England bow out on penalties, Chamakh doesn’t want to bow out – AFC

How many of you did not predict penalties in this tie? That was one outcome that everybody knew would happen. With no goals through 90 minutes and extra time England had finally succumb to the dreaded penalty shootout. It was definitely not a good night if your name was Ashley; both Young and Cole did not score their penalties which condemned England to taking the next flight home.

The game itself was not a classic by any means, especially if you were supporting England. After a bright start from both teams where it seemed they were prepared to throw two fingers up at all those who predicted a defensive stalemate from the two countries. That lasted all of five minutes then the real picture loomed.

As the game wore on Italy became stronger and stronger and missed quite a few chances you would expect them to gobble up. I believe the English post was struck twice over the course of the game and Balotelli had a game he would rather forget in terms of the chances he missed. England rode their luck a few times in the game as they became more and more tentative in their play. They dropped deep, kept their shape but at the times the broke on the counter they couldn’t string a number of passes together. The ball would break down and they would scurry back into position win the ball back and do the same over again.

As I had stated yesterday a game featuring these two countries needed the addition of someone special to produce that one piece of magic. I wanted that someone to be Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, England was calling out for his appearance. Rooney offered absolutely nothing on the night, nothing he tried came off and a lot of the promising attacks fell apart at his feet. Despite Jordan Henderson being trusted ahead on him last night young Alex will return to Arsenal with a lot of experience gained from his involvement in the tournament overall.

Theo Walcott did come on in the second half replacing James Milner who again was in the team on merit for his defensive qualities yet offered nothing going forward. Theo did in fact have the Italians on the back foot when in possession however that wasn’t in possession often enough as the England team seemed to force all their play on the left hand side. I have no idea why this was the case as Ashley Young gave the ball away far too much on the left flank and should really have been subbed at some point. I suppose in the end England believed their best hope to be penalties and played for them. Roy didn’t take that gamble the England team needed, the nation knew not to expect much when Henderson was brought on for Scott Parker and the only gamble Roy was prepared to take with the penalty shoot-out didn’t pay off. Not much else to say on the matter, the journey for the England team has ended at the quarter final stage. We didn’t expect much going into the tournament but gained belief as England progressed; we had some positives from Theo and Alex’s participation and will benefit next season from their experience gained.

In other Arsenal news the Bordeaux president has ruled out the prospect of Marouane Chamakh returning to the club this summer. It was though that after showing interest in the January transfer window for the striker they would renew that interest as it’s looking more and more likely he will become surplus to requirements next season. This has now been confirmed that Bordeaux will not be a likely destination. President Jean Louis Triaud said:

“It is not worth making things up. I tried to contact him six months ago when the transfer window was open”

he added:

 “Since I crossed paths with him at the Parc des Princes, he was able to tell me he was very happy in London, loved Arsenal and was fine where he was. We’re talking about things which do not exist.”

Don’t know what to make of those quotes, can Chamakh really be happy with the way his career has been going at Arsenal or is he happy with the bumper wages he is on? I stand by the latter, we must not forget he signed on a free and his agent would have made the most of that situation with wage negotiations. These same wages Chamakh is on would price him out of any move back to his old club. France isn’t known for its high wages apart from the money currently being thrown about at PSG.

I still believe Chamakh will move on if and when we complete the signing of Giroud from Montpellier but for now he is taking a seat next to Denilson, Arshavin and Bendtner in that waiting room of uncertainty.

Enjoy your day people

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England through, Giroud closer, Arshavin slips up – AFC

So England are through to the knockout stages at Euro 2012, they made hard work of it against the Ukraine who should feel hard done by for the goal that was not given. As predicted Roy Hodgson took the cautious approach and did not promote Theo Walcott to the starting eleven. Milner was chosen to provide more defensive cover against a determined home nation who went for a win. Rooney returned and scored the winning goal however his performance overall was rusty and ineffective.

