Hello all. As Euro 2012 hurries to a close, a new reason rapidly approaches. In little over a week, Arsenal’s players will be back in training. A fortnight today we have our first pre-season fixture: two 45-minute games against Southampton and Anderlecht at St. Mary’s Stadium. It’s all tantalisingly close now.
Germany’s elimination on Thursday night means Arsenal’s interest in the competition is officially over. Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker will go on holiday now, and return in time to join Arsenal on their trip to the Far East at the end of the month.
Whilst Mertesacker did not play a minute of competitive action during the tournament, ousted by Hummels and Badstuber, Podolski was recalled for the semi-final, only to hauled off at half-time, prompting criticism in both Germany and England. I don’t think Arsenal fans need worry: the Podolski we saw at this tournament was shackled by a very disciplined system. He played more as a left-midfielder than winger. At Arsenal, the wide forwards are given more freedom to come inside and roam, and I think that will suit him down to the ground. International football is known to be a more compressed game, with less space for attackers, and I think that is reflected in the relatively disappointing showings from some of the continent’s leading strikers – including our own Robin van Persie.
I’m still looking forward to seeing him in action next season. Arsenal are in the unfamiliar position of having completed their major incoming transfer business ahead of pre-season. I’m sure I’ll get flak for saying this, but I don’t foresee many big names arriving – despite what you may read elsewhere about Yann M’vila. When you look at the squad, I just can’t see many gaps that require filling. There are two obvious exceptions: we probably need a goalkeeper, and would hypothetically need to further strengthen the attack if Robin van Persie departs.
If the Dutchman were to go, it’d be too great a burden to rely solely on our other new boy, Olivier Giroud. On the subject of the Frenchman, my understanding is that the release clause we met to snare him is €13m rather than €15m – quite the bargain. The player himself has admitted he rejected the advances of Chelsea, and can’t wait to get going in red and white:
“It is incredible for me. To already be a champion in France [with Montpellier], then play for Les Bleus, and now Arsenal.
I repeat myself, but this is a beautiful story. When I was little boy, I wanted to play in the Premier League. My heart has always looked for Arsenal.”
Not long to wait now, Olivier. And not long for us fans, either.