First to kick off at the Euros were The FP and Koscielny. Both had fine games with OG scoring the opening goal of the tournament, a classic centre forward’s headed goal. Given the pressure under which Giroud plays in France he must have left the pitch highly satisfied. Koscielny played as he does for Arsenal, with calm efficiency.
Aaron Ramsey: I like his hair colour – it makes him very easy to identify. Ramsey had a strange game. Started in the number 10 role playing high up the pitch yet as the game progressed moved deeper and deeper. In the second half he was in his Arsenal position which is all over the place.
It would be an exaggeration to say Ramsey dominated the game but he was influential. Next up England where he will hopefully kick lumps out of TotEngland.
Granit Xhaka: Our first view of him as an Arsenal player. I suggested his play was similar to Elneny insomuch as he can break up play but also move forward to assist the attack and predicted a season on the bench for Coquelin. LB’s wrote “To me he looks like a straight swap for Arteta: plays deep, accurate passing, will link the defence with the attack as well as Arteta at his best, expected a tad more defensively and for that I can see slightly more of a time share with Coquelin.”
We shall see.
Wilshire: England kicked off without Jack! It was clear to see how much they improved when he came on. The media are raving about the quality of the England performance – I have no idea why apart from trying to keep interest in the team and tournament. How many chances did they create for the “lethal” Harry Kane? How could Hodgson keep a poor Sterling on the pitch with Vardy on the bench? Against a poor Russia team a draw was Spursy.
Szczesny. Clean sheet, made a couple of fine saves. Didn’t have much to do in a game totally dominated by Poland but what he had to do he did with aplomb.
Ozil: Mesut was fairly anonymous but created a last minute goal for Schweini. As always the oil in the German attack, he rarely gave up the ball and unusually played the whole game.
So…. our boys result so far. Played 6 W5 D1 L0.
Cech, Rosicky, Bellerin all play today (if selected).
Germany, current World Champions after 33 straight international qualifying away wins, stretching back to 1998, are finally beaten by Wojciech Szczesny. A phenomenal performance from the Arsenal keeper resulted in an astonishing result – 2 nil to the boys in red and white. Poland failed to beat Germany in 18 previous meetings between the two countries.
Szczesny has been at the centre of some ferocious criticism and was branded as “one of many Polish goal keepers with huge ego and limited footballing skills”. I am guilty of doubting his ability to perform consistently. He has always been able to produce some spectacular saves, but at the next game he would deliver equally spectacular howlers.
Speaking of Szczesny last season Arsene Wenger stated the 23-year-old is continuing to grow in stature.
“Certainly a part of his improvement is mental because he’s more mature. His decision-making is cleaner, sharper, quicker. He was always a very talented boy but because he’s intelligent he learns quickly from experience. I’m happy that I always gave him the confidence because he’s developing very well into a very strong goalkeeper and today certainly nobody would question that he’s one of the top five goalkeepers in the Premier League.”
One of the top five goalkeepers in the EPL? Are there really 4 goalkeeper better than Szczesny? What do you think?
Watching the World Cup and our players representing their countries it is possible to view their performances without the bias of an Arsenal match. I would like to highlight our central defenders.
Having enjoyed the Germany/ Algeria game it became apparent that Mertesacker was being focussed upon by the Algerian midfield. They chose to send long balls onto a forward who was as close to Per as possible. Why? Because Per has excellent vision and pitch awareness, he knows where to snuff out danger and how to make the best of his talents, but what he doesn’t have is pace. My grandmother with bricks on her feet has more pace – even I am fleeter of foot. In the first half in particular the Algerians attacked this weakness. The German response was to use the goalkeeper Neuer as a sweeper – not the most secure defensive tactic!
Germany use Merts as the distributor from the back and as such he is always the last man and it repeatedly caused Germany problems. He does the same at Arsenal but for us he doesn’t appear to be such a liability – why?
Let’s look at France’s defensive set-up. Two attacking wingers, the best (? RM think so) young centre back in world football and Koscielny. What has become clear is just how reliant France are upon Kos’s awareness and pace. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Varane may well become a brilliant player but right now he is being educated by his centre back partner. It was good fortune for France that Sakho was injured and Deschamps was forced to play Kos whom the French blamed for the loss in their first game against Ukraine in the WC play-offs.
Kos is two-footed according to Sagna (and he should know), he has a prodigious leap, is tactically aware but above all is is quick – very quick. Arsene bought him for €9m and after a problematic opening season he has developed into a key player at Arsenal. When he is missing even a fine defender like Vermaelen cannot fully replace him.
Which brings me to this. To be successful one has to have a proper CB partnership – we have one of the finest. Per and Laurent complement each other. They have different skills – Kos is a better tackler, Merts is better in the air, Kos is better with the ball at hois feet and running into midfield, Merts is better at distribution out of defence.
The fact of the matter is that Mertesacker is a better player when Koscielny is by his side and vice versa.
There isn’t a better CB partnership in the World Cup than Arsenal have at the Emirates – we should be proud.
France vs Nigeria: Nigeria squeezed through qualification but I like them. Decent footballers with considerable skill, great athletes and a fine kit. Part of my affection is due to spending much time in Nigeria searching for unknown breeds of fish (unsuccessfully!!., And then there is the Kanu factor. I loved Kanu – still do, a real gentleman and a superb ambassador for his country, oh, and the scorer of the finest hat-trick ever seen at Stamford Bridge. And if that isn’t enough Nwanko remains a committed Gooner as you can see from his website.
The French. I have a love/hate relationship with both the country and the football team. I so much enjoyed the victory in 1998 when Arsenal won the World Cup but I also enjoyed the disaster in South Africa in 2010. This time we have a few lads in the French squad and for that reason I will support them tonight. They have a flaky manager – how else can one explain how Deschamps would pick Sakho ahead of Koscielny or drop Giroud after an exceptional performance against the Swiss?
So, it’s France for me.
Germany vs Algeria: Another African team and one who will give the Germans a tough match. They have surprised many (including BR) with their teamwork but surely tonight is the end of an exciting journey. 4 goals against Korea was a shock but highlighted what an easy group they were in.
Germay will be rightly confident. They are the best European side and have yet to hit top form. With 3 AFC players (plus hopefully one or two more to come) in the squad and at least two to start, they have to be favourites. Nonetheless, if they get beaten it will give our lads a couple of weeks more holiday