Nightmares for Szczesny and Rosicky, but Arshavin shines for Russia

Wojciech Szczesny

Somewhat hilariously, I forgot that I had a long-planned dinner engagement last night, so missed both of yesterday’s opening games of Euro 2012. I did remember to record them, but haven’t had time to watch them as yet. Never mind though, I have seen the highlights, which makes me perfectly entitled to comment on what happened with considerable authority – just like Alan Hansen does on Match of the Day.

Speaking of Match of the Day, it seems their Euro 2012 highlights program is being fronted by the deplorable Colin Murray, the ridiculously irritating Robbie Savage, and David James, who I didn’t really have an opinion of until he demonstrated he seems to have an inability to speak in complete sentences, and isn’t terribly comfortable in front of a television camera. I’m glad this is how my licence fee is being spent.

So, bearing in mind I haven’t watched the games in their entirety, it seems Poland vs Greece was a tale of some really awful refereeing, and three costly mistakes shared between the two goalkeepers. Poland scored first through the Dortmund striker, Robert Lewandowski, after Blaszczykowski’s inch perfect cross from the right landed right on his head. Don’t get me wrong – it was a great header – but I felt the goal was all about the cross. The goalie didn’t help himself by charging out, but had he stayed, the header was a good one anyway – down into the ground and bouncing high into the corner.

Shortly afterwards the Spanish referee decided it was his time to shine, and gave two yellow cards in fairly quick succession to Papastathopoulos. Neither card was even a foul in my book, and the Greek can consider himself extremely unlucky. There really should be some kind of appeals procedure for decisions quite so poor.

Despite being down to ten men, Greece came back into it well in the second half, and then came the first of the mistakes by our goalie, Wojciech Szczesny (which I spelt right first time!), who came too far off his line to attack the ball when the defender was there. The ball fell to Salpingidis who put it home to make it 1-1.

Then came SZCZ’s nadir. A Greek player chipped the ball over the top of the advancing Polish back line, Szczesny came off his line again and brought down Salpingidis in the area. It was a straight red, and there were (correctly) no complaints from our man. He went off, Poland brought on their replacement keeper, and he saved the penalty with his first touch. The TV coverage cut to pictures of Szczesny watching on a TV in the tunnel, and no one was more pleased for the replacement than him.

And that’s how it finished. A bit of a nightmare game for SZCZ, no doubt, who admitted as much after the game. In front of his home supporters, having talked up how well he wanted to do, a horrible evening for the goalie who’ll now miss the game against Russia – and perhaps more if Przemek has anything to say about it. We know one thing SZCZ is blessed with is self-belief though, and I’m sure he’ll be okay.

And speaking of Russia…how good were they? Again, I’ve only seen the highlights, but their game with the Czech Republic looked like a lot of fun. A powerful shot from Dzagoev produced the first goal after the ball came back to him off the post, then Shirokov made it 2-0 with a really lovely, delicate chip over the goalie just as he was about to get the ball, Andrey Arshavin with the assist. I’m not sure his through ball was intended for the goal scorer, but it came to him nevertheless and it was a great finish.

The Czechs got themselves a foothold in the game through Pilar, but another goal from Dzagoev, who smashed the ball so hard Petr Cech had no idea what was going on, and a very nice goal from that chicken-loving cunt Roman Pavlyuchenko, who danced his way past a few defenders, meant the game ended 4-1 to Russia. A bit of a spanking for the Czechs, it has to be said. As I say though, from what I saw on the highlights, and what I’ve read about the game, Russia look a good side; relaxed and up for it, and every inch their role as dark horses for the tournament – although performances like that will soon have them lose that tag.

Arshavin played very well, as is his wont for Russia. I always liked him and almost always thought he had something to offer us, the archetypal ‘mercurial player’. Even during the worst of times, when the ball was bouncing off him, and he couldn’t trap a pass with a net, I always felt he wasn’t far from turning it around – if he wanted to. I’m sorry his time at Arsenal didn’t work out. I can’t see him coming back, even if he has an amazing tournament. He’s clearly happier with his countrymen, and that’s just how it is with some players. It was nice to see him and Tomas Rosicky in their roles as captains at the start, but Andrey will have been a lot happier at the end than Tomas.

Onto more specifically Arsenal-related news now, and depending on where you are on the optimism/pessimism scale, some good/bad/indifferent/not really-news about Robin van Persie, after his father, Bob, ruled out a move  to another English club. I’m sure it won’t stop Roberto Mancini letting his mouth flap and flap, but I’d find it really hard to believe Robin would go there, knowing the implications for Arsenal. van Persie Senior also suggested moves to Barcelona and Real Madrid were unlikely, which again, depending on your perspective is either good or bad news. I still think he’ll stay, possibly dependent on what else we do in the transfer window, but it’s nice to hear someone close to him suggesting certain – you’d have to say likely – destinations aren’t terribly likely after all.

The same article suggests Johan Djourou is on his way out of the club, with Napoli a possible destination. The quotes from his agent sound very much like an invitation to Napoli to make a bid for the player, but it seems they’ve not done so. His agent does say they’ve received an offer worth €10 million though, which also seems strange – isn’t Djourou under contract? If so, whomever is making €10 million offers ought to be making them to Arsenal, not his agent, but perhaps that’s what he means. Anyway, it’ll be a shame if Djourou leaves, but I wouldn’t be terribly surprised. He’s clearly fourth choice centre back at the club, and he’s reaching a point in his career where you’d think he’d want to be playing more than that.

Finally for today, the club have confirmed a pre-season friendly against FC Cologne, which will provide an interesting experience for Lukas Podolski, having just signed for us from that club. The game will take place in Germany on the 12th August.

Today’s Euro 2012 fixtures see the Netherlands play Denmark in the early kick off, and then Germany play Portugal this evening. My day is going to be spent helping my friend sample wines for his wedding – a fine way to spend a Saturday, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Have a good one, folks.

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