Daily Archives: July 2, 2012

Reviewing the European Championships from an Arsenal Perspective

Champions….yet again

After an entire month of exciting international football, the European Championships reached its climax in an emphatic fashion with the defending champions, Spain, running riot against their contenders for the throne, Italy.

Both sides had cancelled each other out in the group stages and the Italian gaffer, Cesare Prandelli, got all the plaudits for his tactical genius, employing the 3-5-2 formation that was worth its weight in gold.

However, the final match offered a different prospect and Prandelli employed his usual 4-3-1-2 formation with the aim of narrowing things down the middle. Vincente del Bosque and his Red Army were hugely criticized for using the 4-6-0 formation that involved strangulating the opposition with a “boring” passing game till they buckled.

Gary Lineker had stated that strikers would become an endangered species if Spain won the Euros using this false 9 set-up. I think it’s just Spanish strikers that could become extinct with such a formation because I can’t recall any team with such a vast array of talent in midfield, so vast that the likes of Juan Mata, Jesus Navas, Fernando Llorente, Fernando Torres and many more Spanish juggernauts in club football became peripheral figures in the Euros.

The Spaniards opened the scoring when Cesc Fabregas evaded Giorgio Chiellini to send a cross-field ball that arrived at David Silva’s head. The Manchester City lynchpin nodded him his 18th and most important international goal for Spain. Minutes later, Italy suffered a big blow as Chiellini picked up an injury causing Federico Balzaretti to come in his stead.

The world and defending European champions doubled their lead from an unlikely source, Barcelona’s new recruit, Jordi Alba. The full back instigated the attack from the left hand side and made a darting run forward. Xavi timed his defense-splitting through ball to perfection and Alba broke his international duck with a finish an attacker would have been proud of.

When a full back can finish as confidently as that, why would you need a forward?

If my senses serve me right, it’s only in Liga BBVA you can find a full back drifting so far into the opposition’s back line that he could be caught in an offside position.

Dani Alves anybody?

Italy replaced Antonio Cassano with Antonio di Natale in their bid to chase the game but the contest was officially over when substitute, Thiago Motta, decided to have his Abou Diaby moment in the finals of all games. That forced injury took the sting out the Italians and it became a damage limitation exercise.

Their cause wasn’t helped when Fernando Torres replaced Fabregas and he got his goal shortly afterwards. It was a simple placed effort that went past Buffon from another pass that split the Italian defense like hot knife through butter.

Torres then turned from scorer to provider when he supplied the easiest of assists to substitute, Juan Mata, that put the icing on a well-baked cake.

Despite several taunts from the media Vultures, football fans and what have you, Spain remains the team to beat and they have sealed their immortality status with a third consecutive win in another major tournament.

Vicente del Bosque must be enjoying his job but no eyebrows will be raised if he decides to call it quits, sealing his status as a Spanish legend in every sense of the word.

While the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and other Spanish sides will take pride in seeing how their ambassadors fared in the European Championships, Arsenal fans will certainly have mixed emotions about the tournament.

Some Gunners performed admirably giving themselves a tourney to remember while others failed to move past first gear.

It’s time to review the Euros from an Arsenal perspective.

Group A had Wojciech Szczesny, Tomas Rosicky and Andrey Arshavin flying the Arsenal’s flag in the group stages.

Wojciech Szczesny certainly had a tournament to forget as he conceded a goal after a communication error with his defender and compounded his misery with a red card. He was replaced by Tyton that became a national hero for sparing his blushes, and he also took Szczesny’s place in the team till they got eliminated in the group stages.

Szczesny gets a Euro rating of 3.0

Tomas Rosicky was heavily subdued in Czech Republic’s curtain raiser against Russia but he pulled the strings on the midfield when the Czechs eased past Greece. An Achilles tendon injury cut his tournament cut as he was on the sidelines in the remainder of the Czech games till their elimination in the quarterfinals in the hands of Portugal.

