in a need to cut wages, the French attacker has become an expendable asset.

However, Dembele is reportedly determined to make keeping him at Barcelona more feasible, despite being set to leave at the end of the season.

 

TOP STORY – DEMBELE OPEN TO BARCELONA WAGE CUT

With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Ousmane Dembele is prepared to reduce his salary in order to sign a new contract at Barcelona, Sport reports.

Dembele's agent Moussa Sissoko and the Barcelona board reportedly met and the assertion was made that the France international was willing to take a pay cut to continue playing under Xavi.

Return on investment has always lingered over the 24-year-old attacker following his €140million transfer from Borussia Dortmund in 2017. 

Dembele has provided one goal in all competitions this season for the Blaugrana, but leads the team in assists with 11 from 28 appearances.

 

ROUND-UP

- Roma are looking to the Premier League to bolster their squad for next season, with Granit Xhaka, Douglas Luiz and Nemanja Matic all being considered, Calciomercato reports.

- Barcelona are also keen to sign Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski but no opening bid has been made yet, per Fabrizio Romano.

- The Athletic is reporting Manchester United are considering a £50m move for Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips.

- Wayne Rooney has become to top candidate to replace the dismissed  Sean Dyche at Burnley on a permanent basis, according to the Sun.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was overjoyed to see how much Granit Xhaka's relationship with the fans has improved after his starring role in Saturday's defeat of Manchester United.

Xhaka got Arsenal's third goal at Emirates Stadium, drilling in from long range to put the game beyond the Red Devils.

United had previously threatened to wipe out Arsenal's lead, which had been 2-0 in the first half before Cristiano Ronaldo's well-taken goal.

But Xhaka's strike dulled United's momentum, and the Switzerland international enjoyed a rapturous ovation when he was withdrawn towards the end of the Gunners' 3-1 win.

It marked a significant change in fortunes for Xhaka from when he routinely seemed to be at odds with the fans, revealing recently in an article for the Players' Tribune that he nearly left the club over "pure hate" from supporters, claiming his bags were packed in December 2019.

"I was dreaming of that [ovation] because he deserves it," Arteta told reporters after Saturday's win.

"If any fan would individually spend five or 10 minutes with Granit, or even two minutes, because that's all you need, they would understand the person that he is, the professional that he is and how much he cares about the club. But the history was there.

"I think he made, I would say a risky move, when he opened up and expressed completely his feelings, but as well he's done that because he's prepared.

"He feels that environment is going to protect him. He feels loved at the club and the response I think it was great.

"Thank you to the fans for showing that appreciation to him because I know how much that means to him."

There has been a massive overhaul of players at Arsenal over the past few years, reflected by the fact Arteta has consistently named the youngest starting XI on average this season.

Xhaka, 29, is something of an outlier in terms of age and experience, and it was put to Arteta that the midfielder's longevity was somewhat surprising given his past issues.

"We need some balance in everything that we do, especially with the characters and the personalities that are in that team," Arteta said of Xhaka's continued association with Arsenal.

"With the youth academy players that we are bringing in, with the signings that we made, with the quality that we had on and off the field, Granit in my opinion was going to have a key role and he was going to have a key leadership role to achieve what we wanted."

Manchester United's hopes of playing Champions League football next season are surely over after losing 3-1 away to fellow top-four hopefuls Arsenal in a Premier League thriller.

United travelled to the Emirates hoping for a response to their 4-0 humiliation by Liverpool and, although their general display was improved, defensively they were unconvincing again.

Nuno Tavares had Arsenal in front early on and a Bukayo Saka penalty made it 2-0 just before Cristiano Ronaldo netted his 100th Premier League goal – though that was just the tip of the iceberg amid an entertaining first half.

The visitors began the second period well and somehow failed to equalise, with Bruno Fernandes missing a penalty and Diogo Dalot hitting the post, with Granit Xhaka's piledriver then dealing the hammer blow.

United made another slow start as Saka tested David de Gea after two defenders missed the ball and Tavares tapped in the rebound for a third-minute lead.

The response from United was purposeful. They created several chances, hit the crossbar from range via Dalot and were controversially denied a penalty when Cedric Soares handled in the box.

But Arsenal then increased their lead just past the half-hour.

Eddie Nketiah had a goal disallowed for offside, yet Alex Telles was deemed to have fouled Saka just prior in the same VAR check and the winger converted the resulting penalty.

