Blog Archives

England Departure Signals Arrival Of Transfer Gossip

There was a strong sense of deja vu in watching England exit Euro2012; not penalties – although that played apart. It was a little closer to home than that. As Italy inexorably moved toward the semi-finals, the lack of possession from England was reminiscent of Junior’s team in a football tournament yesterday morning. A newly put together side was hemmed back by more experienced players – yes, even at Under-9s, experience counts – and the gap between defence / midfield and attack became too big to bridge. Penalties even came into play as Junior dragged his wide albeit one awarded in during a match.

The sense of justice being done did not alleviate his despondency but as he observed, it was not a penalty in the first place. He quizzically looked to the touchline for reassurance that he had not missed the latest IFAB update which noted that a goalkeeper handling the ball outside of the penalty area near to a corner quadrant was a penalty offence. We shrugged our shoulders and noted knowingly that crap refereeing decisions happen at all levels. He took solace in the end that his miss and the failure of their opponents to convert the penalty awarded against him for deliberate handball had little overall impact on their record of two draws and three defeats in the tournament.

Be positive Son, you lost 0 – 2 and 0 – 1 (twice) with the single goal defeats coming from defensive errors. You’ll be alright in the league next season if you keep hold of the ball a bit better” seemed to do the trick. Roy Hodgson will no doubt be considering the latter for his England charges. The style of play was not something which you would want to see on a regular basis but given the difficult circumstances into which Hodgson found himself thanks to the dithering of the Football Association in appointing him, the former WBA organised his squad well.

Moving into the World Cup qualifiers and hopefully drawing a curtain across John Terry’s international career, the manager would be encouraged by some, concerned by the performances of others. Surprisingly, Glen Johnson was a bright spot last night looking assured going forward and handling the Italians well. That they were stronger on their right should not diminish his improvement. On the other hand, it is hard to see that Ashley Young did anything in this tournament to merit inclusion in future squads. He was woeful in all three games and moving James Milner to the left to accommodate Theo Walcott from the start must now be on the cards. Or even putting Milner centrally to allow Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s inclusion on the left.

It will be interesting to see what the manager does come September when Jack Wilshere is hopefully fit. Pirlo and de Rossi dominated possession, using the ball wisely to retain possession. Such activity is not natural to Parker whilst Gerrard tries too hard to drive forward; Wilshere has displayed the footballing intelligence to retain the ball rather than cede it cheaply, a quality sorely missing.

All of which means that the transfer merry-g0-round begins in earnest this week, across the back pages at least. Olivier Giroud got the ball rolling,

I am so happy to be signing for Arsenal — it is something that represents so much for me

Which confirms what has widely been believed to be the case given that Arsène pretty much said the same last week. No arguments since that strengthens the forward line. It also suggests that the manager expects to see several departees, Podolski’s signing also adding depth across the left side as well as central options.

Podolski and Giroud offer a potential reduction on the reliance upon Robin van Persie. Arsenal’s team ethic is not under question; prima donna’s do not consistently surface. Moments, yes but not consistently. There is a need for more members of the team to take ‘goal’ responsibility. Borussia Dortmund have won the last two Bundesliga titles through adopting a Musketeer approach: “all for one, one for all”. Sometimes you get the feeling with Arsenal that it is, “All for one, one-two-three for Robin van Persie”.

The over-reliance on one player is not unique to this squad, Arsenal have been doing it for years with Henry, Wright and many others before. However, there is a balance to be struck; title-winning sides have a key goalscorer but there is a second tier of players who score more than ten goals in the league a season. That second pool numbers several not one or two and it is a crucial group. Without them, the dependency on the single key goalscorer becomes overwhelming with goals at a premium and points become squeezed.

More importantly, they score key goals and that additional threat is something which is sometimes noticeable in its absence when confidence is lacking in the midfield shooting. We are better than we used to be and Theo Walcott fulfilled his side of the bargain in that sense; the left with a fully settled Gervinho hopefully finding his scoring boots.

Criticism came last week in the ‘return’ of Denilson t0 the club. I would agree with Passenal in yesterday’s comments; there is a lot of revisionism with regard to his performances for the club. The key stick seems to be the Everton game and (I think) Pienaar’s goal; that his back injury impacted is forgotten. The Brazilian was not the greatest midfielder to don the red and white but he was far from the worst. He was an honest, hard-working player, akin to Gilberto in that sense with the criticism of him now reminiscent of that which came his predecessors way in the first season he was at the club. That is often erased from the collective memory.

