So the English club season grinds to a crunching halt with the last of the play-off finals seeing AFC Wimbledon, heirs apparent to the one-true Wimbledon, rising to League One next term where they will face the psuedo-Wimbledon, MK Dons. It was the derby that everyone wanted to talk about, as if some ‘pwoper nawty’ faces will be turning up at Stadium MK and Kingsmeadow when the two sides meet.
AFC Wimbledon are the living the supporters-owned club dream with promotions all the way from their Isthmian League days. Well done to them but spare a thought for the Plymouth fans who had the unenviable journey home post-Wembley. Whether by car, coach or train, it’s still a bloody long way home when you’ve lost. A bit like travelling to Wrexham and losing, with the prospect of a journey back to Surrey awaiting.
On the Arsenal front, it’s all about ins and outs. Roy Hodgson will shake it all about today when he names his squad for England’s inevitable Euro2016 Round of Sixteen exit. Jack Wilshere, it seems, will be making the trip despite the criticism he’s received, mostly from Arsenal supporters it has to be said. Given the lack of match sharpness through missing all but the lingering end of the season, I thought he’d fared reasonably well and with the paucity of talent in the England midfield, is a shoo-in for the final 23.
One man going to France in form is Olivier Giroud. Well, he didn’t go to France in form but found some when he arrived. You’ve no doubt seen the finish from yesterday’s friendly against Cameroon. It was overshadowed more than a little by Dimitry Payet’s winner but most goals would be, even if there was an air of ‘meh, his goal at [insert opponents] was better‘ about it.
Giroud’s finish was well-taken and immediately begged the question as to why he doesn’t finish like that for Arsenal. Well, he doesn’t get that kind of service for a start. I can’t think the last time we sent a cross that early and accurate into the penalty area. I genuinely can’t, it isn’t me being too lazy to do so. But the pressure was off to a certain extent, despite the fickle public speaking of the French crowd who booed then cheered the striker. It isn’t just Arsenal supporters who turn on him and then fall in love once more.
His place seems to be under threat although it’s hard to remember a time when it wasn’t. Ptang Yang Kipperbang of Dortmund has been heavily linked with a move to the Premier League to the extent that he was dropped from Gabon’s last international. In no way was this a blame-shifting exercise by the national team manager for a home defeat and shame on you for thinking that.
On the bigger stage though, his cousin was telling everyone that signing for a Premier League club was right up there with world peace as one of the lad’s biggest dreams. Only London or Manchester teams need apply though which brought sobs from Humberside as Steve Bruce was looking forward to kippers for breakfast.
Meanwhile, the biggest threat to Giroud’s place last season, Theo Walcott, was scythed down by Thierry Henry. Yes, that’s the same Henry that Walcott wanted to emulate by taking his number 14 shirt.
He has struggled. His 10 years at Arsenal have been a weird one. Apart from one season where he played more than 30 games, he wasn’t really a starter.
If Welbeck is out and Oxlade-Chamberlain is out, we all know how important pace is in the way [England manager Roy] Hodgson wants to play. If you go, you have to have performed.
I always have a mixed reaction, Theo Walcott has been in the game for 10 years, you should know about him. You always have something to prove, he should know what he can offer to a team.
By now he should know what his position is, but it is not clear.
I thought it was: on the bench as an unused substitute.
Henry is a little harsh on Walcott, particularly with the injuries suffered at key times in his career. Nonetheless, the central thrust of his point is right: Walcott has under-delivered in his time at Arsenal. It seemed that everything was coming together before the 2014 injury suffered in the FA Cup Third Round win over Tottenham and when he returned it seemed to be coming together for him.
Not in the last six months of the season. I think his last start was at Old Trafford, I genuinely can’t remember, which says as much about his impact as well as my memory. Nonetheless, the goalscoring bang at the end of 2014/15 coupled with September’s Player of the Month award ought to have been the building block. It wasn’t with injury and horrible loss of form for himself and the squad, causing the pain.
It’s a familiar story at Arsenal: a contract extension too far. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the former England international moved on during the summer although I wonder if there’s a disparity between his own expectations of the club he should sign for and reality. At 27 years of age, we’re no longer talking about potential but of a career which never delivered and in that sense Henry is right: ten years on, his reputation should be so much grander.
Yes, it’s going to be a long summer. Not particularly hot either, if the fleeting sunshine over the bank holiday weekend was anything to go by.