United swiftly pulled one back, Ronaldo expertly turning in Nemanja Matic's wonderful curling cross.

They spurned an opportunity to draw level from the spot, though, as Fernandes hit his kick against the post early in the second half – Ronaldo then had a second goal disallowed for a marginal offside.

Dalot struck the goal frame again with United's next attack and Arsenal capitalised on the profligacy in the 70th minute when Xhaka blasted past De Gea from 30 yards to seal victory.

Granit Xhaka came close to quitting Arsenal in late 2019 after receiving "pure hate" from sections of the club's fanbase.

The Switzerland international said he felt "very disrespected" after being booed by his own fans in an incident in October that year and recognises he will "never be best friends" with many supporters despite reasserting himself as a key member of the Arsenal team.

Xhaka lost the club captaincy after throwing his armband to the ground having been booed by supporters in a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace, but he fought his way back into the team following Mikel Arteta's appointment as manager.

The midfielder has made 19 Premier League appearances this season, all of them starts, as Arsenal chase Champions League qualification, but said he still remembers the experience when he leaves the pitch after a defeat.

"My bags were packed, the passports were out, I was done with Arsenal. Finished," Xhaka told the Players' Tribune. "There was a contract on the table from another club, and all I had to do was sign.

"First, I want to make it very clear that I love Arsenal. I always did, and I still do. I will give everything for this club until the day I leave. I also know that some people do not like me, this is part of football and I get it.

"But that day against Crystal Palace, things went over the line. I was taken off after about an hour. I had barely begun to move when I heard the boos, and it was not just a few guys in the corner, it was a lot of people. 

"I was shocked. This hate. Pure hate. I have never had a problem with criticism, but to be booed by your own fans? As captain? That is different, that is about respect.

"That day, I felt very disrespected. The comments were over the line, it felt personal. Yes, I was the Arsenal captain, but I am also a human being. So, as a human being, I reacted.

"Was I wrong to do what I did? Yes. But would I do anything differently if it happened again tomorrow? Honestly, I don't know. 

"Still to this day, if we have lost, I hate walking those last metres to the tunnel, because I still recognise the faces. The same people are sitting there."

Xhaka has also attracted criticism in recent seasons for his aggressive style of play, with no Premier League player being shown more than his five red cards across all competitions since 2016 – his latest coming in the EFL Cup semi-final against Liverpool in January.

However, the 29-year-old says he will never change his style in response to fans' criticisms.

"Listen, the cards have always been part of my game," he added. "They were in Germany, too. I'm all in, and it's the same in training. If I elbow a player, I'll be the first one to say, 'I'm sorry'. But a tackle? Come on, guys, this is not ballet.

"Why do the coaches keep playing me? Because I'm a 'good guy'? No. It's because I train hard, I work hard, and I try to help my team-mates. I will not change for some guy who is hiding behind a keyboard. No chance."

Successive Premier League defeats to Crystal Palace and Brighton have harmed Arsenal's chances of securing a top-four finish ahead of Saturday's trip to Southampton, with Arsenal last losing three consecutive league games in their first three outings of the campaign last August.

"I can promise you that I will still act like a captain," Xhaka added. "I get a lot of respect from my team-mates and our staff, and I am so thankful for that. I will always help the young guys and take responsibility for our performances. 

"Arsenal is still in my heart, 100 per cent. My challenge was never to change people's opinions about me, but to help the team. 

"I understand that we will never be best friends, but I hope we can treat each other with honesty and respect. I want you to know that whatever I do on the pitch, it comes from the right place. 

"I still love this club, I believe Mikel is building a great team, and I want to achieve something special here."

Barcelona have re-established themselves this term after a strong January transfer window.

Barca head coach Xavi, appointed in November, has overseen a major form reversal culminating in last week's 4-0 Clasico win.

The Blaugrana have their sights set on more additions as they continue to re-build after Lionel Messi's exit last year.

TOP STORY - BARCELONA SET SIGHTS ON SALAH

Barcelona boss Xavi is determined to land Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah , claims Mundo Deportivo.

The cash-strapped Catalans have switched their attention from the race for Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland.

Salah is yet to re-sign with Liverpool where he is out of contract in 2023.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta said he will not put the club at financial risk in order to sign Erling Haaland, per Fabrizio Romano for Mundo Deportivo.

 

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool will not pursue West Ham United's Declan Rice amid interest from several clubs in the England international midfielder, claims Football Insider.

