Dutch Get Melo, Theo Gets Ready & Gossip
The World Cup sprang back into life yesterday with two absorbing matches. Everyone’s Favourite Football Nation (© the media) exited as a porous defence failed dismally against a solid Dutch team who underlined their credentials as one of the pre-tournament favourites whilst Uruguay proved cheats do prosper but at some cost, defeating Ghana as last minute nerves sent a penalty onto the crossbar and broke a nation’s hearts.
Brazil were a pale shadow of their more flamboyant predecessors. Robinho scored a simple goal, highlighting the Dutch weaknesses at the back whilst the midfield and attack of their European opponents were stifled for the opening quarter of the game. After that, it was the limitations of the Brazilians which were exposed, culminating in a Felipe Melo own goal, a deft header into the net.
The afternoon got worse for Melo, a senseless red card for stamping on Robben. His temperament was questionable beforehand but to be so easy to wind-up raises serious doubts about him. To counter that, he is one of the few from Brazil who prior to yesterday had enhanced his reptutation with his performances. His pass to Robinho for the goal was exquisite.
Robin van Persie had a busy afternoon; hard work with little individual reward, a fair summary of his World Cup thus far. To be honest, I doubt that it is bothering him unduly. He is playing reasonably well, lacking goals for his endeavours but that is the only thing missing from his game. The feeling I have is that he will be the one to pop up in the Final, whilst attention is devoted to Messi or Villa, to be the difference.
In the evening match, Suarez committed handball in the final minute of a mistake-strewn match, giving his team a lifeline. Gyan hammered the ball onto the bar, penalties ensued. Nerves steadied, Gyan scored Ghana’s first but some of the rest of his colleagues lost theirs with awful penalties. Abreu’s final kick showed steel and experience with cojones the size of watermelons to drift the ball into the centre of the net. Fantastic if you score, beyond humiliation if you miss.
So to Suarez. His punishment is to miss the semi-final and in his absence much rests on Forlan’s shoulders. He scored a cracking freekick but for Uruguay to win, they needed their best player at their disposal. To the neutral his actions are worthy of condemnation to a degree, highlighting the inherent hypocrisy of us all as football supporters. If I were Uruguayan, Suarez did what I would have expected of him. Were I Ghanaian, it is utterly rephrensible, cheating. Such is the life of a football fan.
Onto Arsenal, Theo Walcott has told ATVO that he is targetting an injury-free season to get over his miserable time last campaign:
Hopefully I can have an injury-free season – that is my first target, and to try and help this team win something. I think it is difficult to have a whole season without any injuries, but that is football and we have got to live with that. I will just be trying to concentrate on having a better season than last year, because it was a disappointment not to play as much as I wanted to. Hopefully I can give something more to the fans this year.
Enough people are suggesting he should move so to give less would be the flimiest of excuses that they need to become more vitriolic. Yet Walcott does need to deliver more; he needs to be fitter than ever to do so. Competition for the right side of attack is as strong as it has ever been at Arsenal with Bendtner maturing and the chance to have left-footed players cutting in from the right to provide a different potency to the attack.
There is a case to play Walcott on the left, to develop that part of his game to allow him to fulfil his own aim of being a central striker. He is some way off that aim at the moment and Wenger could help that by playing him centrally in FA Cup games, fitness permitting.
Theo observed of the team:
We want to win something now instead of using the excuse that we are young players. We were very close [to winning a trophy]. We always tend to be that touching distance, but we have dropped quite a lot of points where we should not have.
Wenger has a great deal of faith in his players. It has not yet been fully repaid. Last season, like 2007-08, indicated that the potential is on the verge of being realised with the final step to be taken. However, key to this is not repeating the step back of 2008-09. That is the nature of a team which is evolving; steps forward are accompanied by a step back.
Criticism of the squad is going to emerge possibly from the opening day if defeat arises at Anfield. It is the toughest away trip on the opening day since well, last season’s was deemed to be. A positive result gives the team something to thrive upon, a chance to instil some confidence in clashes with teams deemed to be ‘top four’ although the Liverpool claim to be in that clique is tarnished.
Meanwhile, Sandro Rosell is trying to prove he is ‘THE MAN’ by engaging the Arsenal board in a game of chicken, telling the world that they will not pay daft money for Cesc. It’s like panto season; the big villain – Laporta – has left the scene and now one of his minnions is picking up the reins. A shame that no-one at Arsenal is listening to the Catalan twaddle which is being spouted.
How transfer rumours build and circulate was highlighted yesterday. Real Madrid were identified as suitors for Robin van Persie, an English-based sports site reported that this story was in Marca. Except the story in Marca was that part of the Sportingo network reported that £35m would be enough for Arsenal to sell the Dutchman. This morning, Marca reports that Real Madrid – unnamed source, of course – thought £35m too much so would not be following up the bid unless Arsenal dropped their asking price…