Sorry for prolonged radio silence, but I bear good news: I’m finally done with uni (at least till September) and you’ll have my unreserved attention from now on. I’m also a bachelor of law now, only the formalities remain, so hit me with your congratulations in the comment section below.
Anyway, quite a lot of footie happened during my short lay-off period, however I’ve been able to watch most of it, fortunately. 7 Gunners have been in action during the last four days, hence I’ll concentrate on the games they took part in. Starting with…
France 2-0 Albania
Didier Deschamps made two changes to the side that opened the tournament with a win over Romania: Martial came in for Pogba and Griezmann was benched for Coman. I can’t say either change worked particularly well. Martial had more of the ball than his right-wing counterpart, but his decision-making was woeful, while Coman seemed the tidier guy in possession, only to be let down by his end product. United’s prodigy and Atletico’s leading scorer were hauled off at half-time and on the hour respectively, with Deschamps making reverse swaps by introducing Pogba and Griezmann.
On the whole, France once again struggled to break down a well-organised opponent and it’s a bit of a shame Albania has nothing to show for their effort and resilience. The albanians kept Les Blues wonderfully at bay during the first half, restricting Deschamps’ men to just 6 shots, with none of these on target. The hosts really struggled for any sort of chemistry during that first 45 minutes.
However they cranked up the pressure right from the off in the 2nd half and put Albania on the back foot. Nonetheless it were the visitors who created the most clear-cut chance first by hitting the post in the opening exchanges. After that it was all France, however. In the end late goals from Griezmann and Payet sealed the win and the resulting spot in the playoffs for Le Blues and I, for one, felt relieved for Deschamps’ men.
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Arsenal watch: Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny. It was a shame Giroud left the field without a goal to his name. He tried hard as always, he was France’s main threat (because Les Blues’ answer to Albania’s resilient defensive organisation was to lump it into the box) and when Ollie hit the post it became clear it just wasn’t meant to be for him on the night. He shouldn’t feel too down, though, Pierre Andre Gignac is literally a poor man’s Giroud, so the handsome French bloke will start again in no time at all. Koscielny, meanwhile, had a couple of decent chances from…wait for it…crosses, but couldn’t make the most of these. Wasn’t really tested defensively, I expect that to change in the knockout stages.
England 2-1 Wales
Unlike Deschamps, Hodgson stuck to his side, fielding exactly the same 11 players who drew against Russia 5 days before. This turned out to be a mistake, as England’s game was inhibited by the same indifferent performances from the same culprits. Kane was invisible, Sterling missed a sitter early on and lost possession at every conceivable and inconceivable scenario, while Alli got rustled by Ramsey (that’s my boy) during the opening stages and disappeared from the face of the Earth like his Spurs teammate up front. Rooney at 10 was decent, but hardly spectacular and I maintain Wilshere can do a better job there.
Just so we wouldn’t feel too bored Wales opened the scoring via another free-kick from Bale, despite all the England dominance. I felt bored still and, after watching the first half in its entirety, went to have a lengthy snack during the break, only turning the game back on the 55th minute. It was fortunate that I did, cause I tuned in just in time to see Vardy, who, along with Sturridge, replaced Kane and Sterling during the break, smash one into the top corner to bring the sides back level. From then on it never looked like Wales had it in them to score another, albeit Hodgson’s men also took their time, with Sturridge finally poking home the winner with 30 seconds to go. Overall, it was a deserved win for the Three Lions and (hopefully) it has taught their manager something about his certain selection choices.
Arsenal watch: Aaron Ramsey. As someone nicely put it after the game “Ramsey is a player you don’t want to see on the other side”. Aaron was a thorn in the side for English players, he was all over the pitch (in a good sense) and he was about the only bright spot in a restricted performance from Chris Coleman’s men. Rambo seems the kind of player who thrives in big games, so I wouldn’t say his performances fluctuate wildly from game to game, if we base this solely on the fact he was pretty poor against Slovakia.
Croatia 2-2 Czech Republic
The game was insanely dull during the first half, a borefest the like of which I haven’t seen during the tournament. The only thing of note was the repeated re-emergence of the second ball in play. Oh, and a lovely finish from Perisic to put Croatia 1-0 up.
The second was much more lively. Just when it seemed Cacic’s men put the contest to bed after Rakitic found the net to double his team’s lead, the win suddenly slipped out Croatia’s grasp. A lovely cross from Rosicky picked out Skoda, whose bullet header left Subasic flailing at thin air and then some Mordor-like bloke decided it was a good idea to handle the ball inside his own box with Clattenburg watching. Mark pointed to the spot and voila – the Czechs have drawn level.
It all went downhill for Croatia the moment Modric asked for a substitution. Croatia’s hub went off on the hour clutching his groin (that came out wrong) and Kovacic isn’t really on the same level. As a result, Croatia conceded twice and will now have to best Spain to finish first – not an easy task, considering how La Roja brushed Turkey aside.
Arsenal watch: Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky. Maybe I’m seeing things where there’s nothing to see, but I don’t like the manner in which Cech conceded the first. It was a good strike from Perisic, but I have this nagging feeling Cech could have done better. As for the 2nd, our goalie was also culpable, albeit indirectly, by passing to a full-back under pressure. Petr isn’t being helped by his teammates at all for the 2nd game running, though, it has to be said. It’s looking suspiciously like his countrymen made a bet of how many Cech can save before he finally succumbs and concedes.
Tomas, meanwhile, wasn’t at his best either. Despite providing a delightful assist indeed, Rosicky’s game was error-strewn, with only half his passes (of which there weren’t many overall) finding their way to a teammate. Right at the end Tomas also managed to pull his hamstring, so the tournament is likely to be over for him. Very sad indeed. The Czech is a wonderful player whose energetic style of doesn’t seem to have been affected with years in the slightest. However persistent injuries hindered his career greatly.
I’m aware I haven’t mentioned either Xhaka or Ozil here, but that’s owing to the fact I haven’t been able to watch Romania vs Switzerland (I hereby solemnly swear to watch Switzerland’s last game vs France), while Ozil struggled to impose himself against Poland. He’s not being helped by Low playing Gotze at centre-forward at all.
That’s it from me for now. Back here on Monday.
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