Thursday, April 25, 2024

The trophy that everyone wants to win …

All eyes are on the Arab world right now as teams play for the biggest prize in football. Nothing can beat the prestige and glamour of lifting this particular trophy, so kudos to Mikel Arteta and his boys in red for winning the Dubai Super Cup yesterday.

A 2-1 victory over AC Milan came via a lovely free kick from captain Martin Odegaard, and a second from Reiss Nelson which actually hit the Norwegian on the way in. I think it was much more Nelson’s goal, he’s certainly claiming it, and who are we to rob him of a strike in a game of such magnitude?

Milan got one back in the second half but we hung on and then won the subsequent penalty shoot-out. Poor Matt Smith. He missed one in the last game, and missed the chance to win it in this one. He’ll always have that FA Cup winner’s medal though.

General thoughts: we played some nice stuff, knocked the ball around with a bit of zip, and the Italian side looked some way off the pace. They were a bit physical at times, and there was a funny moment when one of them clattered into Ben White on the sideline, and just before he took the resulting throw-in, you could see our right-back give some consideration to just chucking the ball at the back of his head. Lovely to see him back.

His return, along with Thomas Partey, saw him play 45 minutes to get some playing time under his belt, and afterwards Mikel Arteta said:

I’m very pleased, everybody has been giving him a lot of support and love which is what he needed. You know the reasons why he had to leave the camp, and we are delighted to have him back and have him in really good shape.

I did wince a bit when I saw Gabriel go down late on, and there was some suggestion Kieran Tierney had a problem late on too. With no sign yet of Oleksandr Zinchenko, that could be a bit of a worry, not least because we’re still not sure how close to 100% Takehiro Tomiyasu is. Still, fingers crossed on that, and on more players coming back, the manager told the official site:

It happens in the summer as well when there are Euros or World Cups. You know you get players all the time coming at different stages and we have to adapt. We knew it, we tried to plan it and hopefully we can have the rest of them very soon.

Next up Juventus on Saturday at home, and after that we can start thinking more clearly about West Ham on December 26th. So far so good though in this pre-season 2, the re-seasoning, and a majestic trophy to boot.

At the World Cup we got the first semi-final and Argentina are through after a 3-0 win over Croatia.

I thought the Croatians were the better side, if a little blunt from an attacking perspective, until the penalty incident. There’s been plenty of talk about it, but I don’t know that it can be anything other than a penalty. The keeper absolutely clatters him, and I don’t think the ‘he couldn’t get out of the way’ argument much water. If he comes and wins the ball, that’s one thing, but he didn’t. Applying my scientific method to this one: if Arsenal didn’t get that penalty I would be extremely annoyed, and if we conceded it I don’t think I’d have any complaints. Messi took and buried it to make it 1-0.

There was definitely a touch of good fortune, coupled with some poor defending, for the second goal, but it was a reward for the endeavour of Julian Alvarez – and not for the first time I found myself questioning Croatia’s decision making from set-pieces. The pièce de résistance came late on when Messi’s dazzling footwork and speed of thought were too much for Josko Gvardiol – who I think has been one of the best defenders at this World Cup. Messi bamboozled him and made it look easy when it was anything but. The nutmeg assist for Alvarez to score his second added the icing to Argentina’s cake.

Croatia just didn’t offer anywhere near enough up front, and it was game too far for some of the older legs. It sets up the romantic possibility of Messi finally lifting the World Cup in what’s sure to be his final tournament, so all eyes today will be on France v Morocco. Either way, it will set up a fascinating final on Sunday. Messi’s first win; an African nation winning it for the first time ever; or France retaining it – becoming only the third team to do so, and the first since Brazil in 1958 and 1962.

Right, I’m off to the vet with Lana this morning. She is due for her final check up after her hip replacement, and they just need to make sure everything is the way it should be. The all-clear will mean she can run around properly and not just ‘endure’ on-lead walks. Fingers crossed.

Till tomorrow.

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