Rosicky gets a Euro rating of 5.5

Andrey Arshavin was a joy to watch in Russia’s 4-1 spanking of the Czechs and he continued his consistent run against Poland. However, he failed to come up with the goods against Greece, and a loss to the Euro 2004 winners cost Russia their place in the quarterfinals courtesy of the harsh head to head rule.

Arshavin gets a Euro rating of 7.5

Group B, or the Group of Death, as it was fabled had four Gunners on the spotlight, Nicklas Bendtner, Robin van Persie, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski.

The greatest striker that ever lived was a peripheral figure in the game against Holland but he sprang to life with a brace against Portugal. He placed himself in the back pages for his goals as well as his ambush marketing strategy for Irish bookmakers Paddy Power that earned him a heavy fine. He ended the group on a high with an assist from Michael Krohn-Delhi in Denmark’s loss to Germany.

Bendtner gets a Euro rating of 8.5

Robin van Persie was part of that egotistical Dutch side that were woeful in the Euros. Van Persie was at his profligate best against Holland, had a perfectly executed finish against Germany and was heavily subdued against Portugal. He and his team crashed out in the group stages, a feat that cost Bert van Marwijk his job.

Van Persie gets a Euro rating of 6.0

If you were looking at this tournament as a measure of player ability then we’d be looking to offload van Persie asap while offering a bumper new deal to Nicklas Bendtner – Arseblog

Lukas Podolski’s Germany were touted as tournament favorites, and they went all the way to the semis before bowing out after a Mario Balotelli inspired defeat to Italy. Lukas Podolski was a disciplined performer against Portugal and Holland, then he capped his 100th game with a goal against Denmark. He was benched in the quarterfinals against Greece and he had a stinker in the semis against Italy.

Podolski gets a Euro Rating of 7.0

Per Mertesacker on the other hand, failed to add to his 81 caps for Germany, as he watched from the dugout as Holger Badstuber and Mats Hummels played every game before their exit in the semis.

Ze Big F*ckin Giant gets no Euro rating.

Group C had no Arsenal interest but Group D had the likes of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud as its Arsenal ambassadors.

For reasons best known to Adolf Hitler, Chick Norris and Mojojojo of the PowerPuff girls, Theo Walcott failed to command a starting berth in the European Championships as Wily Ol’ Woy Hodgson preferred James Milner to Arsenal’s speed machine.

He came off the bench late on against France to no avail but he made an impact in his next cameo appearance against Sweden. He ended his national goal drought with a finish Cristiano Ronaldo would have been proud of and he supplied the match-winning assist. Injury made him miss out on England’s final game but he was fighting a lost cause against Italy.

Walcott gets a Euro rating of 7.0

The Ox made one appearance for England in the first game against France and for more strange reasons, he couldn’t challenge the disappointing Ashley Young for a place on the left hand flank. He watched on the sidelines as Young kept messing up until he put the nail in his own coffin with his penalty miss against Italy.

The Ox gets a rating of 6.0

Olivier Giroud was a peripheral figure for France, as he kept coming off the bench as he couldn’t contest with Karim Benzema for a starting berth in a formation that favored the use of one center forward. Giroud’s only telling contribution in the tournament would have been a headed effort against Sweden but it went wide.

Giroud gets a Euro rating of 5.5

From the ratings I handed to the Gunners in the European Championships, Nicklas Bendtner earned the highest rating because he’s undoubtedly the greatest striker that ever lived.

I must commend Poland and Ukraine for hosting such a spectacle in the manner they did. The pitches were top-notch and the football was entertaining, scintillating and enthralling to say the least.

However, the Golden Boot has to be cut in six places as Mario Mandzukic, Mario Gomez, Mario Balotelli, Nintendo’s Super Mario, Cristiano Ronaldo, Alan Dzagoev and Fernando Torres all ended up with three goals each.

Like Achilles’ morale boosting speech in the 2004 classic Troy, Spain was told that immortality was there for the taking, and they took it in grand style.

Here’s to the world and three time European champions,

La Furia Rojas.

Sayonara.

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