Gunners in Brazil – How have they rated so far?
Jack Wilshere – 6/10
Jack, in a similar fashion as several managers of late, has decided to view the game from another – lower – level than what is considered ‘normal viewing practice’.
Jack’s somewhat unorthodox approach of viewing the game unfold before him from the floor is an even lower viewpoint than Andre Villas Boas’ constipation-mimicking touchline crouch, but it seems to work for Wilshere, as that is generally where he spends most of his games in midfield for both club and country… In all seriousness, Wilshere didn’t have a horrendous World Cup and should hopefully be pleased with the 90 minutes that he appeared for in the 0-0 draw with Costa Rica.
What I imagine will hurt him the most is that Jordan Henderson has, inexplicably, jumped ahead of him in Roy Hodgson’s pecking order. Whether this will change after Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard retire, we shall have to see. Certainly, Henderson didn’t demonstrate at all, for me, quite why he started ahead of Wilshere and his performances were utterly forgetful.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 10/10
Arguably the only England player who has left the World Cup with his reputation enhanced, rather than battered like a haddock in Hull.
An injury sustained during the warm-up game against Ecuador in Miami kept Chamberlain out of all three group games. In my opinion, A fit Chamberlain is a player who has proven already that he can richly improve an often clueless England side that recently seem utterly reliant on the inventiveness of Raheem Sterling and Danny Welbeck (!) and the hit and miss finishing of Subway’s Daniel Sturridge.
Chamberlain’s speed, skill and vision would’ve provided a throbbing impetus to England’s disjointed, flaccid attack. Post ‘England Group Stage Disaster’ and Chamberlain’s lack of action sadly did indeed rob him of the opportunity of making a World Cup appearance, but has, perversely, enhanced his reputation (see also; Theo Walcott for Arsenal and England last season) and hopefully he will grab the opportunity to shine in the forthcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers in the Autumn.
Santi Cazorla – 5/10
Poor Santi, he spent the majority of Spain’s decisive first two games watching on – in what I imagine was stark horror, at the Spanish Armada’s reign crumbling before the on looking world – from the touchlines.
Cazorla started the ‘dead rubber’ game against the Aussies and certainly didn’t disgrace himself by any means. Perhaps Spain could have done with Cazorla’s FA Cup winning confidence, instead of David Silva’s somewhat more apprehensive approach play in the first two games?! Of course, Cazorla has also had to deal with speculation about a potential move to Atletico Madrid, and this could have affected his focus. I do hope there is nothing in these rumours!
Laurent Koscielny – 7/10
One substitute appearance and a start against Ecuador has been the sum total of Koscielny’s World Cup thus far as France have eased themselves into the knockout rounds.
And he has indeed looked worthy of a starting place in the French XI. Quite why Mamadou Sakho is considered ahead of him is questionable, but someone has to miss out in a strong squad. Koscielny has looked composed and unflustered and represents a solid option for Didier Deschamps to choose in the later stages of the competition.
Olivier Giroud – 8/10
I think Giroud has been superb in his debut international tournament.
His assist for Mathieu Valbuena against the hapless Suisse side was just about as athletic as we’ve seen him, and his headed goal earlier on in the same game a prime example of just how well he can threaten at set-pieces when the delivery clears the first line of defence…And, my goodness, how good does he look in Nike’s already-classic France kits?!
Giroud has shown that he can link very well with a second striker – hint, hint Monsieur Wenger – and his partnership with Karim Benzema looks like a potentially cup-winning formula. France, hopefully, are delighted with the Arsenal star’s World Cup 2014.
Per Mertesacker – 7/10
Per has put in some tidy shifts as Germany eased themselves into the knockout rounds with two wins and a fortunate draw.
Ghana did give Germany and their backline a scare and Mertesacker’s lack of pace was highlighted on a few occasions. Per’s solid header, saved by USMNT’s Tim Howard, was the catalyst in the move that led to Thomas Muller’s lovely fourth goal of another prolific World Cup for the #13.
One imagines that Mertesacker will be a bedrock of Germany’s relentless push to the final (that I think they will win).
Mesut Ozil – 7/10
Ah, Mesut. Quiet yet efficient. Almost, but not quite.