Prior to his injury, Denilson was a cog in a midfield that retained possession well. He was not vital in the way that Cesc was but he was an important part of the 2008-09 team. That should not be forgotten nor that he was contributing toward a goal every five game, either scoring or assisting. It says more about the immediately judgemental nature of today’s football supporter that they ignore their own memories and fall into line with the braying sheep who must decry and belittle to fulfil their own sense of self-worth.

Despite this, I doubt we will see him play for the club again. São Paulo may not want to pay €6m for his services but the only person to have mentioned that value is their chairman. That he is posturing in the transfer market is overlooked; we do it to other clubs, why is it presumed that a deal is dead in the water when we want to sell a player. And why is it assumed that a vocal suitor is the only one around?

More I am sure will be clearer over coming weeks. Until then, let the dervishes whirl to their transfer tune and try not to get sucked into their madness too quickly; it isn’t good for your sanity.

’til Tomorrow.

Protecting Interests In The Transfer Merry-Go-Round

A bright morning here, something of a false dawn no doubt with the rain on its way. The Greeks will know all about false promise; utterly outplayed in the first half and fortunate to enter the interval with a single goal deficit, they dared to dream when Samoras’ equalised on fifty-five minutes. It was shortlived, of course; Germany were ruthless in their destruction of the Greek defences in running out 4 – 2 winners.

The term ‘efficient’ is often applied to their performances but last night, they were as good in possession as any of the top nations at this tournament. There was an expansive side to their game which echoed of 1972 at Wembley in their destruction of England in the quarter-finals of this tournament. Of course the Greeks made it easy for them and that should not be forgotten but you can only beat the opposition in front of you.

The winners of tomorrow’s quarter-final between England and Italy will meet the Germans with in all likelihood, an Iberian derby in the other semi-final. France are very much a work-in-progress and to be honest, I do not see them beating Spain or indeed offering a great deal of resistance. Like the Dutch, unrest is reported in their camp and when that happens for the French it is a signal in recent years that implosion is not far away.

All of which is a pity for Laurent Koscielny. It will be good experience for him this evening in the middle of France’s central defence and opportunity to show the good form he has shown for Arsenal last season. A pity that Laurent Blanc did not trust him earlier; his omission against England was both surprising (he knew the players) and not (Blanc picked his first choice pairing). Whether Koscielny would have prevented Lescott’s opener is a moot point but tonight is a chance to split that partnership and take his career to another level.

As he does that Tomas Rosicky is considering his options with regard to international football. It is a point I have raised a number of times before and sensible that he is thinking things through. Even though he is only 31 and could continue playing for his country, he has suffered injury problems in the past. There comes a point when he has to weigh that honour against longevity at club level. There are precedents for this decision in every country, some borne of petulance, some necessity. For every Carragher there is a Scholes.

His form in the second half of the season was as good as he has displayed since joining the club. This was aided by his fitness levels; easing the strain on his body by reducing the number of matches he plays in is surely a sensible option.

Rivalling Rosicky in midfield is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Having sold some property for £25m, Arsenal are intent of spending it quickly. The youngster is apparently to be offered a deal that trebles his current wages, reported to be £15k per week. The money does not bother me in terms of the size of his salary; supply and demand, etc. The club is in an invidious position; do they sit and make him earn an increase or do they give him parity with other members of the squad?

Presumably the manager has agreed with this course of action. It will no doubt be a stick to beat the club with, criticism over perceived salaries but given that his performances at club level have led to a call-up and widely praised appearances at Euro2012, is it wrong for the club to take this course of action?

There is a lot of conjecture around at the moment, mainly driven by Robin van Persie’s contract negotiations. Or lack of them although it is hard to envisage that one meeting is the sole interaction by the club and player’s representatives. Marouane Chamakh is reported to believe his future and that of the Dutchman are intertwined. I am utterly convinced they are not; Podolski and Giroud are ahead of him in the queue for a place in the starting line-up and Chamakh offers nothing different to either of them in terms of playing style.

I still believe that he, Vela and Bendtner will alleviate the pressure on playing spaces in the squad for strikers by leaving this summer with the latter duo likely to face each other in Spanish football next season. Chamakh? I find it hard to believe he will stay and fight for a starting line-up place. He has wasted a year of his career on the sidelines at Arsenal already with opportunities restricted for the first team. There will come a point where this affects his international career, with younger players featuring for their club sides on a regular basis challenging for his place in the national team. And you cannot blame a player for moving to protect his own interests in that sense; the club will do similar and that is too often forgotten in the transfer merry-go-round.

