Monday, November 28, 2022

Euro round-up: Scotland good, England conservative, Swedish bicycle envy

I caught the first part of England v Scotland on the radio on my way back from 5-a-side. It was pleasingly old school to listen to football that way, the commentary fading in and out as the reception wavered. The noise of medium wave drowning out the Wembley crowd. Getting stuck at traffic lights where I couldn’t hear anything but a wave of static and sound, inching forward in the car until it drifted back in so I could hear the pleasing tones of … er … Chris Waddle.

It sounds as if England’s best moments came during that period and the time when I got home to switch on the game on my laptop. John Stones hit the post with a header from a corner, maybe a bit unlucky, but it was also a very good chance to go ahead. After that, I don’t think there was much that was too threatening. I remember a good second half shot from Mason Mount and a bit of a goalmouth scramble at one point, but England just didn’t create enough.

Far be it for me to have too many opinions about the English team, but do you really need both Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips in midfield? Especially when you’ve got a player like Jadon Sancho on the bench, coming into a tournament off the back of sensationally productive season for Borussia Dortmund. I do understand why a manager, especially a relatively young one, might lean into solidity. It’s hard to find the balance between that and the bravery needed to win games, but with the talent at his disposal, that was disappointing stuff from Gareth Southgate.

I also realise this will sound like an Arsenal fan coating off a Sp*rs player (and don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely predisposed to being negative about Harry Kane), but Harry Kane was lucky to have lasted beyond half-time, and he’ll be lucky to start England’s next game. Slow, immobile (not the half-decent Italian kind), and probably not fully fit. I understand his reputation, but teams should be picked on performances, and his was dreadful. Not helped by a lack of creativity in the team, but there’s just something about the way he plays which feels like it does England more harm than good of late.

As for Scotland though, fantastic. There is clearly a quality gap in some areas, England have the best individuals, but collectively they were great. They had chances too, Pickford made an excellent save from O’Donnell, and as the ball fell for Che Adams his visualisation work let him down. He just needed to imagine he was playing against Arsenal and that would have rattled the back of the net.

I thought Grant Hanley was excellent at the back, and to see Kieran Tierney perform that well after injury problems was brilliant. I am so glad he’s an Arsenal player, and the news that he’s on the verge of signing a new five year contract with the club should be welcomed by all fans. Future captain? Probably, but until then an absolutely integral part of the team we’re going to try and rebuild this summer.

Earlier, the Czech Republic and Croatia played out a 1-1 draw, but I only saw the first half. There was some discussion/debate over the penalty awarded to Croatia for a challenge in which Dejan Lovren certainly caught Patrik Schick with his elbow as he jumped for the ball, but I don’t know how any player is supposed to challenge aerially without putting their arms out. It was accidental, so a penalty really felt harsh.

I can see both sides of it, and maybe there’s got to be some wiggle room in the way referees assess incidents like this. This accidental contact gave the Czech Republic the easiest possible chance for a goal that football can provide, but there are countless other occasions in the game when deliberate contact and fouling isn’t penalised to that extent. Think of all the pushing, shoving, pulling that goes on at corners. I know that’s a Pandora’s box but it still happens. Imagine a scenario where a striker is through on goal, but taken down deliberately just outside the box or in the D. You could make an argument that a foul of that kind is far more worthy of a penalty than the one in yesterday’s game. Anyway, 1-1 for those guys.

In the opening game of the day, the only thing I think that’s worth discussing in any way is Alexander Isak, but even that feels a bit like walking past a bike shop every day and seeing a beautiful bicycle in the window that you know you’d love and have a great time with, but you just can’t afford. I’d love a 15 speed, Shimano-geared Isak at Arsenal, but I’d say the chances are practically zero. Maybe if we sell our Raleigh Chopper (Lacazette), and neat fold-up bike (Nketiah), we might buy a different one.

Today, there’s a lot going on. Hungary have to contend with France, Portugal face Germany, and then it’s Spain v Poland. I rarely predict, but I’m gonna go with 3-0, 2-2, and 2-1, although I recognise Spain’s challenge of turning passes into goals.

Right, let’s leave it there for this morning. If you haven’t had a chance to listen already, there’s a brand new Arsecast available for you, all the links you need are below. Enjoy your Saturday.


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