WEDNESDAY'S BIG STORIES
Things are looking up at Arsenal.
After weeks of speculation, the Gunners have completed the signing of Brazilian defender Gabriel Magalhaes from Lille for £23.14m, which could rise to £27m. The 22-year-old's arrival is drawing excitement from Arsenal fans and rightly so. The Brazilian should bring defensive balance alongside compatriot David Luiz or promising young Frenchman William Saliba in a four-man backline or, if it's a three, as the left centre-back.
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"So many fans were sending me messages asking me to join Arsenal, and that played a big part in me signing for this club," Gabriel told the club's website.
I know the history and traditions of this club and it is a pleasure being here. I am very happy and hope I can contribute to many titles with the Arsenal shirt.
Whichever position he plays in, his impressive Ligue 1 stats and high praise from scouts suggest Arsenal have landed another very talented player and assured character this window.
Willian, Pablo Mari, Cedric Soares, Gabriel all in with Dani Ceballos and a new Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang contract expected to follow... Arsenal have navigated this turbulent transfer window better than most of their league rivals.
Shrewd signings mixed in with the tactically-astute Arteta firmly having his feet under the table, and a motivated club captain, should all ensure Arsenal finish well above eighth in the Premier League table. There are plenty of reasons to be cheerful at the Emirates Stadium.
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Lots of England talking points, but so what?
Will Mason Mount or Jack Grealish play prominent roles? How will Danny Ings get on? Is Mason Greenwood going to explode on the international stage? Will Ainsley Maitland-Niles and/or Conor Coady feature and maybe even shine?
These are all great questions and, with the Euros on a hopefully Covid-free horizon, it would be brilliant to get some indication of how a new-look England team could line up in their Group D opener against Croatia at Wembley Stadium on June 13 next year.
England can take their Nations League clash in Reykjavik as seriously as they want - throw in lots and lots of Covid testing for good measure - but, unfortunately, the reality is facing Iceland will probably not provide many, if any, meaningful answers.
Why not? Well, Iceland won't be fielding a team that means business. Gylfi Sigurdsson, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Alfred Finnbogason and Aron Gunnarsson, arguably their four best players, all chose not to leave their clubs for the international matches.
"I told them I was disappointed with their decision but I will not punish them," Iceland coach Erik Hamren said.
A behind-closed-doors, Covid-19-themed clash against the nation ranked 39th in the world without four key players in a friendly tournament group-stage opener. Would we really learn much even if England won 5-0? Probably not, no.
Denmark on Tuesday night should be more worthwhile, though!
Ancelotti is making his mark
Napoli's Allan and Real Madrid playmaker James Rodriguez are both set for moves to Merseyside as Ancelotti builds a side that he, and all Everton fans, will hope can do a whole lot better than finish 12th.
Everton made seven permanent signings in the 2019/20 summer transfer window and arguably only one of those, Andre Gomes, really improved the quality of the starting XI.
They required a smarter transfer strategy entering into this window and, although a few weeks ago reports emerged of an unhappy Ancelotti - there must have been a lot of loveable eyebrow raising going on - at the lack of transfers being made, it appears the Toffees are getting their act together.
Allan and Rodriguez enter the wealthy club with vast top-flight experience and boast Champions League pedigree. The experienced duo could forge one of the most exciting midfield pairings in the Premier League while Abdoulaye Doucoure from Watford would be a very promising addition, too.
It is unlikely Everton could attract Allan and/or Rodriguez to Merseyside if Ancelotti was not the manager. The Italian has worked with both players before. If the 61-year-old can squeeze the best out of his former Real player Rodriguez, 29, in particular, then Everton could be a real force in the fight for European places this season.
It's Joey Barton's birthday everyone! As it is an international break it would only be right to celebrate this glorious occasion by reliving that memorable moment when the Fleetwood Town manager pretended to be a Frenchman at Marseille back in 2012.
Heroes and Zeroes
There are not many men who can achieve the feat of being a hero and a zero at the same time, but Italian goalkeeper Tommaso Berni has smashed it out of the park.
The 37-year-old unsung *hero* was Inter Milan's third-choice goalkeeper, but he finally departs the Serie A club after SIX years having made *zero* appearances for the first team and picking up two red cards along the way. Both reds came from the bench this season.
According to Corriere Della Sella, Berni is passionate about music, fine literature and environmentalism away from the pitch.
What a ledge. The Warm-Up could only dream of being so well-rounded.
The Athletic (£) have done a nice background piece on Gabriel which delves deep into his time in Brazilian football and his rapid rise to the Premier League.
Arsenal’s new centre-half is still just 22 but continues to carry himself with the assurance of a far older player. In 2019-20, his dominant performances at the heart of Lille’s defence saw L’Equipe dub him Le Colosse Bresilien — The Brazilian Colossus. His dramatic progress is founded on a resolute strength of character.
International football does not get going until Thursday evening so why not enjoy some tennis instead? You can get all the latest news and coverage of the US Open on the Eurosport website and app as Andy Murray shows us all why he is a truly great man.
Alternatively, if tennis is not your thing, check out the Tour de France - it is Stage 5 today.
Speaking of a cultured, well-rounded individual who has achieved legendary status, but with plenty more Warm-Up appearances than Berni has league matches, it's Andi Thomas with tomorrow's edition!
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