All eyes on the World Cup and those that aren’t seem intent on recreating Arsenal squads of yesteryear. Manchester United, constantly seeking revenge for Arsenal’s audacious capture of Mikael Silvestre, are not resting on their laurels having tempted Robin van Persie northward. Reports this morning suggest a £15m bid is in the offing for Thomas Vermaelen and when that deal is complete, they will hop onto the next flight to Barcelona with Alex Song their target, hoping to wrongfoot the Chelsea delegation intent on reuniting the Cameroon international with his bosom buddy, Cesc. I don’t know if they still are chums but it was a way to work bosom into the post this morning; a quiet rebellious act. Against what I’m not sure given I write the posts and make the rules for them.
All the while, Stan Kroenke is sitting in his Denver office waiting for the phone call to come from Abramovich or the Glazers, having worked out it would be cheaper for them to buy Arsenal than pay out all the sell-on clauses and transfer fees we have in place. A bumper year for the bottom line is in the offing.
His financiers will be keeping an eye of the reckless intentions of the manager for whom the money is burning a hole in his pocket, this morning’s favoured target is Pepe Reina at a hefty £5m. It would be a disappointing signing to be honest. If the Spaniard is seeking a move, I would be more than happy if he pitched up in the Premier League and proceeded to continue his finely honed technique of throwing the ball into his own net to give Arsenal points.
By this point, you’ve realised that talk of the World Cup is being put off for as long as possible. England’s defeat to Italy was not unexpected, the manner of the game probably was. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the dour affair I, for one, expected, with both sides showing good – and brave – attacking intentions. The Italians enjoyed great space down the English left and it was surprising that this area was never addressed. No matter which attacker he had in front of him, Baines was constantly sucked inside, leaving Darmian and Candreva with the freedom of the flank, England’s rearguard invariably arriving too late to prevent the final ball being delivered.
Indeed Balotelli’s winner came from that source and provided more evidence for his admirers that Arsenal could do worse than look at the Italian. Whether he is the right forward that Wenger is seeking is another matter, his spell at Manchester City was not entirely successful but questions are being asked if his hellraiser days of partying with Oliver Reed and Richard Harris might well be at an end given his impending domestic bliss.
For England, the result leaves them where they were expected; needing six points from their remaining two games to guarantee progress. In the attacking sense, it was a positive night with Sterling, Wellbeck and Sturridge offering promising naivety. Rooney once more disappointed and question marks must be asked against his inclusion against Uruguay as he offered little in the attacking sense whilst lacking defensive discipline. Whether Barkley was any better in the latter sense in unclear; Italy were ahead and had no pressing need to attack when he came on. His was a bright cameo, the same with Wilshere, both proving in a short spell to be more suited to the England team that Rooney and Henderson. It’s unsurprising with the latter, confirming suspicions about the former that he is nowhere near as good as his hype; a promising youngster who got old and offered nothing but boorish behaviour. Even replacing those two leaves the over-riding feeling that England are a top half of the table side, one coming together and with the potential to be better in a few years time.
The group was thrown wide open by the first match in the group. Costa Rica’s win featured a good performance from Joel Campbell, one that is sure to have many proclaiming that Arsène’s search for a wide player – cover for Walcott among others – is over. That was always the reality, the unspoken element of the fervour which surrounded the rumours about Carlos Vela; Campbell was waiting in the wings, a player whose reality is either return to the club this summer or be sold. Credit to him for the by-product of cresting a clamour for the former.
Uruguay were as nostalgically disappointing as Costa Rica surprising. Maxi Perreira’s rolled back the years, the player’s direct lineage to the 1986 squad of Enzo Francescoli when anything that moved, was kicked. Hard. Campbell survived the assault born from the frustration of their humiliation. It was good practice for the welcome the physicality that the Premier League will offer.
Blunted is the way I describe the Uruguayan attack without Suarez; Edinson Cavani was another superstar whose billing appears over-inflated on the basis of their sole performance thus far. It’s one match and it will be a surprise if he plays that ordinarily in the remaining games. But that’s the way of football, always has been, always will. Like England, failure to win their next two games will send them on the first plane home the day after the final match of the group phase.
But is it quite that simple? Presuming Italy do not lose to Costa Rica is not unreasonable – and I’ll presume just that – and means England can afford to draw with Uruguay and hope to prevail in the final group game. Four points to set up a place in the second round is an achievable target. It’s not earth-shattering either but as Italy proved down the years, it’s about qualifying for the next phase and take it from there.
Elsewhere Wilfred Bony took aim at a transfer to Arsenal with a goal against Japan whilst his agent mocked Newcastle, telling the world that his client was looking for a move to a top six club, all the while hoping that the call on hold on line 2 wasn’t from Daniel Levy whilst Arsenal are going to compensate for losing Vermaelen by hijacking Liverpool’s move for Dejan Louvren. Or Callum Chambers, I’ve lost track of it all as you might have guessed.