Hello Gooners. More uneventful days have past by us, and yes, the Euro’s are on, but still I am longing to watch Arsenal play.
That won’t happen till August 18 atleast. The fixtures for the new Premier League season have been released. There has been a lot of analysis about how the season could pan out. Then again, all of it could be meaningless, as a season is a marathon and not a sprint. There are the same 38 games to be played by each and every team in the division, and at the end of it, the team with the more points wins the league. Not rocket science, is it.
Then again, I couldn’t be more pleased with a start to the season with a home match. In the last few seasons, we have had tough starts against Everton, Liverpool and Newcastle. Nothing better than to start the new campaign with a home game. Of course, we would need to win that and get our season rolling. It will be a good thing to get over with away ties to Stoke and Liverpool so early in the season.
The end of September is pretty hard, as we travel to champions Manchester City, host European champions Chelsea, and travel to West Ham and Norwich in October. This will of course coincide, with the thick of the Champions League group games and the newly christened League Cup, i.e the Capital One Cup. Old Trafford beckons on November 3rd. I have noticed that we always travel to Old Trafford before they visit Emirates. This has been happening for quite long. Some bug in the fixtures computer I suppose.
The first North London derby will be played out a couple of weeks later, on 17th, and we have a favourable end of the year and start of the new year, permitting we don’t face apocalypse. O f course by mid January, we will be back in the thick of it, with Manchester City visiting and a trip to Stamford Bridge, and Liverpool’s visit. The second leg of the North London derby will be on 2nd March. We face old foes United again on 27th April, a title decided, probably (fingers crossed). Our season ends at the home of the lowly cunt Alan Pardew. I hope we thrash his team to bits.
Anyways, moving on, the last round of Euro games did spring a lot of surprises. Nothing more so than the elimination of Russia at the hands of Greece. Greece fought hard, and defended well, a la Chelsea. Andrei Arshavin looks to be back at his usual best. Or is it that the European Championships just tend to bring out the best of him. Either ways, I doubt we will be seeing him at Arsenal next season, now with the arrival of that German hotshot, whom we will have a discussion about a bit later. Tomas Rosicky missed the final group game, against the Poles, with Petr Jiracek scoring the winning goal. He has impressed me and many other scouts around Europe I suppose. He runs his lungs out, and has been crucial to the Czech’s fortunes.
As expected, Germany and Portugal made progress from the Group of Death. When Rafael van der Vaart scored that screamer, I had expected Netherlands to build on it, and secure the crucial 2-0 win that was required of them. But, it was a shambolic performance from the Dutch. They barely looked comfortable on the ball, or with each other, and probably even had holiday schedules on their mind. Cristiano Ronaldo scored two well taken goals. I had touted the Dutch to be front runners before the start of the tournament, with the impressive array of attacking talent they possess. They have clearly dissapointed, losing all 3 of their games. Germany look the real deal this time round, with most of the squad made up of Bayern Munich players and ex-Bayern Munich players. Clearly, the Champions League debacle is on their minds, and they want to win the Euro’s. Lukas Podolski scored his 45th goal in his 100th international match, which is a pretty good record. Despite the best efforts of the Danes, including Niklas Bendtner, they were eliminated, thanks to the late Lars Bender strike.
Group C went right to the wire as well. Spain were average, by their own standards against the dogged Croatians, and just about won, thanks to that late offside goal from Sevilla winger Jesus Navas. Republic of Ireland were rank outsiders anyway, but they put a good display against the Italians, even though they ended up losing 2-0. Mario Balotelli made the headlines, yest again, with that fantastic goal, right at the end, and his celebrations. They were probably aimed at Cesare Prandelli, and regarded him not being included in the starting 11. He was of course immediately muted by Bonnuci, which was a sensible thing to do. I still don’t understand, why he is not master of his own temperament.
I had wished Ukraine to go through from the Group stages. Not because they are a good team or anything. It is just because I can’t stand the England team. I think they are the most overrated, over hyped team in the world. Even Manchester United don’t come close. The amount of media scrutiny over them makes me wonder if they are the only national team that exist. Anyways, after an uneventful first half, where the East Europeans were the better side, it was some Steven Gerrard trickery, coupled with some touches from Ukraine’s defenders and goalkeeper that allowed Wayne Rooney to nod home the winner, a goal Frank Lampard would be proud of. Ukraine had a clear goal not given, and probably had a couple of poor penalty decisions go against them. England just about scraped past, but that was not the case for Sweden, who were completely dominant in their game against France. Spurred on by their inspirational captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored a wonderful goal, Sweden never gave the French any space to work with. Despite the best efforts of Samir Nasri, Frank Ribery and Karim Benzema, there wasn’t a single real chance that Les Bleus created. Sebastien Larsson’s goal at the end was icing on the cake, as the Swedes bowed out with their heads held high.