Theo did get on the pitch in the second half though he was starved of any service as the England players chose to ignore him as an outlet. Strange choice there as his pace could have been utilized to stretch the Ukrainians who kept pushing for a goal. The minutes though will hopefully keep Walcott fresh in readiness for the game against the Italians.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came on with a few minutes to go but didn’t really get a chance to have an effect on the game. He had one run but the ball trickled away from him at the point when he could have spread the ball to Theo. It’s still assuring that Roy Hodgson showed faith in the Arsenal man to come on in the closing stages of the match. A big boost to his confidence and there’s no reason why he wont be in Roy Hodgson’s plans for the Italy game.

As I mentioned earlier England will be facing Italy after winning the group; the French lost their final game against Sweden 2-0 and will now face Spain by default. The group stages are now over and the real pressure starts, Arsenal still has a part to play in the competition, roll on the Quarter finals.

The Olivier Giroud transfer to Arsenal seems to be gaining more momentum as the deputy president of Montpellier has confirmed negotiations between the two clubs over a transfer. This is the most definitive news yet concerning a deal with the tall striker and prices of around £13million are being quoted related to a clause in Giroud’s contract. Either way expect any deal to be concluded once France are no longer participating in the tournament.

Giroud managed to get some minutes on the pitch in France’s disappointing defeat to Sweden as so did the heavily linked Yann M’Vila. The midfield terrier started the game however my focus was on the England game and so I cannot report on either player’s performance against the Swedes.

Andrei Arshavin has caused a slight bit of controversy in his homeland after he was embroiled in an argument with some fans at the hotel the Russian team were staying at. Mobile phone footage captured the Russian captain responding to abuse from the fans in where he claimed his country’s failure to advance from their group was not the players fault but could be pointed towards the Russian fans and their expectations.

Although the words were not said on an official platform it has been enough for members of the Russian football union to condemn his lack of remorse and question his status as captain of the team.  Ideally this controversy will blow over as soon as possible especially if Arsenal harbours plans to sell Arshavin back to Zenit St Petersburg. Factors like this could affect negotiations over any transfer fee and Arshavin’s decision to move back to Russia if he falls foul of the Russian public.

Enjoy your day people

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Walcott scare, M’vila close, Van Persie to sort out future soon – AFC

Theo Walcott has caused concern in the England camp after limping off from training citing a tightness of the hamstring as the cause. For Theo to miss out in the next game would be a big blow after the impact he made in the last game against the Swedes. The biggest message you can send out to the manager when you are aggrieved at not starting games is to show him what you can do when you come on the pitch. Walcott’s goal and assist was the perfect response and a chance in the starting line up for the next game was not an impossible outcome.

We all now know Roy Hodgson has carefully selected the best teams in his opinion that was best suited to play to his specific tactics. James Milner has left many scratching their heads at his worth to the team given his unspectacular performances. In his defence he has played to Roy’s expectation and is more unsung in the role he is asked to play. He has been a helpful assistance to Glen Johnson on the defensive side and can whip in a decent cross on the offensive side of England’s game. There are times when Milner’s robotic attention to detail is required and times when the more gifted, talented attacking players are needed.

I think that maybe Milner would have been selected ahead of Theo for the Ukraine game anyway due to the fact England won’t be going into the game desperate for a win. They wont need to get at the Ukrainians from the start so I feel Hodgson will opt for a more cautious approach from the off. Rooney will probably start but in midfield personnel will probably be the same as was used for the Sweden game.

It would still be a shame if Hodgson didn’t even have that dilemma to contemplate a switch but any impending injury will save him from criticism if England failed to qualify and he did not start the Arsenal forward. Theo did give us a scare during the Sweden game when he went down clutching his leg but that injury at the time was from his calf so today’s is unrelated. Theo has seemed to aggravate the hamstring which kept him out of the team during the tail end of the season; hopefully this has been spotted early enough to not keep him out any longer than Tuesday’s game.