That’s it for today. ’til Tomorrow.

One Of Us Speaks – We Know What We Are

What did you expect from England before this tournament? I expected them to go out in the first round. This squad was one of the weakest in the group stage. I assumed they would be brave, as usual. I figured there would be some contentious decision along the way to deflect from the rank performances, but I thought England would be home by now.

But here they are, just two games away from the final. So you can see how I might be pleasantly surprised. The team has eked out a win against the co-hosts, fought back against Sweden, who are a decent side by the way, and kept in-form France at bay in the opener. The football has been grim and defensive, and I don’t doubt that England are unpopular amongst all neutrals, but I’m pretty sure there was no other choice.

Not at this tournament anyway.

It’s obvious, but international players work under club managers with different philosophies, drilling them in completely different ways. The few national teams that play with style successfully have the benefit of firstly featuring a settled group of players, but also coming from football cultures that have a fixed idea of how the game should be played. I suppose you could call it an identity – what’s England’s identity? No idea.

Just shooting the breeze here, but one of the things that makes the Premier League so much fun is its spectacular diversity, with the whole spectrum of footballing styles, from the most ambitious and attacking, like Arsenal, to Stoke and, everything in between. This might count against the English national team.

I mean, how will an Arsenal player’s concept of tactics differ from one from someone who’s spent his career at, say, Chelsea?

In England’s case there’s the added problem of a brand new coach, put in position just weeks before the tournament got underway. I’ve always had the idea that possession football needs lots of game-time to flourish, as players get to know and trust each other. And that’s where England has been a bit unlucky. Even by international standards, this current team is a mish-mash, with players from different generations and club backgrounds. Even players from the same clubs have only been together a couple of years at most.

Oh and not to mention that there are too few players in this country with the ability to pass and receive the ball. There have been a couple of interesting prospects coming through in central midfield over the last few years, but only Jack Wilshere has really established himself at a top club, and we all know how the last year went for him.

I see the lack of technique and enterprise as a long-term gripe; it’s one that England fans should probably file away and wait to address after the tournament. We couldn’t have expected Roy Hodgson to do in five weeks what takes years of planning, and can only begin at grass roots.

So, Roy Hodgson is the man for the England job at this time. That’s to say, I’m sure his bosses knew what he would bring to the job, and recognised that he would be the best candidate if England wanted to snatch some pride from their trip to Eastern Europe.

I see him as a problem-solver. If England was in a big mess at the end of last season, then Roy’s a bit like Winston Wolf from Pulp Fiction; showing up to make a quick fix, throwing a duvet over the blood-stained car seats. Talented in his niche, but he isn’t someone to implement a long-term plan, unless he’s willing to be flexible with his tactics in the future. I think I’ve made it clear in this column that I prefer stylish and expansive football, so clearly I’d like that to be the FA’s end goal.

But defensive tactics can be implemented a bit quicker – I think if you’re good at it you can hammer discipline and organisation into teams in a matter of weeks. As I said before, attacking combinations take much longer. I think dull and stubborn has worked out quite well for England.

I’m aware that Arsenal’s international and cosmopolitan fanbase means that this post won’t concern all visitors to A Cultured Left Foot, but I’d now like to explain why I suddenly care about England’s fortunes.

Maybe my experience will resemble yours. In the past it seemed to me that although there has always a tub-thumping element in the build-up to tournaments, and although we were all aware that a minority of hooligans would embarrass us, on the whole we always seemed to be realistic about our chances. We were aware of our limitations, and you could hear it in the songs that captured the mood of the country at the time, expressing hope, not expectation. “I know that was then, but it could be again”, kind of thing.

Something changed after Manchester United won the Champions League in ’99. Everyone became aware that English domestic football was on the rise, and as expectations grew, so did the arrogance and sense of entitlement of onlookers here.

I think what we’re aware of this time, and what eluded a lot of people before, is that the English players at top Premier League clubs are usually just foils for their superior foreign counterparts. When the England squad is assembled we’re left with some talent, but mostly honest triers, like Milner and Scott Parker.

But, for a couple of bad eggs, this is an England team I can get behind. The coach wasn’t the popular choice, but he’s friends with Wenger, which must count for something. What’s more, every positive result is a slap in the face for the clique of football thinkers who have derided him since his appointment.

But, best of all, expectations have been as low as they should have been at every international tournament for the last 16 years. Every coherent attacking move, goal and positive result is a happy surprise. It’s the healthiest way to do it.

