It was a fantastic day of football yesterday with first Round of Sixteen matches proving absorbing for very different reasons. Hands up if you rue Arsenal’s decision to be sensible and not bankrupt the club in signing Kylian Mbappe? Yeah, me too when you see displays like that.
Griezmann as well. We went to Mbappe’s house and couldn’t persuade him to move to Arsenal, allegedly for the price of a signing-on fee to his parents. Anyway, when the fee reached £165m, the sensible board kicked in and we kicked onto Alexandre Lacazette.
Less forgivable is not landing Antoine Griezmann when he had him ready and waiting. But we had Yaya Sanogo so why bother with a trifling French striker who had scored at the top level; we’ll leave that sentence there because it highlights the difference between the two. Although fair play to Yaya, he’s a hero at Toulouse for scoring nine goals this season, including one in their relegation play-off win.
France were certainly better than in the group but with the defensive weakness which is de rigeur this World Cup when good sides meet, with their first team on the pitch I hasten to add. Argentina were exposed as the one-man team we all knew they really were although fair play to di Maria for scoring a cracking goal.
Even when France were in ‘control’, their vulnerability kicked in and left you thinking Argentina might send us into a most-welcome extra thirty minutes. Thankfully, we were spared the unsatisfactory end with a penalty shootout. It was a game begging to be won by moments of brilliance.
And thankfully, it was.
It meant the first GOAT was on his way home, proving the theory that it’s no good being the GOAT if the other ten aren’t good enough.
What a Carry On
Lionel Messi gave an interesting interview post-match. Given the emotion of the occasion, he was forthcoming about why the Albiceleste lost:
Hicimos nuestro mejor esfuerzo, pero nos faltaba la pelota final. No me gusta culpar a una persona, pero fue la culpa de Mesut Özil que perdimos.
A harsh position to adopt but he went on to back it up with stats…
Which left Ronaldo to hitch his shorts over his head after Uruguay deservedly won their match. Two outstanding goals from Cavani proved the difference, even if felt that he didn’t really know where his header for the first was going. Uruguay were excellent and their win sets up an intriguing quarter-final with France.
Lucas Torreira sent everyone into a paroxysm of panic: “Ooooh, he’s played well, gibber, gibber, someone else will sign him”. Get. A. Grip. As if any club would sign a player based on one performance.
He was a terrier in the tackle, snapping and biting away at the ball, heading it while on the ground at one point. The kind of defensive determination we’ve been missing for years. With it seems, an unhealthy dose of the lunatic about him.
Not the Otamendi kind of cowardly kicking of a ball at a prone opponent, but proper mental. Those of a certain age will remember Sir Bob Wilson diving head-first at a forward’s feet. It was that kind of admirable lunacy and welcome to see. £25m seems a bargain in this over-inflated market and according to reports this morning, it’s still for completion as soon as Uruguay are knocked out of the World Cup.
Cech Ain’t Out
On the subject of old goalkeepers, Petr Cech isn’t going anywhere anytime anyhow. The current Number One is ready to stay and fight for his place:
My contract with Arsenal still has a year to run.
The only thing I’m preparing for is the fight for the No.1 spot in goal. Napoli were interested but my future is at Arsenal. I didn’t think of changing clubs.
Unai Emery’s problem isn’t solved yet. Whether that’s posturing from Cech is another matter. Everyone expects either him or Ospina to do one this summer, with Cech’s comments pointing toward it being the latter.
The wider issue is what it means for goalkeepers further down the club ladder. A couple of younger ‘keepers were released but Macey and Martinez are the players I’m immediately thinking of.
They are of a similar age and it’s crowded at Academy level with Iliev and Virginia. M&M are finding life isn’t sweet; they are vying for the third spot but I’d guess Martinez is the one who would leave. Macey was recalled when injuries hit at Arsenal – perhaps it was easier, I don’t know – but did well at Luton while he was there, by all accounts.
We shall see.