Morning all and welcome to a brand new week. I’m beginning to think that Archer, the new dog, is part alarm clock. Every morning somewhere between 6 and 6.30am he gives a little ‘yip’ to say he’s awake and needs to go out. Handy, for sure, but earlier than I’d like.
We’ll start this morning at the Euros and it was penalty shoot-out heartbreak for England again last night as a double dose of Ashley cost England a place in the semi-finals. Of course there was a lot more to to it than that, Italy outplayed, out-passed and out-thought England for most of the game, but where’s the harm in heaping all the blame on a divey bloke and swervy off the road bloke?
England had the upper hand in the shoot-out too when Montolivo missed Italy’s second penalty, but a cool as you like, balls of steel chip down the middle from the peerless Pirlo seemed to change things. Young hit the bar, then Cole, usually a very solid penalty taker, made it easy for Buffon, before the man the BBC commentator rather dismissively labelled a ‘West Ham reject’, Alessandro Diamanti, stuck home the winning penalty. Not as rejecty as he’d like, I’d guess.
I have to say I was glad we got penalties. For the neutral, it was the least we deserved after another pretty terrible game of football. It had started so well too. Italy hit the post and then Glen Johnson forced a great save from Buffon, bringing more excitement in the first five minutes than the entire France v Spain game. Sadly though, it settled down into another poor match. England’s game isn’t about possession but their inability to keep the ball was quite a reflection on the Premier League and the best English players therein.
I know Italy had Pirlo pulling the strings, and what a player he is, but hurried, unnecessary long passes from the back, carelessness in midfield and a complete lack of anything to offer from an attacking point of view meant England really struggled. I don’t think it’s ok to simply write it off as one of those things England aren’t good at. It’s not like passing the football from one white shirt to another is anything other than doing the basics, and not being able to do that should be a real worry. And let’s face it, England were hardly facing the greatest Italian side of all time either.
Defensively, I thought England played quite well although how Italy didn’t score in the 120 minutes is as much down to their poor finishing as good England defending. And as an attacking force, Hodgson’s team offered very little. Rooney looked fat and unfit, Ashley Young was hopeless yesterday, Milner not much better, and when Theo Walcott came on he seemed overlooked by teammates. Any hope we had of seeing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were dashed when he brought on Jordan Henderson for Scott Parker. A safe change, perhaps, but not one that will win you the game or change of the course of it when you can barely get a foot on the ball.
So, England’s exit means our two Germans, Podolski and Mertesacker, are the last Arsenal players involved in Euro 2012. Oxlade-Chamberlain will return to talk of a new deal, and I think that’s fair enough, while Theo Walcott’s contract situation is one that’s going to have to be dealt with. If he was hoping for a fantastic European Championships to boost his negotiating position then he’ll be disappointed. Despite a goal against Sweden he failed to start a single game and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out over the next few weeks.
Remember, it was Theo’s ‘people’ who broke off negotiations earlier in the season when ‘he’ decided he’d wait and see how Arsenal’s season turned out before making a decision. You might question the idea of a young player who still has to prove he can produce on a consistent basis making a play like that. It strikes me as somewhat hubristic, I have to admit, but the next few weeks should give us a clearer indication of what’s to come. No doubt Theo will be off on holidays following England’s exit, but something’s got to be sorted one way or the other. If he won’t sign, he’s got to be sold, but my gut feeling (and no information beyond that) tells me he’ll probably stay and sign a new deal. Let’s see.
Meanwhile, Olivier Giroud has apparently spoken about his move to Arsenal, saying:
I am so happy to be signing for Arsenal — it is something that represents so much for me. I’ve always dreamed of playing in the Premier League and Arsenal are a great club with many French players.
The quotes appear in this morning’s Sun in a piece written by a journalist I wouldn’t automatically believe if he told me the sky was blue. Nevertheless, it does tally with what we’ve been hearing for weeks now and Arsene Wenger said ‘We brought in Giroud’ while providing analysis for Al Jazeera (I think) during Euro 2012. For all intents and purposes this is as done a deal as a deal can get without being officially confirmed, so it’s just a matter of waiting for that confirmation at this stage.
There’s now a lack of Euro 2012 football until Wednesday when
Germany play Italy Portugal play Spain. It might just be for the best, to be honest, although bar a busy day today it might leave us light on conversation topics for tomorrow, but no doubt we’ll find something to natter about. Any breaking news during the day can be found over on Arseblog News and I’ll be back tomorrow here.