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STOP PRESS: BREAKING NEWS: ARSENAL HAVE AGREED A DEAL WITH MONTPELLIER FOR OLIVIER GIROUD.
Saturday's matches at Euro 2012, while providing a massive shock, ended up with very little Arsenal interest whatsoever. With Szczesny dropped by Poland, and Rosicky injured for Czech Republic, I watched the game between those two countries without any real interest. I would have watched Russia v Greece had I realised it was on BBC3 in order to see how Arshavin was getting on. I thought it was incredible for Greece to get through, but this whole head-to-head thing is all a bit odd. Russia beat Czech Republic 4-1 in their opening game, but went out because they lost 1-0 to Greece. I suspect it is designed to keep a struggling team (such as Greece) in with a realistic chance to escape their group, but it does not reward expansive and attacking football. It all seems not quite right to me. Having said that, the fact that there has still not been a 0-0 draw (wait for tonight) tells us that this tournament has knocked South Africa 2010 in to a cocked hat in terms of entertainment.
Last night I watched Holland play Portugal. I did this in order to watch Robin Van Persie, and to feel I was getting some money's worth out of the Holland away shirt I bought before the tournament began. The Dutch have been a disgrace since the off. I think the lacklustre way in which RVP shot wide in the final minute just about summed up the way they have performed as a squad. Clearly the Dutch ego machine came back in to force and wrecked their chances of winning. If you were a Holland football fan you would be feeling robbed. Here was a group of players with a realistic chance to win the European Championships, but their selfish attitudes scuppered it. I feel a bit sorry for the coach, Bert Van Marwijk, as he will get the blame for this, though I doubt it would have mattered who was in charge.
I've seen the highlights of the Germany v Denmark game and, amazingly, the Germans are very lucky to still be involved. It seems that Lukas Podolski had his first half-decent game of the tournament and his right-footed finish for Germany's first goal was emphatic. I hope we get to see plenty of that in the next few years at Arsenal. Nicklas Bendtner's boys, meanwhile, can count themselves robbed. At 1-1 they were on top, hit the post, and then saw the officials rob them of a clear penalty. It seems unthinkable after the first two games, but Germany should have been knocked out last night.
On the subject of Nicklas Bendtner I must pass comment on his UEFA fine and suspension for advertising Paddy Power the other night. If you haven't yet heard I can tell you that Big Nick has been done to the tune of €100,000 and a one match ban. So there you have it, folks. UEFA will not tackle the issues of racism in the European game, with piddling fines handed out to any team/association whose fans misbehave. However, if you dare to advertise a bookies on your pants, they'll throw the book at you! Sadly, this sums up the way muppets like Platini want to run the game. They should be ashamed.
I caught the last half-hour of England v Sweden on a re-run on Eurosport this morning. I was interested because Stewart Robson was commentating, and we all know that Theo Walcott was England's hero. A couple of weeks ago Robson, who is employed by Arsenal to work as a co-commentator/analyst on Arsenal TV Online, chose to go public in slagging Theo and his ability. Robson is also a man who told viewers of Arsenal TV a couple of years back that he is "not an Arsenal fan". Anyone who has heard Robson talk about the Club will know that's certainly the case, which kind of begs the question as to why he gets paid by Arsenal when there are plenty of other ex-players who would love his job.
The commentary from Robson on the England game is quite incredibly laughable. He simply refuses to give Theo any credit. According to Robson, Walcott's goal was "deflected, and that's why it swerved", despite the replay showing quite clearly that it was not. He refused to give Theo prais for the run and cross for Welbeck's winning goal, too. Robson even kept on about how Theo was a "liability" at the back. You could feel his annoyance that Theo was making him look a complete twat for his comments the previous week. I sincerely hope the powers that be at Arsenal have taken note and that the man is sacked from his role at Arsenal TV Online.
The new fixtures are out, and the excitement for the new season can now begin. We get under way at home to Sunderland. It's nice to be at home on the first day. It's been a few years since we had that to look forward to. Unfortunately we will finish the season away from home once again, at Newcastle. The first ten games for Arsenal are tough, with six away matches. We have to play Stoke, Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea and Man City in that stretch. However, for the most part the games against the top sides are fairly spread. Apart from one spell in January, when we have consecutive games with Liverpool, City and Chelsea, there is plenty of respite between the big fixtures. Boxing Day brings West Ham to our place, while we go to Southampton to start of 2013. I'm not a fan of Christmas football, so I'm rather hoping the West Ham game gets switched to the day after Boxing Day, though I think that is unlikely.
Of course, the announcement of the fixtures actually means very little. The exact dates of any match (except for the last game of the season) are all subject to change once Sky get their grubby mitts all over them. Apparently we can expect to get the first batch of TV games confirmed in the second week of July. I have no idea why it should take so long. What that means is that those of us who actually go to games have to hold off on arranging work, travel etc until the armchair brigade has been taken care of. That is all very annoying to me.
I always look forward to the announcement of the fixtures as it means we can start to see what there is to come. I quite fancy an away trip, or three, this year but that will depend on work and finances. We have a moderately difficult start, but there is no Champions League qualifier to get distracted by. Arsene Wenger must get the transfer business done quickly now in order to put us in the strongest position possible. It might also prove that certain lessons had been learned from last year. Whatever happens, I can't wait for August to come round. Pre-season training is now just three weeks away!