The news has filtered around that Arsenal’s first game of the season will be a home game against Sunderland. Source of this is from RedAction who may well be correct but since the fixtures will be released today 9am UK time I see no need to read into this too much. I’ll prefer to wait and see when they are out which will probably be by the time you read this post. I will be more interested in the games that occur around our jinx month November, The Christmas and New Year’s fixtures and the run in towards the end of the season.

It was nice to hear quotes from M’Vila that he is aware of Arsenals interest and that he would be interested in a move to the emirates.

He said:

 “I like Arsenal and I like the premier league”.

He then followed up with:

“I don’t know what is happening with the clubs, but yes I would be interested in the premier league and Arsenal.”

That’s the most positive quotes from all the players that have been linked to Arsenal since the season end so far. I now believe that transfer will happen once the Euros are over, not before though.

Robin Van Persie’s Holland team bowed out of the Euros with a whimper last night. I think many Arsenal fans secretly wanted the dutch to leave the competition early so that the future of our skipper could be sorted out as soon as possible. After Robin’s amazing season for Arsenal a lot was expected of the dutch master at Euro 2012. Even he must admit he hasn’t covered himself in glory at the tournament and his stock and ego has suffered a bit of a hit. Lets hope he can now decide whether he wants to stay at Arsenal quickly and look forward to atone for his disappointment as soon as possible.

Enjoy your day people.

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Update: RedAction were right. It has now been confirmed Sunderland home is the first game followed by two away trips to Stoke and Liverpool. Final game will be away to Newcastle. I will need time to digest to run the rule over the fixtures and will comment in a future post.

Theo Walcott, England saviour – AFC

Ladies and gentlemen he’s back on the national radar. The critics were left to eat their words last night as Theo Walcott’s introduction midway through the 2nd half changed the game in England’s favour. England were in dire need of inspiration from somewhere; they did well to fashion a one nil lead in the first half only to self implode with two poor goals conceded. One being an own goal from Glen Johnson and the second a free header for Olof Mellberg; England really went to sleep for ten minutes in the second half.

England were in desperate need of a change to stem the flow as Sweden were growing more and more in confidence. I mentioned in my blog yesterday that I felt Roy would use Walcott’s pace in the second half to stretch the Sweden defence and keep them on their toes. What I didn’t expect was for Sweden to be leading at that time however what an impact that was made by Theo Walcott.

Theo was brought on as an immediate reaction to the 2nd goal scored by Mellberg. The change was needed, something was needed to bring the game back in favour of England. Theo didn’t take long to make his mark, within 5 minutes of coming on he pounced on a loose ball cleared to the edge of the Swedish box from an Ashley Young corner, he cushioned the ball and pinged it through a crowded box. Luckily the keeper was unsighted and saw the ball too late to react, the ball flew into the back of the net and England was level.

Walcott is not known for is long-range shots so this was a welcome surprise for all. England fans, especially gooners were jumping up and down and cheering the goal that given England a second chance to get a result. Arsenal fans have had to put up with the constant barracking of Walcott as people questioned his right to be in the England squad. Mark Lawrenson tended to put the knife in when Walcott came on the pitch when he suggested that Theo has apparently been living off of his hat trick performance against the Croatians 4/5 years ago. Pretty harsh but Mark Lawrenson doesn’t do positivity, I’m sure he must have Stewart Robson as a facebook friend.

That goal was the perfect response to any critics and a reminder to Roy Hodsgon of exactly what he can bring to the England team. Theo wasn’t finished there though,England were level but the boost from the goal meant that their heads were up as they had a new impetus. And so then came the winner courtesy of some excellent work from Theo. From an England break Theo received the ball just outside the area from Glen Johnson; he turned at the defence and drove forward, he used his pace to get past two defenders to reach the by-line, he cut the ball back to Danny Wellbeck who with a brilliant piece of adjustment sneaked the ball into the goal with a back flick. Although it needed a good finish the pace of Theo unsettled the Swedish defence enough to create the chance, what an impact.

