Good morning to you. It’s Friday. The sun is shining and I didn’t drink nearly as much wine as I did the night before. That’s because I drank gimlets instead, but who’s going to be pedantic at this time of the morning? You, wise guy? Didn’t think so.
So, last night at the Euros Italy went through to the final, beating Germany 2-1 with two goals from Mario Balotelli, the kind of player who would make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window. The first was a header which he planted past Neuer, but also showed how much the Germans missed Mertesacker. There’s no chance that ball would have gone over his head. He would simply have had to stand up straight and let it bounce off his ear.
The second, for me anyway, was the goal of the tournament thus far. From a Germany corner, Italy broke, Montolivo (who had earlier spurned the kind of chance that would make an archbishop punch his way through the door of a nunnery) played a beautiful ball for Balotelli to run on to. He took it, then absolutely thundered it past Neuer to make it 2-0.
You often hear people say ‘The keeper never even moved’, and so it was on this occasion. Neuer could have had the reflexes of Superman crossed with a nuclear powered cat and he still wouldn’t have got anywhere near it. And there really is something quite primal about seeing someone thump a ball as hard as they can and it ending up in the back of the net. In true Balotelli fashion he couldn’t avoid doing something silly, taking his shirt off and getting a booking into the process. I’m not sure about his muscle-man posing either, lacked muscles.
Germany tried to change things at half-time, bringing on Reus and Klose (Podolski being one of the men to make way), and although Buffon made a fantastic save from a free kick, the Italians always looked more like scoring. In fact, they had a number of chances to put the game out of reach, di Natale in particular missed one that would make a cardinal kick a hole in a martyr’s tomb. I was disappointed with the Germans, I have to say. I thought they’d be far more positive but they seemed a bit overawed and lacklustre. A late penalty added some rather undeserved respectability to the score but changed nothing.
Lukas Podolski had a disappointing game, and a disappointing tournament, you have to say. He wasn’t alone in that, on either count, and Germany’s approach didn’t make anyone look particularly good last night. Being hauled off at half-time will hurt, I’m sure, but I’m not worried about it, nor do I think there’s cause for concern from an Arsenal point of view. 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. I know it’s common sense but the time to make any real assessment of Podolski is when he’s played for us. He’ll now go off on holidays, hopefully come back refreshed and ready to make a start at his new club.
Germany’s exit means there’s no real Arsenal interest left in the tournament and Sunday’s final is a repeat of the group game which finished 1-1. I guess we can talk a bit more about that after the fact. I have a sneaky feeling about Italy though. And just a quick word about Andrea Pirlo – is it just me or is it really odd to hear people talk about him as if he’s just bloomed at this tournament? He’s been a fantastic player throughout his career, but he’s the flavour of the month with the kind of pundits who can’t help but wonder if he could do it on a cold Tuesday night in Stoke. Which says a lot about them, I guess.
In terms of Arsenal news, well, it’s quiet. How quiet? So quiet you wouldn’t hear a priest kick a hole in a … ahh whatever … it’s quiet. There’s a story about how PSG are interested in Robin van Persie but this is the kind of tittle-tattle that emerges when there’s nothing else to talk about. Club with lots and lots of money interested in a player with a contract situation that makes it relatively credible to suggest a link. There’s about as much chance of him going there as there is of Mark Lawrenson not sounding like a catty hairdresser.
In non-football related Arsenal stuff, the club announced a commercial tie-up with mobile phone company Airtel. They’re an Indian company and this deal focuses on their African market, so it’s a multi-continental thingy. Airtel have a similar link with Manchester United (but in a different market), and it shows that the commercial side of the club is working to try and make up some of the income shortfall we have due to our long-term sponsorship deals with Emirates and Nike.
Again, I don’t have any real issue with those deals. They were necessary at the time and we used the money to help finance the stadium with the full knowledge we’d be leaving ourselves short in the future. I don’t see the point in complaining about them now. It simply means that the commercial side of the club has had to be improved and work better to try and bring in more income to cover that, and we’re seeing the fruits of that now. We have something like 8 commercial partners, other clubs have many more brands associated with them and I imagine we’ll see more deals like this in the next couple of years. At which point we can renegotiate, or find new, kit and sponsorship income.
And that’s about that for today. If there’s anything happening during the day you can find it over on Arseblog News. I’ll be back tomorrow with the usual round-up. Until then.