- Leeds United has rejected a £29million bid from  Barcelona  for 25-year-old Brazilian winger  Raphinha , whose release clause is set at £60million, according to Sport.

- Arsenal midfielder  Granit Xhaka  remains a transfer target for  Roma head coach Jose Mourinho, per the Gazzetta dello Sport.

- According to the Daily Mail, Wolves and Portugal winger  Pedro Neto  is on  Paris Saint-Germain's  wanted list.

Even if not quite the force they once were, Manchester United still like to show their fans their ambitions match up, especially in the transfer market.

Interim manager Ralf Rangnick has the job of ensuring the Red Devils qualify for next season's Champions League and is currently on course, with them sitting fourth in the Premier League.

However, the club supposedly remain confident of adding big names at the end of the season regardless of a top-four finish.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD WANT MORE ENGLAND STARS

Manchester United believe they can attract big names to Old Trafford at the end of the season, even if they may not have Champions League football to offer.

According to ESPN, the Premier League club have an ambitious list of targets that includes England pair Declan Rice and Harry Kane, and they believe the 2016 signing of Paul Pogba – when they were in the Europa League – is proof the name of the club is enticing enough.

It remains to be seen what that means for whomever the incoming permanent manager is by then, but they will likely not say no to additions of that calibre.

ROUND-UP

Atletico Madrid are plotting a move for Georginio Wijnaldum from Paris Saint-Germain, according to Fichajes.

- Calciomercato claims Inter wish to add Torino defender Bremer to their ranks next season and may already have an agreement with the player.

- Meanwhile, Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele is being pursued on a free transfer by both Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain, 90min reports.

- The Catalan giants could get one in return though as they have offered a two-year deal to Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta, according to Sport.

- Marca is reporting Tottenham are looking at Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Unai Simon as a potential long-term replacement for Hugo Lloris.

Roma could reignite their interest in Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka at the end of the season, Calciomercato says.

Paulo Dybala is out of contract at Juventus at the end of this season.

The two parties are expected to resume talks next month.

In the meantime, some top clubs are monitoring Dybala's availability.

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL IN FOR DYBALA MOVE

Liverpool have reached to Juventus with a move for Argentina international Dybala, claims Tuttomercatoweb.

The Reds are looking to capitalise on Dybala's contract situation although Manchester City and Inter are also interested in the 28-year-old.

Dybala has been with the Bianconeri since 2015 but is yet to agree terms on a new contract.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca reports that Barcelona have contacted Borussia Dortmund about signing Thomas Meunier on loan until the end of the season with BVB open to the idea.

- Wolves will not accept bids below £40 million for Ruben Neves amid interest from Manchester United and Arsenal, claims The Sun.

- Porto have turned down Tottenham's offer of £37m with add-ons for Colombian winger Luis Diaz reports the Evening Standard.

- Jose Mourinho's Roma remain hopeful of landing Arsenal's Granit Xhaka before the transfer window closes according to the Mail.

- Goal reports that Arsenal have agreed a deal to sign US international goalkeeper Matt Turner in the off-season from New England Revolution.

- Aston Villa's Ashley Young has declined an approach from Newcastle United claims The Mirror.

Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka accepts he needs to "improve" his disciplinary record, but he does not think he can change his approach.

Xhaka attracted widespread criticism after he was sent off in Arsenal's EFL Cup semi-final first leg draw with Liverpool.

The Switzerland international made a wild lunge on Diogo Jota in the first half, with the Liverpool man looking to bring down a lofted pass before he received a high kick from Xhaka.

It was by no means the first time Xhaka's discipline has been called into question – that was his fifth red card since joining Arsenal in 2016, the joint-most of any Premier League player in that time.

But he does not think changing his game is possible, pointing out that it is not as if he is doing it on purpose.

"It's not like I'm planning this," he told Sky Sports prior to Liverpool's 2-0 win in Thursday's semi-final second leg. "It's not like I'm doing this on purpose, but sometimes I am in a position where I have to take a 50:50.

"It's risky, of course. Now people will say, 'Yeah, but why do you always [take] risks?' This is who I am. I can't change myself from today to tomorrow.

"Of course, I need to improve and I know I need to improve, but in this moment, if Jota takes the ball and he scores, they will say again, 'Why didn't you stop him?' Now, I stop him, they say, 'Why do you get the red card?'