The turnaround was complete,England had the lead and all they needed to do was hold on for the last ten minutes or so. With a few minutes left Roy Hodgson made a change and brought Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on. A bit late for the youngster to make much of an impact but he did mange to get in the right position for a late chance. Theo was the creator again as he put on the after burners to chase a ball played out in a counter attack, the Swedes were stretched at this point and as Theo worked his way into the box he saw Oxlade-Chamberlain at the far post. The ball was played over and heading to the boot of young Alex only for an over enthusiastic Steven Gerrard to charge into the box and steal the ball before it could reach the Arsenal man. The connection from Gerrard sent the ball flying into row Z and the chance was gone. England still managed to hold on to record the 3-2 win and move a step closer to qualifying from their group. Roy Hodgson’s tactics were working in the first half, they got thrown upside down with the sloppy Sweden goals early in the second half however he had a plan B in the two Arsenal players on the bench and thankfully he saw that early enough to introduce Theo who made the all important difference.

Enjoy your day people

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Oxlade-Chamberlain plays his part, Giroud again,Wiltord retires

Well that came out of the blue, here we were wondering if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would get the chance for a cameo role against the French. What we didn’t expect was for Roy Hodgson to give the young gunner a start in the game. This wasn’t a friendly, this was a start against one of the tournament favourites France and I have to admit the boy didn’t let his country down.

I spent the best part of yesterday’s blog expressing how I hoped Oxlade-chamberlain would play some part in the tournament but never imagined he would have been in Hodgson’s plans. Downing seemed a shoe-in for the left side of midfield due to his age and experience against a high-profile team like France. It wasn’t to be, rumours filtered through in the late morning that Roy would be starting the youngster but they were just rumours, nothing concrete to confirm.

The buzz from the rumours alone were enough to get Arsenal fans excited, this was a game we weren’t going to miss but the added bonus of young Alex playing ensured it would not be missed for anything. Once it was confirmed it was a proud moment for all linked to Arsenal to see that Roy Hodgson had big faith in his ability.

And to the game the young gunner did not disappoint, putting in a disciplined and controlled performance that made a mockery of his young age. We all know Oxlade-chamberlain for his dazzling runs, awesome skill and play with no fear attitude but this wasn’t a game for running gung-ho at the French team. Roy Hodgson set out a game plan to be followed and Oxlade-chamberlain ensured he did his part in a disciplined performance by England.

France in hindsight were the better team, they had more chances at goal and more possession.England were camped in their own half in the second half of the game and did enough to contain the pressure. Roy Hodgson selected the team that he felt would cope best against the French flair, disciplined enough to track back and close the French down but still pose a threat on the counter. The 1-1 draw was a great result for England and Oxlade-Chamberlain can hold his head up high for playing his part in professional team performance.

He was replaced in the 76th minute as Roy decided to change some tired legs; he played his part and now can look forward to the remaining group games having overcome the hardest test in the group. Expect him to have a more offensive role against the Ukrainians and Swedes if he plays.

The Olivier Giroud story is starting to pick up more pace as news surfaced that the Montpellier manager Rene Girard has apparently confirmed on French radio station RMC of Arsenal’s interest in the striker. Again it could be more made up stories since it’s the easiest story to run with without hard evidence in writing. If the manager has in fact confirmed the negotiations with Arsenal let’s hope his club Montpellier can confirm this more officially soon.

Special mention goes out to Sylvan Wiltord who announced his retirement from football yesterday. Our former French striker was one of the invincibles and spent a good few years at Arsenal. One of his most memorable moments was scoring the only goal at Old Trafford to clinch the title for us in 2002. Even more memorable was his part in one of the more remembered goal celebrations in Arsenal history when he allowed Kanu to pole vault over his head when in standing position. He will always be remembered for playing his part in that title clincher AND for looking like a member of Fine young cannibals. All in all we salute a former gunner who takes place in a part of Arsenal history.