But for a better touch in the pouring rain in Recife, he may have opened up his account when put through from the left. Ozil is getting on with the job, linking midfield with attack, and I hope that he can really make the knockout rounds his own. There are few smoother, more confident and as good a passer as Mesut Ozil, but he’s got to start finishing off moves, for club and country, a bit more often.
Lukas Podolski – 5/10
Arsenal fans will be shocked but Podolski could, perhaps, be accused of ‘going missing’ whilst on the left of Germany’s attack.
One late substitute appearance and one start in the Recife rain is the grand total of Podolski’s tournament. Perhaps he prefers sitting next to the glorious Jogi Low on the bench (heck, I’d rather do that. I bet he smells of woodland moss and notes of Acqua Di Parma) but he needs to make the most of his opportunities. But having a lethal finisher available now that the World Cup is in its ‘Crunch-Time’ is never a bad option to have.
Thomas Vermaelen – 6/10
One solitary appearance so far for The Red Devils (will we say that more often next season?) but it was a solid one. Belgium are through, Vermaelen will probably play again once he regains fitness, but Jan Vertonghen will certainly challenge him for his preferred place at centreback.
Recently departed Arsenal players –
Bacary Sagna – 6/10
A single appearance so far this tournament; Sagna played well against the surprisingly effective Ecuadorian team. And, do you know what? Sagna has learnt how to cross again. Great news for Manchester City fans then…
Park Chu-Young – 3/10
Not a stellar tournament at all for Park, who failed to inspire a disappointingly poor South Korean side who thusly crashed out in the group stages, despite their plucky work ethic. Quite where Park will go from here is anyone’s guess.
My top six players so far:
– James Rodriguez; Sheer class, wasted at AS Monaco and their car-park pitch.
– Enner Valencia; Wing-back turned goal poaching forward. Arsenal target?
– Guillermo Ochoa; The best free transfer this summer. Get him Arsene.
– Neymar Jr.; The hopes of a nation? No worries. He’s got this.
– Axel Witsel; Quiet yet deadly. He is Belgium’s midfield.
– Arjen Robben; Love him or hate him, he is the Gatling gun in a pistol duel.
My top six flops so far:
– Wayne Rooney; A one yard tap in, and a decent cross. £300,000 a week. Spent.
– Cristiano Ronaldo; How it must gall arguably the greatest footballing talent in half a century to have been born in an era with someone even better. Lionel Messi is still in the tournament, and is joint top-scorer, whereas Ronaldo is on the plane home, after a pretty hopeless Portugal flattered to deceive (see: every other tournament they’ve been in since 1966) and with him unable to carry them out of their (tough) group with vital goals.
– David Silva; The spark looks gone. His miss against The Netherlands was crucial and Spain were ruthlessly punished shortly afterwards.
– Iker Casillas; Put a fork in him, because he is done.
– Gonzalo Higuain; Played out of position? Even so, he’s offered very little. Good job Messi is on fire.
– Igor Akinfeev; Oh dear. A career going backwards, rapidly.
Six to watch out for in the knockouts:
– Divock Origi; the livewire Belgian attacker is attracting Premier League interest after his fearless displays thus far.
– Jackson Martinez; the Colombian (or Ecuadorian, depending on whether you listen to ITV1’s commentary…) striker is now well and truly off the mark and could very well light up Colombia’s attack to an even brighter degree in the next round.
– Mathieu Valbuena; Franck Ribery who? Valbuena’s electric World Cup has been a delight to see. Plus I want to see his ‘jockey and horse’ double act with Olivier Giroud again…
– Mauricio Isla; Alexis Sanchez, Eduardo Vargas and Arturo Vidal get all the plaudits, but Isla has been a class act down the Chile right. A possible Sagna replacement, perhaps Arsene?
– Michael Bradley; The man ‘who Arsene turned down’ (allegedly, for Kim Kallstrom in January) looked out of sorts against Germany (and he’d clearly left his first touch back in Rio) but the USA will need their midfield battler to get them through their tough first knockout round. He must play better for that to happen. I expect him to regroup and push on.
– Marcos Rojo; A player whose reputation pre-World Cup wasn’t exactly glowing, but he has impressed me so far and I expect a move from Sporting to materialise after the cup has been won…and who knows, he could even lift it himself.
Enjoy the rest of this World Cup gang, we’re being spoilt.
Thanks – as always – for reading,