The calm before the storm with Euro 2016 resuming tomorrow night. Welsh supporters are apparently petitioning UEFA to have Aaron Ramsey’s one-match ban for receiving two yellow cards rescinded, which stands as much chance of success as the petition to have the EU Referendum result overturned. Actually, there’s more chance of that happening than Ramsey playing tomorrow night.
You can’t help but feel sorry for the midfielder who may not have garnered the goals or the headlines but has certainly been Wales key player this tournament. It’s led to widespread discussion about whether Arsenal need to change to accommodate him, with some of the view that he’s not important enough to the side to warrant that.
Much will depend on how rigid Arsène views the formation. Carry on as last season or tweak to improve the team’s performance over the course of the campaign. The question remains whether or not we will add another striker and this morning there are claims that the manager has spoken to both Lacazette and Lukaku.
Both offer a different approach for the team and losing that ‘predictability’ is vital for Arsenal next season. Passing for passing’s sake has become too ingrained and we need an outlet for a more direct approach, to neutralise the massed ranks of defences. I’d like to think that either of the two options would provide that; Morata certainly wouldn’t.
Everton, it’s reported – ahem – will sell for £40m despite slapping a £65m price tag on the Belgian and the recovering pound means that Lyon only want £38m now. Luckily Arsène is still in France so he’s handily placed to nip down to Lyon or over the border for a quick chat. Has he a holiday booked or straight back to pre-season training?
Some clubs have already returned with the photos in the papers. Not to the extent of yesteryear, of course, and with the staggered arrangements for players who’ve been involved in tournaments, is there a genuine start date for the squad this summer? ‘When you can make it’ seems as good a time as any.
Talk of strikers inevitably turns to Olivier Giroud. It’s fair to say he’s in form right now, recovering it just at the right time for his country but three months too late for Arsenal. We all know when things are going well for him, it’s just a matter of when the goals stop, not if. That consistency may come with competition for his place in the side but at 30, it’s a bit late in the day to be hoping.
Nonetheless, for France he has played well this summer, particularly against Iceland which was his best game of the tournament so far. Germany pose a different problem for Les Bleus and it’s the semi-final which holds the most interest for the neutral. OK, Wales have the football romance but I expect this one to be a better game. Portugal have been dour throughout, Germany just in the last match.
Giroud has identified Mesut Özil as a problem France have to solve: “Ozil is a very talented player in terms of his passing and his vision for Arsenal and for Germany. He likes to drift between the lines so you have to keep an eye on him. We will have to stop him.”
It’s fair to say Özil has had a little bit of a mixed bag this summer. Missing penalties during matches and shootouts have dampened his tournament but the goal against Italy and his general play have been good. When it comes to spot kicks at club level, I can’t recall him being offered one since Bayern and frankly, we’ve seen the reason why in France.
Nonetheless, as the games become more important, his influence over proceedings has grown. Thursday will be an interesting match from that point of view; Germany need him to shine, France have to subdue him. The result will depend heavily on Özil’s performance.
It’s fascinating to watch the media coverage with as much attention paid to the team as Jurgen Löw’s personal habits. Against Italy, he spent the match on the touchline with his hands in his pockets to the extent that you have to wonder if there was a hole in it. Add to that hands being placed under armpits…
Something to pass the time but try not to spend too long thinking about it!