Early Fixture Thoughts And Euro2012: Football(er)s Coming Home
How good are Arsenal? We’ll find out in the opening months of the season. The draft Premier League fixtures are released with September featuring trips to Anfield and Eastlands. The visit to City is the start of a bizarre run of three away games out of four (thanks for the update) over a month or so, something which the Premier League has always sought to avoid in the past. That ‘debt’ is repaid with three instances of double-header home games in November and December.
Getting the trip to Stoke RFC out of the way early in the season isn’t bad whilst minds will be focussed by that run of away games. If the players want to challenge for the title, tip-top form is going to be required from the outset. That includes no last minute signings from the club perspective with all newcomers in and assimilated before the season starts.
As a set of fixtures go, there is always room for complaint and I am sure that these will rain in when the Champions League draw is made. However, one thing is certain the run of tough early away games means that we might be off the pace at the end of September which needs to be borne in mind before knees start jerking faster than an outbreak of St Vitus Dance.
Germany 2 – 1 Denmark
Portugal 2 – 1 Netherlands
The climax of Euro2012’s group phase has offered evidence of Uefa’s folly. In four years time, increasing the participants will diminish the intensity of the matches. Michel Platini’s desire for Europe’s tournaments at club and international level to be more inclusive, will be exposed as making it easier for the larger nations to qualify. The Dutch and Russians will no doubt rest somewhat easier.
Andrey Arshavin’s frank exchange of views with Russian supporters might be replicated by Robin van Persie. Oranje supporters have made their preference for Hunterlaar’s inclusion clear; last night they got their wish which provided an interesting indication of what the future may hold for Arsenal were van Persie to be shifted sideways or deeper. He was relatively ineffective but that is more indicative of the malaise which has beset their camp this summer.
It underlines how important it is for the team to defend as a unit; for all of the attacking talent, the Dutch did not have a defender worthy of the name in the tournament. The callowness of Willens was matched by the positional paucity of their centre back whilst van der Wiel barely registered.
The early exit will bring van Persie’s Arsenal situation into focus; there are fewer matches to report on and the need to fill column inches surely means that Ivan’s ‘good times‘ might be closer than we think, although it is not chic to think that. England’s continued involvement will occupy minds only for so long and the inevitable quarter-final exit this week offers brief respite. Provided they do not lose to Ukraine, of course.
Germany progressed to meet Greece in the quarter-finals with Lukas Podolski popping up with a vital goal. He is the first Arsenal player without transfer speculation surrounding him, to score in Euro2012. It would be good to see him repeat that type of goal for the club next season, one of a second wave of attackers arriving late in the area to finish with aplomb.
A record of 1 goal every 3 games is none too shabby domestically for a wide player, something we have missed from the left hand side in recent seasons. I think it will be the work ethic which continues the honeymoon period with supporters. New players are judged and dismissed very quickly at Arsenal – perhaps generally – but both Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain work hard for the team which buys them more tolerance if their performances are perceived to have dropped below the required level, irrespective of whether or not that perception is correct.
Having been cast as the nation’s saviour, life in the european theatre might well be curtailed for Theo Walcott. Hamstring-knack has manifested in the Arsenal player and in rare display of sanity, Roy Hodgson is not minded to start him lest he break down with five minutes played. Stuart Pearce is hopefully taking notes.