The Euros are over and we have a winner. Football came nearly home but the lure of the eternal city was simply too great. Did the best team of the tournament win? Well if you set yourself up hard to beat but can also play good attacking football you will have a very good chance. That is what Italy and England did and that is why they ended up in the final. The best teams were probably France and Spain, and especially the latter showed some fabulous football at times, but they did not have the bounce of the ball and probably also not the best system of football to win the Euros. The French did not look like a team and Spain lacked a bit of luck. But then again, if you lose out in a penalty shootout against a team that misses two out of five, you don’t really deserve to go through. Italy won’t believe their luck that they got away with missing twice two out of five pens and still ended up lifting the trophy. It was definitely the tournament of the demise of penalty taking.
England are a work in progress and that seems to have been forgotten by many of the fans. This team benefited from being on the easier side of the draw, playing most games at home and Gareth Southgate’s fine management. Better preparation with the pens could even have meant the ultimate victory, but it cannot be denied that this England team is strong and will only get stronger given the age profile.
From an Arsenal perspective, Saka did very well and so did Xhaka for the Swiss. I am glad that Granit is still a Gunner as I write this and that Saka signed a long term contract. I think Holding could have done a good job in this England team and it is only a matter of time before Emile will become a member of the national squad. Tierney played well for Scotland, and all three Euro internationals will have grown during the tournament.
Why Southgate thought it would be okay to give three young players the final three penalties is a mystery for me. Yes they may have been good during training sessions but doing it in front of 60k nervous and highly demanding supporters is a totally different ball game. Surely, the likes of Shaw, Sterling and Maguire, all with much more life and football experience, would have been a safer bet?!
It was a high risk strategy by Southgate and it back-fired. The subsequent racial abuse was sadly predictable and this should also have been in the back of Southgate’s mind in my opinion. Saka, Sancho and Rashford will all bounce back and will hopefully get opportunities in their footballing careers to make amends for the national team, but surely they should have been protected from this very predictable outcome at so young an age. Did the older players bottle it or did Southgate really make such a bad call?!
Bukayo we love you man.
The racist abuse may have been predictable but strong action is now required. It is extremely sad that racism is still so prevalent in our times and it really isn’t just a few Twitter idiots. It is a long road to full equality and colour-blindness when it comes to people, and we all need to fight for it tooth and nail.
I found the footie during the Euros refreshing and I am hopeful that we are going to see a slight shift away from the pass-the-ball-to-death-alongside-the-lines that teams like Liverpool and Citeh do twice a week, and Arsenal are guilty of too at times. I saw the ball being moved much faster between the lines and the reemergence of ball-tight dribblers. Raheem Sterling was a joy to watch and so were Grealish and our very own Saka. The Italians had Chiesa and Jorginho, and the Dutch had Frenkie de Jong and (a disappointing) Memphis trying to add a bit of footballing magic to the game. There were more good footballers on display, especially the Germans have some very good dribblers.
So now we have to wait 4.5 weeks to kick-off of the new PL season. First Arsenal will play a few friendlies, starting tomorrow against Hibernian and for those prepared to pay for it, you can watch it life on Arsenal.com.