Bleary Monday greetings to you all. Late night football makes for tired eyes in the morning.
I didn’t see as much of it yesterday as previous days, but with all due respect to those involved, the games in question weren’t as tempting as they have been. Switzerland had ex-Gunner Johan Djourou in their staring line-up as they nicked a late win over Ecuador, while Olivier Giroud got about 12 minutes as a sub in France’s win over Honduras.
I did stay up to watch Argentina v Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was pretty average stuff I thought. For one of the tournament favourites, Argentina struggled to really impose themselves on the game. An early own goal put them ahead and then a brilliant Messi goal made it 2-0, but a late reply from Bosnia and Herzegovina made the last few minutes a bit more tense than they really should have been.
There’s obviously a wealth of attacking talent in that team, but they’ll have perform better than that. However, it has already produced what’s likely to be one of the images of the World Cup so far. Shades of Maradona v Belgium in this one. Anyway, the only bet that came through for me yesterday was the Argentine win, so cheers for that Lionel.
There’s big Arsenal interest today with Germany playing Portugal at 5pm (GMT), and that really does look like a tasty encounter. Reports say Ronaldo is fit, so that should give Per Mertesacker and Co plenty to deal with at the back, while at the other end all eyes will be on Mesut Ozil to see what he can produce on the big stage. Especially in light of Cesc Fabregas’ comments yesterday which backed up my theory that Arsene Wenger passed on him because he had the German to do what Cesc would do.
I think, more than any other Arsenal player, Ozil could benefit from having a good World Cup. There’s a buzz of low-level criticism around him at all times, it seems, and some convincing displays in this tournament would go some way to cancelling that out.
Not sure what to expect from Iran v Nigeria other than it’s got the potential to be one of those World Cup games as much as a forgettable encounter, and late tonight there’s the USA v Ghana which I’m looking forward to. No Frimpong though for Ghana, what were they thinking?
Still on the World Cup theme, and Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Joel Campbell will be back in London, saying:
He will definitely come back to us for pre-season. He is maturing well.
It’s an interesting comment. He doesn’t say he’ll be part of the squad for next season, just that he’ll be with us for pre-season, and given how weird and truncated pre-season is going to be for some players because of their World Cup commitments, it might be hard to make any definitive judgement.
The other thing to bear in mind is that I think his contract expires next summer, so that presents something of a dilemma. He could come back, do well, and simply leave on free next year. Do we take a punt and offer him a contract extension right away? If we buy another striker and have Giroud and Podolski still in the squad, with Walcott to come back, Cazorla a player who operates in the front three, how much football can we guarantee him? Anyway, it’s not my problem to solve but I’m interested to see what the manager does.
Finally for today, reports are circulating that Thomas Vermaelen has agreed a deal with Manchester United. Which is nice for him, given that he’s still under contract with us. Considering all that’s happened recently, you couldn’t definitively rule out him going there should we decide to let him leave, given how willing we seem to be to do deals with rivals these days, but at the same time I’m not convinced this summer is going to be the one in which he leaves.
As it stands, I think we need to add a centre-half to the squad. For all the talk of being unlucky with injuries last season, we skated on thin ice at the back and thankfully had no serious issues with our first choice pairing. Vermaelen, in fact, was the one who missed a lot of time because of injury. But I don’t see how we can let him leave without replacing him, and that leaves us in exactly the same position as last season where one bad tackle, an ankle strain, a knee jolt or any other innocuous thing that can put a footballer out for months would leave us down to the bare bones. And we no longer have the versatility/reliability of Bacary Sagna who could operate at centre-half if required.
I suspect that Vermaelen wants to leave, and I understand why. He’s not playing regularly; he’s captain of a club and sitting on the bench every week – something which must sting his pride; and he’s at an age where that kind of situation is nigh on intolerable, but unless we’re ready and willing to add the required depth to the squad it’s not in our interests to let him go. I wouldn’t really have any issue with him going if I thought we could replace him or, indeed, improve on him as a back-up to Per and Kos, but I can’t see Arsene Wenger adding three defenders to the squad this summer (a right back and the two centre-halves needed if Vermaelen is permitted to go elsewhere).
However, let’s not be under any illusions that this story is in the public domain for a reason. Agents use the press to oil the transfer gears and make others aware of a player’s desire to leave his current club. That’s what’s going on here, so we’ll just have to wait and see how the club decide to play this one.
Finally for today, Thierry Henry destroys the shrill bleating of Robbie Savage during the BBC’s World Cup coverage. Effortless.
Right, that’s it for this morning. Till tomorrow.