"In the end, after the game, everyone is smarter than in the moment – myself as well. Of course, when I see it back now and say, 'Do I need to go into the duel or not?' No.

"But it is a moment, a second, where I have to make a decision and this time I made the wrong one and I feel sorry for the team, I feel sorry for the supporters, but thank God they did an amazing job after that."

Concerns over Xhaka's decision-making has not been limited to just red cards, though, as he also has a poor record when it comes to conceding penalties.

He has committed six offences that led to spot-kicks during his Arsenal career, with only David Luiz, Fernandinho (both seven) and Wilfred Ndidi conceding more over the same period.

The most recent of Xhaka's six came against Manchester City on New Year's Day, with the Arsenal man penalise for a coming together with Bernardo Silva – while there was contact, the Portugal star appeared to throw himself to the floor in a theatrical manner.

Referee Stuart Attwell did not immediately award the penalty, only doing so after a VAR check, and Xhaka voiced his frustration with situations like these.

"If you if you look in slow motion, every duel, every foul looks too much," he added. "[Against City], he [Attwell] had decided already it wasn't a penalty.

"But after, they go to VAR and check and check and check. The thing is, they are checking two pictures, three pictures, and they are not seeing all the action.

"I hope that in the future the referees can make their own decisions. Don't let the people from outside look in slow motion and stuff like this because I believe in a slow motion, everything looks harder than it is.

"In the end, they are human beings as well. They make mistakes as well. This is part of the job. Everyone makes mistakes. We have to accept decisions and look forward."

Takumi Minamino squandered a golden chance for Liverpool as 10-man Arsenal defended resolutely despite to draw 0-0 draw in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final.

The Anfield fixture had initially been scheduled as the second leg, but last week's match was postponed due to a number of coronavirus cases within Liverpool's squad.

Arsenal were thrashed 4-0 in their previous trip to the ground in November but a depleted Gunners side ensured the second leg will start on level terms following a stoic display, which was complicated by Granit Xhaka's 24th-minute red card.

Missing Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane due to the Africa Cup of Nations, Liverpool toiled in front of a packed Arsenal defence and when a golden chance did finally come, Minamino fluffed his lines.

Already shorn of the injured Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard, who had tested positive for COVID-19, Arsenal were dealt another blow when Cedric Soares limped off in the 11th minute.

The visitors would surely have been behind if not for Ben White's intervention, with the defender just managing to deny Roberto Firmino a tap-in.

Though they weathered an early storm, Arsenal's task was made harder when Xhaka received his marching orders for a desperate, high swipe at Diogo Jota just outside the Gunners' area.

Minamino, Liverpool's hero from the quarter-final win over Leicester City, almost caught out Aaron Ramsdale early in the second half with a long-range cross-shot that dropped just wide.

Alisson had to be alert to thwart Bukayo Saka at the other end in a rare Arsenal attack, but Minamino should have won it late on.

Ramsdale flapped at a cross and left his goal gaping, yet Minamino's first-time effort flew high over the crossbar.

What does it mean? Reds attack blunted

Liverpool are not the only team dealing with the loss of key players due to AFCON – Arsenal were missing midfielder Thomas Partey – but without Salah and Mane, Jurgen Klopp's side lacked the cutting edge to turn their dominance into goals, whose only shot on target came in stoppage time.

Mikel Arteta will have been thrilled with the grit his depleted team showed throughout, and will now be looking to make home advantage count in the second leg, though he will be without Xhaka, while Saka joined Cedric in trudging off with an injury issue late on.

White takes charge

With Arsenal going to a back five following Xhaka's dismissal, White proved a commanding figure at the back, having by that point already denied Liverpool a certain opener.

The England international made three tackles, three blocks and as many interceptions, all team-highs, while he also contributed five clearances, including one just in front of the line in injury time.

New year, same old Xhaka

Oh, Granit, it was all so predictable. The Arsenal midfielder was beaten for pace by Jota, who latched onto Andrew Robertson's brilliant diagonal, and in a desperate bid to deny the Liverpool forward a one-v-one with Ramsdale, he lashed out and caught the Portugal international in the stomach.

Xhaka, who had just nine touches in his 24 minutes on the pitch, has now been sent off five times in all competitions since his Arsenal debut in 2016-17. That number may seem surprisingly low, given his tendency to dive in rashly, but it is still more than any other Premier League player.

What's next?