Transfer Positives, Did Arsène Really Say That & Arsenal At Euro2012: England Through, Kos Up For France?

Group D

England 1 – 0 Ukraine
France 0 – 2 Sweden

They say that luck in football does not counteract previous events. As an Englishman, I find that hard to believe this morning with quite rightly, Ukranian ire focussed on the officials who should have gone to a high street chain of opticians that I won’t name because they have not paid for advertising space.

John Terry’s back of the net clearance would have changed the game in Donetsk last night but such was the waywardness of their opponents finishing, it is hard to credit that a goal for the hosts would have resulted in anything more than a point for either side.  That would not have changed the pecking order in the group with France being beaten by the Swedes. It was the fastest that Terry has moved all season and even then he was too slow.

As it is England face Italy rather than Spain. Judging by the form displayed by both nations, it will be a battle of attrition with any chance of a spectacle for the neutral relying on England taking the lead. Should Italy score first, there is little evidence to suggest that England with Ashley Young and James Milner filling the wide roles, are capable of providing a genuine goal threat. Noticeably, Steven Gerrard has been more effective at delivering crosses than either of those two.

Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cameos were ineffectual as England were forced onto the back foot by Ukraine. They had to win, it was imperative that the co-hosts were more dynamic than their opponents who knew a draw would suffice.

France on the other hand blew it. Masters of their own destiny, they now face Spain whose performances are reminiscent of their progress in Euro2008 and South Africa 2010. I expect them to be more clinical as the knockout phases progress. Yann M’vila was by all accounts tidy in possession, rarely ceding the ball cheaply; Olivier Giroud was not as effective, underlining the potential element should he join Arsenal. Philippe Mexes suspension for their Spanish encounter surely offers Laurent Koscielny the chance to show his abilities for Les Bleus which will give that match an interesting Arsenal tinge. It would be due recognition for his club form and continued improvement over the past twelve months or so.

According to reports this morning, Giroud has not signed for the club despite France Football insisting earlier this week that a deal had been concluded. Deputy Dawg, sorry, Deputy President of Montepellier, Laurent Nicollin, observed that the transfer was progressing,

Discussions are happening and going well, as part of the clause set. Things are moving serenely

Serene is rarely a description applied to transfers and little wonder that the tabloids are scratching their heads as to how to work that comment into a frenzy. Luckily for them, Arsenal’s parent club are looking to take Thomas Vermaelen off our hands so they have something to get their teeth into. Except he is third choice so not really back page fodder as such.

Arsène meanwhile has spoken openly about Robin van Persie. Or at least the Italian press claim he has, which in all probability means he said no such thing. But it’s the summer and times are quiet so La Repubblica is as good a source for a quote as any,

He will stay at Arsenal. There is no reason why a top player, a big champion would want a move to Serie A – in terms of the prestige of the league, the level of play or financial considerations. If he moves there, I will buy you a caramello

No doubt some will believe this good news but as with all media outlets, it carries a health warning. La Repubblica is a Roman-based newspaper that likes nothing more than to denigrate the northern cities. It’s editorial direction will publish any story that undermines any misplaced sense of advancement by Juve or the Milanese clubs. Highly likely, Arsène said no such thing although it is a nicely crafted nod and wink to the illicit tapping up of Alex Hleb.

I would agree that van Persie seems unlikely to move to Serie A. Even so, it is complacent to think this means he will not move. Whilst his family may conclude that a transfer to another Premier League club is out of the question, I am sure that the wages on offer from Chelsea and City would make that answer less straightforward than it may seem.

Of course they can demonstrate matching his ambition, winning trophies does that. But is ambition the sole factor or even the most defining? van Persie should he stay, will become an Arsenal legend. That phrase is used too liberally but free of injury, he can certainly challenge the upper echelons of the list of highest scoring players in the club’s history. Currently eighth on the list, by the end of October, I would expect him to be fifth with fourth behind Bastin, Wright and Henry a realistic end of season target. Three more seasons? Why not shoot for the top spot – he is less than a century of goals behind Henry. Moreover he would see the genuine affection for the Frenchman and it would not be unreasonable for him to think it might also apply to himself.

Football is cyclical and with so many factors affecting a season, it is hard for clubs to demonstrate that they can match a player’s ambition at the beginning of a campaign. Signings are a signal of intent and thus far, Arsenal are not doing badly but van Persie has a difficult game to play. Say for example, Arsenal bring M’vila and Giroud to join Podolski whilst releasing a few players. If that does not signal the clubs’ intention to challenge for trophies, it is hard to envisage what will. That is tantamount to the Dutchman saying the squad is not good enough for his liking. The ice underfoot is dangerously thin when a captain makes that inference.

