Friday, July 4, 2014

Switzerland v Messi; Tim Howard v Belgium; Arsenal Round Up

Okay, so I'm feeling particularly lazy at the moment. Actually, I've been feeling particularly lazy for the past two days, which explains my lack of commitment towards writing a post analyzing the clashes between Argentina and Switzerland, and Belgium and USA. But since the quarters begin today evening, might as well get this out of the way. Mind you, this is going to be a short post.

So let's start with the slightly duller of the two games, Argentina v Switzerland. It wasn't the exciting match most people predicted it would be. For most of the 90 minutes Argentina tried 'oh so hard' to score against a really good defensive line. This was one of those cases where both, the defense looked grand because the attack wasn't as good as people expect it to be. I mean Djourou, Arsenal's once upon a time, 4th choice central defender was leading the back line. He had a good game against an Argentinian team that was really lacking in creativity, despite not falling short of industry. Switzerland were largely bereft of chances except for a lovely chance, presented on a platter to Josep Drmic, who somehow managed to shoot a rather tame shot right into the hands of the Argentinian keeper. Other than that Argentina kept trying, making half chances which either the defenders blocked or the keeper saved. 

Higuain didn't do much of anything, neither did Di Maria and Messi, was well Messi of last season and not Messi of old. Ponderous, running into a crowd of defenders, losing the ball, the game by and large passed by him. Except late in extra time, Messi decided he was one of the world's best players again, ran at the Swiss defence, angled a pass to Di Maria who scored. Redemption. Of course, the Swiss almost equalised a few moments later, but it was not to be and Argentina are through to the quarters.
The game highlighted all the reasons why Argentina cannot be one of the frontrunners of the tournament. Their defence is hardly convincing, the midfield can easily be overrun and for all the plethora of star attacking talent, Argentina's attack rarely seems to click apart from the few moments when Messi seems to burst into life. Any good team can see Argentina through.

Speaking of teams which can see Argentina through, Belgium made it to the quarters and are going to face Argentina. What a game that was! For the first time in the World Cup, Belgium played the attacking football everyone thought they were capable of. Chance after chance, shot after shot. Unfortunately for them, they faced off against a very, very in-form Tim Howard. Continuing his fine form from last season, Tim Howard made a plethora of saves (sixteen I think), and was generally aided by a good defense. This would probably have been Tim Howard's last World Cup match ever, and what a way to go out. The best player on the pitch that night. 
Unfortunately for him, the introduction of Lukaku changed USA's fortunes. A game which looked like it was going to penalties, became a frantic, attacking one, when the Lukaku's freshness was introduced. His pace and power was a problem for a tiring defence and he helped in creating the opening goal and scoring one. USA drew one back through Green, and despite a late chance, they were eliminated. 

Apart from Brazil v. Chile, this was the only Round of 16 match which lived up to it's billing. Belgium decided to show off why they were considered to be dark horses by many before the World Cup began, while USA showed that a team can be greater than the sum of it's parts. I really like this USA team, they were tight-knit group, willing to give it their all, and if it were up to me I'd have them go through instead of a boring, laborious team like Argentina.

Anyway, tonight promises the best match of the tournament, Germany v France. While every football fan will be excited to watch the spectacle, this one is particularly interesting for Arsenal fans. Mertesacker, Ozil, Podolski, Giroud, Koscielny all may be playing tonight and it promises to be a grand night for football. 

And onto all things Arsenal. We are being linked to Debuchy, which makes sense, and Sanchez which still seem like rumours as much as I'd want them to be true. 
As I've written here before, Debuchy makes a lot of sense as a right back who can straight away enter our defensive set up, and build on the defensive progress of last season. Lot of fans out there saying they want Aurier for reasons such as, he's younger, has had a great world cup, quick and a long term prospect. A lot of these people are the same ones who chided Wenger for putting kids in charge of the defense rather than experienced players. And let's face it, none of this lot watches the French League. We've only seen Aurier's attacking side at the world cup, and suddenly he's one of the best right backs in world football. This is not to say that he's bad, I can't make a judgment on a player I've seen in two games. But if we're going to realistically challenge for trophies in the coming season, then wouldn't you rather have a right back who's in the prime of his career, has played sufficiently long enough in the premier league so as to not require a settling in period and will probably fit right in with our current back three. Logically speaking, if Sagna had renewed his contract would we even be looking for a new right back? Of course not. But since he's gone, it does make sense to replace him with the man who replaced him in the French squad. 

Then there's the Sanchez rumour, and make no mistake it's only rumours right now. Apparently Liverpool want him in a player plus cash deal for Suarez, but Sanchez doesn't want to leave Barcelona, and if he does leave, his preference is Arsenal. Headlines that can be made by anyone and no one is actually going to deny them. But it is clear that Barcelona don't value him as much as they should, and have begun their usual antics of publicly wooing a player by screaming sweet nothings to Suarez in press conferences. 
I might have mentioned this before, but I really detest Barcelona. All their talk of being a 'proper' club, with values and what not, is at best hypocritical, and at worst, vomit inducing. Especially when it comes to buying players. Forget the entire Fabregas affair, they didn't even pay taxes on the Neymar deal. And now they want to bring Suarez in, a man who clearly doesn't fit the bill of a 'model footballer' which Barcelona go on and on about. On top of that, for a team plagued by defensive frailties, they have to be remarkably stupid to buy a striker. Plus everyone knows that Messi is going to be leading the attack, and he's too much of a moody douche to play well anywhere other than in his preferred position, so I really don't see any sense in going after Jaws.  

Anyway, all this Barcelona talk makes my blood curl. If it does result in Sanchez being sold, I'd really like for Arsenal to get him. Our 66 goals (despite missing Ramsey and Walcott) last season is testament to the fact that we need an attacker. And Sanchez does fit the bill in terms of a player who can play alongside Giroud and replace him when needed. He's remarkably flexible in terms of his position and can play anywhere across the front three. He can slot in as the central striker, or as the left winger, and in a team already consisting of Walcott, the possibilities are endless. In my head they're already combining like a certain Pires and a certain Freddie, and Ozil behind them making those passes, and oh my god it's like a Disney fairytale! 
So yes, I'd really like for this rumour to be true, although I half expect it isn't. We get linked to a lot of players and if last week was Balotelli, then next week might possibly be Reus for all you know. Best to forget about transfers altogether. 

Anyway, I'm all giddy and excited about tonight's match. Hopefully it will live up to expectations. 
Till next time.