Both teams are back in Premier League action on Sunday, with Liverpool hosting Brentford and Arsenal taking on north London rivals Tottenham prior to next week's second leg.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta says Granit Xhaka will be a "big, big loss" but insists the Gunners will cope in the absence of the midfielder.

Xhaka has been ruled out for up to three months after suffering a medial knee ligament injury during Sunday's victory over north London rivals Tottenham.

The Switzerland international sustained the blow during an accidental collision with Lucas Moura, and subsequently limped off to be replaced by Albert Sambi Lokonga.

Xhaka is likely to miss the remainder of 2021, although the club confirmed he will not require surgery on the injury.

This is the latest setback for the 29-year-old, who had just returned from a three-match suspension following his red card at Manchester City last month, while he also contracted COVID-19 while on international duty with Switzerland recently.

Arteta is confident the midfielder will use the setback to his advantage, but is adamant there is enough quality within the squad to deal with his absence.

"Obviously, it's really bad news personally for Granit," the head coach said. 

"He's a big, big loss. We're going to lose him for a while. We'll try to keep him as close as possible to the team. 

"He's a strong man; he will use this time to focus on other things, and I'm sure he will be back in the right place when he's back.

"We are here to help him, and I'm sure we'll find some ways around it because we have some really good players who can do the job."

With a trip to Brighton and Hove Albion coming up on October 2, Arteta could opt to revert to the 4-1-4-1 system he utilised in the 1-0 win over Burnley that saw Thomas Partey operate as a lone anchor, with Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard in front of him.

Should the Spaniard decide to bring in a like-for-like replacement for Xhaka instead, he has Lokonga, Mohamed Elneny and Ainsley Maitland-Niles to choose from.

Arsenal have revealed midfielder Granit Xhaka has been ruled out for around three months after sustaining knee ligament damage against Tottenham last weekend.

The Switzerland international returned to Arsenal's starting line-up for the north London derby after serving a three-match ban but was forced off in the 82nd minute.

Xhaka was accidentally caught by Lucas Moura in the Gunners' 3-1 win at Emirates Stadium after the Brazil international had initially been challenged by Thomas Partey.

Speaking after Sunday's victory, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta admitted he was "pretty worried" about a potential injury lay-off for the 29-year-old.

Arsenal have now confirmed that, while Xhaka does not require surgery, the injury is serious enough to potentially keep him out of action for the rest of 2021.

"Further to injuring his right knee during Sunday's match against Tottenham, assessments and scans have confirmed Granit Xhaka suffered a significant injury to his medial knee ligament," a club statement read on Wednesday.

"A specialist consultation took place in London on Tuesday evening, which has determined that Granit does not require surgery. 

"Granit's recovery and rehabilitation programme will start immediately, and we are aiming for him to be back in action in approximately three months.

"Everyone at the club will now be supporting and working hard with Granit to get him back on the pitch as soon as possible."

Xhaka will therefore miss November's meetings with Liverpool and Manchester United and may be doubtful to face Manchester City on New Year's Day. Arsenal visit Spurs two weeks later.

He will also play no further part in Switzerland's World Cup qualifying group-stage campaign.

Despite only Bukayo Saka making more appearances (46) for Arsenal last season in all competitions, Xhaka was heavily tipped to join Roma during the most recent transfer window.

The former Borussia Monchengladbach man instead agreed a contract extension with Arsenal and started four of their opening six Premier League games this term.

Xhaka ranks second to Albert Sambi Lokonga for tackles won among Arsenal players in the Premier League in 2021-22 – seven compared to nine, having played a game fewer than his team-mate – while only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has won more duels (25) than Xhaka's 22.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta says "everything can happen" with regards to Alexandre Lacazette's future ahead of the north London derby against Tottenham on Sunday.

Lacazette's contract expires at the end of this season and the striker has been linked with the likes of Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla.

Gunners manager Arteta is unsure whether Lacazette, who has scored two goals in three matches this season, will stay at the club.

The Spaniard said: "We discuss that internally and we discuss that with him. It's a long season ahead of us, everything can happen, everything is open."

Granit Xhaka is available to return against Arsenal's fierce rivals at the Emirates Stadium this weekend after serving a three-match ban.

Arteta has a fully fit squad to choose from and says Xhaka has looked sharp in training, despite the midfielder having also tested positive for coronavirus while on international duty with Switzerland this month.