’til Tomorrow.

Giroud – Defining Ambition? Theo & Other Euro2012 Thoughts

So Arsenal have signed Olivier Giroud. Well, when I say signed, I mean the contract has not been signed. Nor has a medical taken place. And the club has not paid Montepellier anything. And they have not confirmed it. Still, France Football say it is agreed and surely they have not relied upon the Sporting Director of Borussia Monchengladbach for their information, have they?

Giroud is quoted previously as having said that he wants to play in England but for a French manager. With Laurent Blanc apparently in the running for the Tottenham job, it is presumptuous to believe Giroud wants to sign for Arsenal; until it is confirmed anyway. His signature would be a clear indication that Chamakh or / and Bendtner have no future at the club – the phrasing in that sentence is deliberate since I think one of them might be held onto as third ranked central striker; used in Capital One Cup ties, for example.

That will still lead to the club being berated for perceived ineffective use of their financial resources but is not necessarily the case. We have seen how injuries can decimate certain positions during the course of the season and is it wise to rely on van Persie, Giroud and Podolski. Just kidding, that strength in depth is exactly what the club needs. It allows Arsène to use Afobe for example, in the domestic cups and for the youngster to develop out of the limelight, assuming he is not loaned out for the season.

If one of the two were to stay, personally I would rather it is Bendtner; confidence is not an issue with the Dane whereas the Moroccan appears utterly bereft of that quality; hardly surprising when you consider the turbulent time he has suffered at the club. I know it is of his own making to a certain extent but it seems he did not truly appreciate the importance of a fit Robin van Persie to the squad.

The Dutchman and Theo Walcott will presumably be the next two people on the club’s agenda, if Giroud is signed. Retaining their services is paramount now for stability. Signings bring van Persie more into focus. We are told that he wants the club to show ambition;  it is a vile little term to use. How do you quantify that? Signings? Attempting to sign someone? It is essentially a cop-out. For example, if Arsenal sign Giroud and M’vila, that would signal that they have identified flaws in the squad and rectified them. It shows ambition, wanting to challenge. But what if they are not the players he wanted Arsenal to sign? It does not show a lack of ambition, simply that his judgement is different from that of the manager.

Yesterday’s Sky Sports Transfer Centre told us, “Sky Sports understands a number of clubs are tussling to sign Walsall midfielder Lee Beevers” . I like that concept; not the Beevers bit but each transfer being a good old-fashioned tussle. It is high time that transfers were resolved in the wrestling ring. Each CEO of the interested clubs would be forced into winning by either two falls or a submission.

I can’t imagine that Ivan would be much good in this situation so KSE would need to move him to Chief Operating Officer and appoint Alisher Usmanov at CEO. It is more of a logical reason for his appointment than any other I have seen; they are all based on wishful thinking. Stop arguing about cash injections, just put the Uzbek in the ring with Rossell, Abramovich or Perez. I’d put money on Usmanov’s Big Daddy Splash or him getting Mansour pinned, with the City chief shouting, “Not the ears, not the ears” – ask your parents, kids – to emerge as a winner.

Group C

Croatia 0 – 1 Spain
Italy 2 – 0 Republic of Ireland

No great surprises in last night’s game, except that the paucity of Spain’s performance did not entirely merit victory. They did not deserve to lose but Croatia were, I thought, good for a point. They have done the minimum necessary to qualify for the quarter-finals where they will meet England, Ukraine or France. Italy meanwhile were their usual selves. Negotiating the group phase without setting it alight and suddenly opening up a semi-final place for they are capable of beating England, France and Ukraine. Equally, they are capable of imploding, losing spectacularly badly. The usual football contradiction.

It will be interesting to see which England team turns up against the co-hosts this evening. Roy Hodgson has already made it clear that unless Theo Walcott is fit, he will not start. That rare outbreak of commonsense from an England manager is welcome but also suggests to me that Walcott is unlikely to be in the first XI. As an impact substitute, he has done well; good enough in most circumstances for a place at the expense of Ashley Young, whose form has been less than impressive. Personally, I would drop Milner as well, giving Oxlade-Chamberlain the wide left berth.

Walcott’s biggest problem is Glen Johnson. His defensive positioning when England have the ball is suspect and I believe that is why the workmanlike Milner is selected ahead of Theo. Nothing can be done about it until Johnson matures or most likely, England find a decent right back. As much as you may dislike Ashley Cole, he is exactly the sort of defender that Oxlade-Chamberlain needs; experienced and constantly working in tandem with the youngster to help him settle in the side.

