The UEFA Euro 2016 competition has began in earnest, with several thrills occurring during the revamped 24- team tourney. The Arsenal is represented by 9 players, eight of whom played a part in the recently ended ‘freak’ season, whilst one joined in a strange-by-Arsenal-standards move, in the person of Granit Xhaka. As the competition is currently at the knockout stages, I feel there is enough evidence to judge the performances of the nine Gunners in France, almost all of whom have played some part for their respective countries, thus far.
- HECTOR BELLERIN- SPAIN (N.A)
The young Spaniard was added to the team last minute when Carvajal suffered an injury in the Champions League final. He has not seen a minute of action, but it can only be to our benefit when he trains with class players such as Iniesta, Ramos and Busquets. With no Santi Cazorla or Nacho Monreal to keep an eye on our jewel, I pray the ‘personas molestas’ from Catalunya, Pique and Busquets, do not get any funny ideas into his head about going back ‘home.’ Home is in London!
- JACK WILSHERE- ENGLAND (5/10)
Jack the Kid. The English Xavi. Injuries have hampered his progress so many times Gunners are tiring of hoping he goes a whole season fully fit, but we all hoped with his somewhat surprise inclusion, he would gain some game time and show his undoubted skills to the whole world. He made a cameo in the first game against Russia but put in an underwhelming performance in his only start against Slovakia. He seems rusty due to lack of game time but once or twice there have been flashes of the teenager who bedazzled a Barcelona midfield one night years ago in London.
- PETR CECH- CZECH REPUBLIC (6/10)
The club’s only major signing during the past season’s summer transfer window, whom various personalities within the game suggested would add from 12 to 15 points to our final league tally due to his unquestionable world class abilities, had along with his nation an underwhelming campaign. After a wonderful comeback in their second game against Croatia, from 2-0 down to 2-2, many expected the Czechs to play the game of their lives against a dreadful Turkey team in the final game. They did, playing some of the worst football this competition has seen thus far. There wasn’t much Cech could do to stop the five goals conceded throughout their time in the competition, despite an enthralling performance against Spain, but at least he can get more rest before what is shaping up to be one of the toughest league campaigns, EVER.
- WOJCIECH SZCZESNY- POLAND (6/10)
The returning loanee from Roma who claims to have learnt more there during his loan than he has at Arsenal (wonder whose fault that is Mr. Quick Smoke-in-the-showers) has figured in only one game thus far, against Northern Ireland, where he looked quite comfortable handling the long balls thrown the Poles way.
- OLIVIER GIROUD- FRANCE (6/10)
After Arsene Wenger, perhaps the most divisive member of the Arsenal team. His lack of pace has clearly shown when he has featured, but as focal point of a France team buzzing with speed all around him, Giroud offers what many others do not. With a goal to his name scored against Romania, and having proven himself a nuisance against a very stubborn Albanian outfit, Oli dropped to the bench against the Swiss. He has a shot accuracy of 22%, but even some marquee strikers aren’t having it any better (I’m looking at you Lewandowski).
- LAURENT KOSCIELNY-FRANCE (7/10)
We have all known for a while now we have quite a competent defender in Lolo, but his quite, calm disposition during all of France’s games could have only increased his value. He averages 9 defensive actions per game, and has had to be adept at snuffing out counter attacks against his team. Slaven Bilic, manager of West Ham, who loves the defensive part of the game, has called Laurent, ‘one of the best centre-backs in the league and maybe even Europe,’ during punditry duties and this is no small acclaim, coming from one of the most robust imports the Premier League has ever seen. After helping the team to a second best defensive record in the league last season, Koscielny despite his age (30) is continuing on an excellent and welcome upward trend, as we have no idea who will partner him next season.
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- AARON RAMSEY- WALES (7.5/10)
With his new ‘platinum-blonde’ hairdo, Aaron Ramsey is playing in France like a new man. A man with a whole lot to prove to the world. After a swashbuckling performance in the 2013/2014 season, he has failed to flatter. This could be due to him playing in ‘unnatural’ positions. For Wales he has played in his preferred ‘Number 10’ role, and sometimes as a false 9 when Bale drops deep, and he has not looked out of place. He has always been a player full of running, but unlike in his last two seasons, in France, there has been an end product to all his energetic runs. With two assists and a goal to his name, he is telling the world the Welsh team is more than just about Gareth Bale. Now here is to hoping his hairdresser uses the same magic formula for his hair all of next season.
- MESUT OZIL- GERMANY (8/10)
I mean we all expected him to bring his world class, extraterrestrial ability to assist to France. After chalking 18 assists in the league last season, Mesut has quietly gone about his business in France. His sublime pass to Schweinsteiger against Ukraine was elegant in its flight to the boot of Bastian. Against Northern Ireland, where Germany after several onslaughts could manage only a goal, Ozil had a mesmeric game. His stats line after the game read, 67/68 attempted passes, 7 crosses, 6 chances, 4 shots, 3 take-ons and a 99% pass accuracy. 99%!! The silent assassin continues on his mission to assist every way he can. Now, for Wenger to find an efficient striker to convert all those chances he will definitely create next season.
- GRANIT XHAKA- SWITZERLAND (8/10)
Cool, Calm, Strong, Rugged, Class. Some of the words that have been used to describe a player who many Gunners hope will be the solution to our problem defensive midfield position. Coming into the tournament having completed a £30 million plus move to Arsenal, should have piled huge pressure on the shoulders of this young man. If there was any, it hasn’t been evident as he has shrugged them off as effortlessly as his left foot passes the ball to a teammate, long and short. Labeled by some on social media as the ‘White Vieira,’ Xhaka has gone about his job with a tenacity teamed with immense passing abilities, a combination not seen in North London since Patrick decided to take his talents to the Serie A. His slick passing combined with his never-back-down attitude will stand him in good stead with the Gooners home and abroad who have waited so long for such a player.
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