"He came back and he was flying [in training], because he really looks after himself," Arteta said. "He gives you the maximum and the best possible attitude to compete and win matches."

While Arsenal have won three consecutive games in all competitions without conceding a goal, Spurs have lost their previous two Premier League matches 3-0.

Arteta does not believe it is necessarily a good time to play Tottenham, who have won just one of their past 28 away league games against Arsenal.

He said: "When the ball is rolling I think we all forget where we are, we're just trying to compete to win that football match, we won't be any different from them."

Arteta added: "We are playing at home, we're going to have our people right behind us, they're going to create an incredible atmosphere that you have to be able to enjoy, empower and make the most of it."

The former Arsenal midfielder says his players are well aware of the magnitude of the game.

"I will make sure that they understand what it means, the history between the two clubs and what it means emotionally to all of our supporters," Arteta said. "You have to play the game with a slightly different skin, because there is a little bit more at stake."

Switzerland captain Granit Xhaka turned down opportunities for a COVID-19 vaccination before testing positive for the coronavirus, it has been revealed.

Coach Murat Yakin and Swiss Football Federation (SFV) communications chief Adrian Arnold declared Xhaka, who was forced out of the World Cup qualifier against Greece on Wednesday, exercised his right not to receive the vaccine.

Xhaka has faced stiff criticism in the Swiss media for snubbing the opportunity to bolster his body's defences as the pandemic continues to surge.

Yakin said: "We can simply give recommendations to the players. It is his decision not to be vaccinated and we must respect it. He's the captain, but he's also a man. It is his own rights."

According to Arnold, Xhaka was the only member of the Switzerland squad not to have had the jab or have already recovered from the virus.

The Arsenal player's case comes in the week that the SFV has written to its 1,400 clubs and 300,000 members urging them to be vaccinated. It also follows Xhaka's red card for a dangerous tackle on Gunners duty in a 5-0 defeat against Manchester City on Saturday.

Arnold said, quoted by several Swiss media: "Granit Xhaka was not vaccinated. He's a player who isn't vaccinated. We left this up to each player, it's a personal decision of each player – just like any other person in Switzerland.

"All the other players in the team have been vaccinated or have recovered – so they are more or less safe, at least from a medical point of view. One is never quite sure.

"Now, unfortunately, Granit caught it. From a sporting point of view, it is a shame for us at this important moment."

Arnold said the Switzerland team were doing all they could to reduce contact within their ranks, with social distancing encouraged where possible and masks worn in meetings.

"I think it would have been irresponsible on our part not to know who in the team is not vaccinated," Arnold said.

"We had intensive discussions with the players already during the Euros. We have done everything to facilitate access to the vaccine, but each person is free to decide whether or not they want to be vaccinated."

It appears unlikely Xhaka will be able to play in Switzerland's next game, which comes against Euro 2020 winners Italy in Basle on Sunday.

However, Arnold, quoted in Blick, said: "We still have hope. On Thursday he will do another PCR test. It is the case that [on Monday] he had a negative PCR test, on Wednesday morning a negative rapid test, now unfortunately a positive one. So we still have the hope that the test on Thursday will be negative."

Arsenal sit bottom of the Premier League table heading into the clash with Norwich City following the international break, though regardless of Xhaka's health by then, the midfielder is facing a three-match suspension so will not be involved.

Arsenal's Granit Xhaka has tested positive for coronavirus while on international duty with Switzerland.

The Swiss team confirmed on Wednesday that the midfielder – who was sent off in Arsenal's 5-0 hammering at the hands of Manchester City last weekend – was in isolation after returning a positive PCR test result.

Xhaka, who is Switzerland's captain, showed symptoms early on Wednesday, ahead of his country's friendly against Greece,

An initial test came back negative, but a subsequent PCR test confirmed a positive result. Xhaka will have another test on Thursday.

It was confirmed he had no contact with his team-mates throughout Wednesday and the team doctor deemed no further measures had to be taken as all the other players were either all vaccinated or had previously had COVID-19 and recovered, though a member of staff had to go into quarantine.

Xhaka impressed for Switzerland at Euro 2020 but has failed to bring that form into the Premier League season, with Arsenal losing all three of their games so far.

Mikel Arteta's side sit bottom of the table heading into the clash with Norwich City following the international break, though regardless of Xhaka's mandatory quarantine period, the midfielder is facing a three-match suspension so will not be involved.

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