Sunday, July 21, 2024

Euro 2024: Saliba bosses it as France go through

Morning, there was some good, a lot of bad, and a healthy dose of ridiculous at the Euros yesterday.

So, let’s start on a positive note and focus on the good. It wasn’t France v Belgium as a contest, because that was a tedious game of football generally speaking. There were occasional moments of quality, like a brilliant cross from Jules Kounde, but they were usually followed by wastefulness – like Marcus Thuram heading the ball off-target.

The good came in a familiar package for Arsenal fans: William Saliba. He was absolutely immense at the back, and up against a player like Romelu Lukaku who can make it physical, he demonstrated the full range of his qualities. His reading of the game was superb, his anticipation top class, his passing outstanding, and when Lukaku or anyone else tried to make it about strength, he held them off like they were 7 stone weaklings.

I wonder now are there things that Didier Deschamps doesn’t like about him. Probably, because he is a very strange man, but throughout this tournament Saliba has been consistently excellent. Of course this is no surprise to any of us, and I do find it odd that after two years of top class performances in the Premier League and a very good season on loan at Marseille anyone needed to be convinced by him, but football is strange at times. He wasn’t just confined to defensive brilliance either, he actually had a good go at breaking the deadlock up the other end too, but fired wide.

Other good things: I enjoyed Mike Maignan’s 5-a-side save, forgetting he could use his hands, he cleared one off the line with his feet, like when a centre-forward has to go in goal. On top of that, the late goal for France was good – not that I particularly cared who won, it’s just that it spared us another 30 minutes of tedium. For all their talent, France are very boring, and Belgium were crap, so it wasn’t any fun. There was no sign of Leandro Trossard either, even when they needed a goal late on he was left on the bench, so hopefully now he can head off, get a nice rest and come back for pre-season.

Later on we have Portugal v Slovenia, another game I was hoping someone would score in to save us from extra-time. It didn’t happen, but thankfully the additional 30 minutes were full of incident. Diogo Jota won a penalty for Portugal by running into a defender, and up stepped Cristiano Ronaldo. He had spent the entire 90 minutes trying to score free kicks, and failing. It was actually pathetic to watch a player so focused on themselves rather than his team. I was almost surprised he didn’t try and take goal kicks to have a go, and it would get worse after Jan Oblak produced a fantastic save to deny him from the spot.

Rather than dust himself off and use all his experience to help his team, he made it all about him by crying his stupid little eyes out. I was astonished at BBC’s punditry basically saying ‘Awww, he’s so passionate about the game’ rather than lambasting the self-obsessed weirdo whose first thought is always about Ronaldo, not his team or teammates. Those kinds of histrionics are genuinely wretched to watch, instead of sympathy he generated laughter and scorn. That kind of nonsense, which you wouldn’t tolerate at schoolboy level, is why Lionel Messi is, and always has been, levels above this guy. Instead of cuddles and consolation, he needed a slap to remind him Portugal still had time to find a goal.

However, it was Slovenia who had the chances. Having missed one earlier when he got in behind Pepe, Benjamin Sesko had an incredible opportunity to win it in even better circumstances than his first chance, but fluffed his lines in front of goal. I think it’s 20% good save, 80% horrible miss, and my takeaway from watching him in this tournament is that I’m glad he’s staying at Leipzig. We already have some players whose finishing causes us angst, adding another one to the mix would drive us mad.

So, it went to penalties: Ronaldo scored his, and Slovenia missed all theirs. Again, I think the keeper did well, but the penalties were exactly where he’d want them. Fair play to him, his confidence might be restored having failed to stop any of ours in the Champions League shoot-out last season, but Slovenia can rue their lack of quality from the spot having worked so hard throughout the game to defend against a side which had much greater attacking threat.

Today, we’ve got Romania v Netherlands in the early game, followed by Austria’s clash with Turkey – a game which promises plenty based on what we’ve seen from both those sides throughout. The tournament owes us something today after enduring yesterday. Fingers crossed.

In brief Arsenal news, the club have announced another pre-season friendly in LA, taking on Bournemouth at the LA Galaxy stadium on July 24th (three days before we face Man Utd at SoFi), as well as the departures of youngsters Reuell Walters and Amario Cozier-Dubbery.

It’s also being reported for about the 700th time that we’re about to sign David Raya permanently, so there’s some surprise transfer news for you.

Right, that’s it for now. We will be recording an Arsecast Extra this morning too. Keep an eye out for the call for questions on Twitter @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra – or if you’re an Arseblog Member on Patreon, leave your question in the #arsecast-extra-questions channel on our Discord server.

Pod should be out by lunchtime. For now, have a good one.

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