This has made up for what can be a very delicious round of quarter finals. Today’s game pits the Czechs and the Portugese, and I have to say that the Portugese have got slightly more in terms of quality than the Czechs. Cristiano Ronaldo seems to be hitting top gear at the right moment, and Nani, though I despise him to my innermost shred, too, has been impressive the last couple of games. They fought and performed well as a team against Netherlands. Frailties do lie in defence, Coentrao at times leaves too much open on his flank. They have to tighten up defensively. Czech Republic, according to some reports, will be without captain Tomas Rosicky. It will be a big blow for them, especially considering the end of season form that Rosicky was in. They scraped past Poland, but I doubt they can do the same against the Portgese.
Tomorrow’s game features Germany playing Greece. This won’t be a particularly good game to watch, knowing the way Greece go about playing their football. Germany’s patient buildups, devoid of too much trickery and flair aren’t too eyecatching either. There is an interesting article that I read, as to how the Greeks can slay the Germans. Worth a read. What Otto Rehhagel managed to do in Euro 2004, coach Fernando Santos has managed to emulate the same to a certain extent this time around, and that is making the maximum use of the available resources. But, I think Germany has too much firepower to be beaten by Greece. I can see them edging past.
The most exciting, or rather what promises to be exciting, clash of the quarter finals will be Spain vs France. France, who finished 2nd in their group, after a 2-0 defeat to Sweden, will be without Phillipe Mexes, who was responsible for some poor defending against the Swedes. This can only bode good for our very own Laurent Koscielny. There has been lot of talk on the internet as well as the French public about the exclusion of Koscielny in the French squad. Koscielny was one of the best defenders in the Premier League last season, and his campaign was definitely better than that of Mexes, with AC Milan. But, Laurent Blanc stuck with his usual partnership of Adel Rami and Phillipe Mexes, that took them through most of their 23 game unbeaten run. France will have to be more incisive in attack, especially considering that they won’t be having much of the ball. Frailties lie in defence. Mathieu Debuchy has had a good tournament, but at times left too much space behind him. Through the middle, the partnership of M’Vila and Diarra didn’t work as expected. A lone defensive midfielder suits the French system better. Spain will start as favorites for this game. Though they were surprised by the Italians in the first game, they were completely dominant against Ireland and managed to squirm past Croatia. A pleasant problem for del Bosque is managing the large talent pool at his disposal. Cesc Fabgregas has had to contend sitting on the bench for the last two games, despite scoring in the first. I am pretty sure he will go with the same system, but we can hope for surprises. I think this is one game, where I cannot make any predictions.
The last of the 4 quarter finals pits Italy and England against each other. It will be another tactical battle I feel. The Italians have surprised everybody, by their tenacious and quick play. With Andrea Pirlo in such fine knick, I think they will have a slight edge over the English. Coach Cesare Prandelli will have a major decision on his hands, whether to choose Balotelli or di Natale up front with Cassano. Both have proved their worth, but I think di Natale is the better option. The English will know how to frustrate and close down Balotelli, and we really do not want to see him red carded or anything, do we. I feel Theo Walcott deserves to start, in place of Ashley Young, who has looked average so far in the tournament. Andy Carroll will feel hard done by, for not starting against Ukraine, after his thumping goal against Sweden. But, the partnership of Rooney and Welbeck is the way to go. There have been recent stories that Hodgson could surprise the Italians by starting Chamberlain and Walcott to beat the Italians for pace. That will be interesting to watch.
So, my predicted semi-finals are Portugal vs Spain and Germany vs Italy. It will be the death of football if Greece play England. Let’s wait and watch.
Some Arsenal news then. Well, not much anyways. The Giroud rumors has gotten quiet again. Fresh reports say that it will be completed after the Euro’s. Yaan M’Vila, according to some quotes in the French media, says he likes Arsenal. Not a clue if that’s true, but if we do sign him, it will be a real sign of intent for the coming season. It is also a fresh outlook for a season, since the move to the Emirates. This has helped us to widen our transfer interests from unknown teenagers, to the more experienced and known names around the continent. This should also help keep Robin van Persie at the club.
He must have experience first hand what it might to be playing in a team with so many star names and such massive ego’s, as the present Netherlands squad. A situation where he may have to face, should he make a move to Juventus or Real Madrid. Arsene Wenger certainly thinks he won’t move, and should he move, the press will be treated to a nice round of ice-cream.
Moving on, I read this article, regarding the position of Uzbek businessman Alisher Usmanov in the Arsenal board. I am not much of a commerce/finance man and hence I am not able to really decipher all of it, but according to the new Premier League rules, which were agreed upon by all the 20 member clubs, Usmanov will be kept out of all boardroom matters.
Finally, I got the shocking news a couple of days back, that Shebby Singh has been appointed as director of football. For those of you who don’t know Shebby Singh, he is a football pundit for the English Premier League in the Asia zone. Let me tell you first of all, that he is a Sp*rs fan. Yes, a Sp*rs fan. Not too much surprise then he has joined the chicken nuggets company in Blackburn. His views are at times appalling, rather stupid. He was a former Malaysia defender, and his most notable achievement to date has been winning the man of the match against Shresbury Town in a friendly match. Quite how he can take over the mantle at a famous old club, in the Championship, and one of the few clubs to have won the Premier League, remains to be seen. For now, let’s all laugh at him.
So, that’s that for now. Have a good weekend, and enjoy all the football on store.