100 games for the national team! That’s some achievement. Lukas Podolski should be proud of his efforts. He did celebrate it with a well-taken goal and is one of the two Arsenal players, along with Rosicky, who’ve moved on to the quarter-finals. But the news wasn’t good for Van Persie, Szczesny, Arshavin, and Bendtner who all bow out.
Podolski played just over an hour and created a couple of gilt-edged chances from the inside left channel to go with his goal. But the Germans had failed to convert their technical and tactical dominance into a convincing lead by the time he left the pitch. Like many teams in the tournament, Germany also missed a number of clear-cut chances.
Looking back, with three wins from their three group games – a feat they haven’t achieved before, it would seem Die Mannschaft had everything under control but it wasn’t the case. Had Badstuber’s tug on Bendtner’s shirt been penalized with the score still 1-1, the Germans would have conceded a penalty and gone down to 10 men. That could easily have seen them knocked out. While there is no argument Germany deserved to go through at the top of their group, it does once again highlight how close things can get at the highest level and the impact seemingly minor decisions can have on the fortunes of teams.
Coming back to the centurion, it was good to see Prinz Poldi being involved in the game a lot more than he did in the previous two. He spent a lot of time in the inside channels and picked up his goal via a classic poacher’s run from outside the D to the centre of the penalty box. Throughout the game his movement was commendable as he worked the channel without losing track of his defensive duties. Ultimately, the performance won him the Carlsberg Man of the Match award even though he only played two-thirds of the game. For him it was the perfect night.
It was great for me. To get my 100th cap, and then to score, I’ll remember that for the rest of my days. Everything was perfect for me today.
The other Arsenal player involved in that game would probably not say the same. Bendtner worked hard in the attack and picked up a quality assist from a well-worked set-piece but that wasn’t enough for Denmark. The striker has had a good tournament to go with some respectable performances with Sunderland on loan last season. His style of play and strengths will most likely not interest the top teams but the Dane can be a big player for a mid-level team in Europe. Hopefully, the transfer issue will be settled soon now that his involvement in the Euros is over.
Another person in a similar situation is Arshavin. The Russian will also be returning home, in an outcome that has shocked many after their strong start to the competition, after his side lost out to a dogged Greek unit. Like Bendtner, Arshavin has also impressed on loan and in this competition but the performances probably weren’t at the level needed to win the Premier League or Champions League. And with the arrival of Podolski on the left it’s quite likely that the fleet-footed winger will see his name on the back of a different club’s shirt next season.
In the other game on Saturday, Szczesny saw his side eliminated from the bench. Contrary to assumptions made by many based on some remarks by Poland manager Smuda, it was Tyton who rightfully retained his place in the starting line-up. With his tournament over early, Wojciech should be able to get a good vacation before returning to Arsenal. He’s undoubtedly a prodigious talent but the step up to a world class player is not always easy. For Szczesny the rest of the summer has to be about focus and hard work.
While the Arsenal custodian was on the bench when his side was eliminated, Rosicky missed his team’s decisive win through injury. It might even keep him out of the quarter-final against Portugal which might mean that his tournament is over as it’s difficult to imagine the Seleccao getting knocked out in that one. Rest, recover and get ready for the next season Little M.
That finally brings us to the person who was without a doubt Arsenal’s biggest player of last season. Robin van Persie’s national team crashed out of the Euros with three straight defeats. Some might have predicted a tough time for the Dutch in the group of death but few would have foreseen these results.
Bert van Marwijk tried to change his tactics in the final game but it was two games too late. In part his team’s performances against Portugal did mirror some of Arsenal’s troubles, especially the chaos and panic at the back once Holland failed to sustain any possession.
The manager touched upon this,
I think we started quite well. After the back pass from Gregory [van der Wiel] there was a lot of uncertainty in the team.
To me, this uncertainty or panic at the back stems from a lack of tactical and structural solidity. Once plan A fails, the teams must have something to fall back upon, a way to shut up shop till they can find their rhythm again. Arsenal can’t do it consistently and the Dutch have confirmed it’s a problem that can plague the best of teams and can end up making them look far worse than they actually are.
In fairness to BvM, his stars didn’t perform at the level expected from the best players in the world.
…the players who usually make the difference for us, for one reason or another, didn’t really reach their level.
Robben will get his share of the blame but Van Persie will also have to shoulder the burden of failure. If he’d taken some of the quality chances that came his way in the first game things could have been different for Denmark. Was the Arsenal skipper distracted by the discussions with Arsenal regarding his future or was he under pressure due to the calls for the inclusion of Huntelaar? As his manager said, for one reason or another, RvP didn’t quite live up to expectations in this tournament.
Of course, that doesn’t make him a useless player but it could certainly affect his confidence. More than anything else though, I hope he got a chance to see how difficult it can be at the highest level even with some of the biggest names in the game by your side. Football is about a team more than anything else. And if there is one that is based around creating chances for you and getting the best out of your abilities, you have to appreciate what you’re getting. The same won’t necessarily or seamlessly happen at other places.
At this point I don’t know what Van Persie wants, although speculation is that it’s not about the money, so I don’t want to judge him. Let’s hope he sees the benefits of staying with the Gunners sooner rather than regretfully later.
In other news of interest, the fixtures for next season are out. I’ll try to post my thoughts later in the day.Follow @goonerdesi