And the best team at the Euros are…
What a great Euros it has been for Arsenal players. What I will argue here is that Arsenal as a club have had the best performing players at the tournament as a whole. With Giroud scoring three goals and helping France get themselves to the final, surely that will silence his critics. After his performances, I can really see him taking Arsenal forward. His hold up play and having the ability to bring other midfielders into the game will really please Wenger. Arsenal fans in years have criticised Giroud for not taking his chances but he hasn’t missed many at this tournament (until he was through in the semi-final) so hopefully he can bring this form into the new season. I really could see a future with Wenger playing Sanchez and Giroud in a 4-3-1-2 formation and I could see us creating a lot more clear-cut chances. Koscielny has also starred in defence for France and his commanding play in the French defence has attracted interest from Bayern Munich, but Wenger won’t want to sell one of his key players unless Bayern offer a significant sum of money.
What a surprising and memorable Euro championships for Wales as they have made it to the semi-finals against all the odds after qualifying for their first major tournament since the World Cup in 1958. Wales wouldn’t have been able to do this without their play-maker and engine Aaron Ramsey. Ramsey has scored one and assisted four and was described by Robbie Fowler as one of the best midfielders in the tournament. It has to be said Ramsey has been an influential figure in helping Wales reach the semi-finals. Playing for Wales, we saw some glimpses of what he can do and he played with the freedom that we saw him play with in the 2013/14 season for Arsenal. However, Ramsey’s suspension was a major blow against a poor Portugal team in the semi-final tie as Wales went crashing out of the tournament. His suspension left Wales without that final product and creativity against the Portuguese, and without him Wales’ chances of reaching the final were very slim. His intricate play and link up with his Welsh team mates ought to impress Wenger in his plans for next season. We have also seen Ramsey playing in his preferred central role for Wales. His coolness and composure in front of goal when he calmly lobbed the onrushing Russia number one Akinfeev secured Wales’ last 16 place, leapfrogging England to top the group.
Wenger is always criticised for not spending big but he may have found a gem of a player from Borussia Monchengladbach. There was speculation raised as Wenger splashed the cash early on in the window spending in the region of 30 million pounds for the Swiss maestro Granit Xhaka. This promising player was raved about when playing for Borussia last season and was one of the stand out midfielders in the Bundesliga. After his impressive performances in France I’m sure Arsenal fans won’t be fazed by the money spent on this promising young player as he earned himself two man of the match awards in Switzerland’s first two group games. His aggressive style of play is arguably something that has been missed since the days of Gilberto Silva and Patrick Vieira. Xhaka, however, did miss the crucial penalty which saw Switzerland exit the Euros to Poland in an intense penalty shootout.
Another good performer from Arsenal in the Euros has been the German playmaker Mesut Özil. His eye for a clever pass and a crucial finish against Italy has seen him been highly talked about after nearly breaking the assists record in the Premier League last season, collecting himself 19 assists. Özil, however, has been seen to be fallible under pressure, after missing a penalty in the win against Slovakia and hitting the woodwork in the shoot out against Italy, but I’m sure he won’t let this affect his confidence in the semi-final tie against the hosts France. In fact, Özil was triumphant in the early group game against Northern Ireland as he controlled the play in the middle of the park, unselfishly laying on chances for his teammates and only misplacing just one of his 68 passes in the 90 minutes, with a pass accuracy of 98.5%.
Certainly, for two Arsenal players in particular it hasn’t been the Euros they were hoping for. The Arsenal and Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny has enjoyed an impressive loan spell at Italian club Roma, starting 34 games last season and making a total of 99 saves. Szczęsny went into the Euros thinking he would be Poland’s number 1 and it started off well for him as he kept a clean sheet in the 1-0 victory against Northern Ireland. However, Szczęsny was then dropped and replaced by Arsenal’s former goalkeeper Lukas Fabianski for the rest of Poland’s last four matches as they made it to the quarter-finals, only to cruelly lose 5-3 on penalties to finalists Portugal.
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It was also a very disappointing Euros for Jack Wilshere, who spent the majority of the season injured, only managing to play 144 minutes of Premier League football all season, and whose inclusion in the England squad raised eyebrows. Wilshere looked like a player who hadn’t played a lot this season after he made one start and two substitute appearances, not really having an influence in either of the games. His lacklustre performance reflected England’s dreadful Euro championships. If Wilshere doesn’t keep up to full fitness next season, with the arrival of Granit Xhaxa, he could be quite a way down the pecking order in Wenger’s midfield plans.
There are, of course, other contenders for the best performing club at the Euros. Real Madrid have had some stand out performers: Ronaldo, Bale, Modric and Kroos have all been important for their countries. However, I would argue that Spain’s early departure from the competition rules Real Madrid out. Juventus have also had some impressive performers, Pogba and Buffon in particular. However, with Özil and Ramsey, and with Giroud still to have a potential role to play in the final, my argument would be that, on balance, Arsenal are the club who have had the performers at the Euros overall.
Editors note – This is the first article from Joe Dodge-Taylor for is with us all week doing works experience. He dreams of sports journalism so constructive criticism and support in the comments is most welcome. Thanks Dave