England can still progress as group winners; they have to hope that either France lose or fail to win by a sufficiently big margin to negate any goal difference that England may accrue. Presuming of course, that England win. Ukraine have had a mixed bag; they played well to win against Sweden but were poor against France. The Swedish result in hindsight was unsurprising given their form in the tournament which has been less than distinctly average. England have been the good, the bad and the ugly which is before we talk about Wayne Rooney’s 1920s throwback hairstyle. Actually we won’t bother with that at all.

’til Tomorrow.

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.

Group B

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.

’til Tomorrow

Arsenal At Euro2012: TR7 Still Moving Forward, Podolski’s Jubilee & Sunday Morning Gossip

Group A

Czech Republic 1 – 0 Poland
Greece 1 – 0 Russia

It was a bit like watching Arsenal. Overwhelming possession and obscenely high numbers of shots on and off target, yielding no end product. Your opponent has two shots on goal, scoring with one and hitting the woodwork with the other. Greece sat back and with Canute looking on enviously from the Heavens, turned back the Russian tide. Karagounis struck decisively before half-time for Greece and some people’s outside bets for the tournament will be wondering what excuse they can give to Putin on their return to Russia.

It means that Andrey Arshavin’s interest in the competition has been extinguished from the playing perspective and leaves him free to concentrate on his future. As hard as it might be to bear, the likelihood is that the only Northern Star he will look at next season is in the heavens, not just off Junction 4 of the M65.

Tomas Rosicky will be looking forward to meeting Denmark, Germany, Portugal or Netherlands. The permutations of the Czech’s next opponents mean that despite winning both of their games convincingly, Germany could be eliminated if they lose 1 – 0 to Denmark and Portugal win 1 – 0. For that reason alone, the belief that the Germans might take it easy are wide of the mark.

Lukas Podolski seems set to win his 100th cap and it is interesting how he has subsumed his personal desires for the greater good. Will that extend to Arsenal? His performances so far underline the attributes that Podolski will bring to the club; defensive concentration. That probably is not on the top of everyone’s list when they think of the German but this tournament has shown how willing and diligent he is in this aspect of his game; it will offer some more protection to Gibbs and Santos, particularly when the latter goes on a samba slalom in the opposition half.

And goals of course but I think it will be more akin to his record at Bayern than with Cologne, ten a season rather than one every couple of games. That of course, is exactly what Arsenal need from the rest of the team. If the central striker is going to deliver 20+ goals per season, double figures is essential from four other players or more. But too often we get lost in statistics, bogged down in how the goals are being shared out.

The crucial aspect is someone to provide that crucial goal when van Persie has been silenced by the opposition, a key goal scorer rather than just another goalscorer. Arsenal do need more goals from the rest of the squad, there is no doubt about that. The reliance upon van Persie is as unhealthy as the reliance upon Henry before him. When defenders stifle the main threat, there is no obvious outlet for the decisive goal. There are a lot of Arsenal players capable of providing that moment; none deliver consistently. In itself that is not bad, it stops the threat being predictable but by the same token it means that the players do not themselves know where to look for that moment of inspiration. It should be said of course, that they ought to be able to provide those moments themselves not rely on others but the psychology of the situation is a whole different post away.

One of those is the subject of this morning’s scurrilous transfer rumours. It has been coming; Theo Walcott’s contract talks stalled – amazing how often it is overlooked that he would not negotiate beforehand – and it flew under the nation’s radar. Having ascended to the Hero’s Throne, Theo is now the star of tomorrow’s chip wrapping which has brought his lack of signature on the contract to the fore. That situation allows all manner of links to be made, the funniest of which comes this morning from The Sun. Whomever Juve are paying as their PR is working his socks off as they are now going to swoop for van Persie and Walcott, according to the report, “favourites to land both“. You couldn’t make it up. Unless you work in the media, of course.

The club meanwhile, have been briefing their pet paper on the van Persie deal. Although I am not sure that Peter Hill-Wood will be happy at being called “The Daily Star Sunday’s Emirates insider“… Elsewhere, Christian Eriksen has joined the list of young players who interest Arsenal and Nicklas Bendtner interests Michael Ladudrup which will surely lead to specualtion of a transfer swap for Gylfi ­Sigurdsson, reminscent of the Clive Allen deal in the summer of 1980.

%d bloggers like this: