Arsène Wenger has ruled himself out of the running to become the new manager of the French National team following the resignation of Laurent Blanc earlier this week. Several news reports suggest that Wenger is near the top of the French Football Federation’s list for Les Bleus manager, but Le Boss insists that he is completely committed to Arsenal.
Speaking to French Telefoot (a football programme on French TV station TF1), Wenger confirmed that he will (at least) see out the remaining two years of his contract in North London.
“There are a lot of names. But me, I will be very busy with Arsenal where my contract still runs for two years”
Photo by RonMac on Flickr
I have read several comments on major news websites in which people say that this is the perfect opportunity to “get rid” of the best manager that Arsenal Football Club have ever seen. I am not one of those AKB people who insists that Wenger is always right, but I hate that there is still a small group of so-called Arsenal fans who want him out. Hasn’t he done enough to prove his worth at the club? There isn’t a single club in the world who wouldn’t be desperate to have Arsene Wenger as manager; Les Bleus would be lucky to find a manager who is half as good. Being France boss at the moment is the equivalent of managerial-suicide. The team lies in ruins and God knows what has been going on behind the scenes. In spite of this, Wenger is probably the man that could turn everything around.
However, but I can think of 3 reasons why he wouldn’t leave Arsenal at this point:
1) Arsene is not the type of manager who would leave when he still has 2 years on his contract (as his comment above suggests). Once he is committed, he stays.
2) He needs to finish what he started. I don’t think that he would find it acceptable to leave Arsenal until he proves his point by winning some much-needed/deserved silverware to add to the 3 Premier League titles and 4 FA Cups he has won since he joined the club in 1996. If he won another major trophy with Arsenal then maybe he would consider managing at a national level in the future.
3) Arsenal would be stupid to let him leave when he appears to be so close to creating a trophy-winning formula.
So there you have it. Wenger isn’t leaving, and I look forward to seeing what changes he makes to the team over the summer. This has the potential to be a defining period for Arsenal. Giroud and Podolski are, hopefully, only the beginning.
Whether you are one of the Arsene Knows Best group, or want him out of the club, please leave your comments below.
Nicklas Bendtner’s agent claims that interest in the self-confessed best player in the world is “overwhelming” following his performances at Euro 2012. Saint Nick scored a brace in Denmark’s 3-2 loss to Portugal, but the Danes were ultimately knocked out of the competition at the group stage.
In my opinion, his performances at the Euros couldn’t have come at a better time. What a difference a year and a European Championships can make! This time last year we couldn’t find a single club anywhere in Europe that were willing/stupid enough to meet Arsenal’s valuation and Nick’s high wage demands. Nicklas was ultimately sent on a season-long loan to Sunderland.
A year on and interest in our striker is apparently “global”. Speaking to bold.dk (a Danish sports website), Jesper Lynghus suggested that numerous clubs are interested in signing his client, and that a move away from North London is drawing ever closer.
“We are getting closer day by day. The interest is overwhelming, just as it should be after the way Nicklas performed at Euro 2012.”
When asked to comment specifically on rumours of a move to big-spenders Anzhi Makhachkala, Lynghus added:
“We’re not commenting on individual deals at the moment, but it’s fair to say the interest in Nicklas is global.”
Despite his brace against Portugal, Bendtner grabbed the headlines last week for all the wrong reasons. Super Nick was fined £80,000 by UEFA and given a 1-match European ban after revealing his lucky underpants (which just happened to bear the PaddyPower logo) as part of his second goal celebration. Nicklas claimed that they were his lucky boxershorts that he has worn for several games and that he had no idea that he was in breach of any UEFA regulations, while PaddyPower denied ever having paid him to display their logo for TV. However, the fact that the Irish bookmaker has now agreed to pay the fine on his behalf would seem to suggest otherwise. The good news is that it looks as though he isn’t going to be our problem for much longer, with Benfica and Hannover both touted possible destinations.
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few days, you will be well aware that there is a somewhat important game between England and Italy taking place in Kiev in just under an hours time.
The chances are that tonight’s game will go to extra time and (probably) penalties. The USSR are apparently the last team to beat the Azzurri in the knock-out stage of an international tournament in normal time all the way back in the semi-finals of Euro 88. The Italians are naturally a very defensive side, while Roy Hodgson’s teams are hardly ever particularly adventurous. Do not expect a fast-paced, end-to-end match, but rather a slow game that doesn’t really live up to expectations (a bit like last night’s game between Spain and France).
The Italians may boast a pretty good record in the World Cup (they have won it 4 times, second only to Brazil on 5), but Cesar Prandelli’s side have only won the Euros once, when they hosted it in 1968. The good news is that Italy do not have a particularly good record in penalty shootouts; they lost to Spain on penalties at the same stage in the competition 4 years ago. The bad news is that England do not have a particularly good record in penalty shootouts. England have won only 1 of their last 6 penalty shoot-outs at major tournaments, against Spain in the quarter-finals of Euro 96. This means that if this match goes to penalties, we just have to hope that England are the least worst penalty takers.
Arsenal are not likely to be well-represented in tonight’s game as Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both look set to miss out on a place in the starting line-up. According to Sky Sports, there will be no changes from the starting XI that faced the Ukraine last week. However, the chances are that one of them (more likely Theo) will make an appearances as a substitute, just when Italy are starting to get tired and will make a few silly mistakes.
England’s record at the quarter-finals of international tournaments is abismal, having lost 7 of 10 matches at this stage in the Euros and World Cup. In contrast, Italy have only lost 2 of 9 at the same stage. That said, Giorgio Chiellini’s injury will no doubt have a big impact on the Italians. Chiellini is without a doubt the most experienced defender in their squad. His replacement, Leonardo Bonucci of Juventus, has not had much game-time, while the two full-backs (Federico Balzaretti and Ignazio Abate) have only made a combined total of 12 international appearances. Then again, they do have one of the world’s best goalkeepers… I was very surprised last week to learn that Buffon is only 34 years old. I guess that a lot of people presume that he is much older because he seems to have been around for ages.
Against my better judgement, my money tonight is on England. This is simply because I think that it is written that we will be knocked out by Germany in the semi-finals. This is, of course, is provided that Super Mario (who is apparently set to replace Di Natale) doesn’t have a good game…
With Phillipe Mèxes suspended after picking up his second booking of the tournament, Laurent Koscielny is set to partner Valencia’s Adil Rami in central defence for France in tonight’s Euro 2012 quarter-final against Spain.
Tonight is probably the biggest game of Koscielny’s professional career. He has only made 3 previous appearances for Les Bleus. Interestingly, statistics seem to be favouring the French; the Spanish may be favorites to win the tournament, but France have never lost to Spain in 6 competitive matches.
When asked if he thought that the suspension of Mèxes would be an important factor in tonight’s game, Vincente Del Bosque replied:
“Mexès is an important loss, but they’ve got that Arsenal boy. He’s very good.”
All is not what it seems in the French camp, amid scenes that are reminiscent of the nightmare that was South Africa 2010. Laurent Blanc has admitted that there were some heated exchanges in the dressing room after France’s final group game against Sweden, with many claiming that Samir Nasri’s behavior (in particular his selfishness on the pitch) is at the heart of many of the problems.
However, in a pre-match interview Koscielny refused to comment on the situation and was quick to refer to France’s 23-game unbeaten run before their 2-0 loss to Sweden.
“Things were said in the changing room. They were said, but that will stay between us. There were some things to say and everyone’s aware of that.
“It was a hard game. We were below par on every level and when we got back to the dressing room we knew we hadn’t done what we had to do and some things were said. But the most important thing was to qualify. These things happen. Now we have to turn the page. We were unbeaten in 23 games so I don’t see why we should throw all of that away.”
Koscielny then admitted that he is hoping that he has the opportunity to face Fernando Torres once more. If Spain play without a fixed centre-forward/striker (as they have done for much of the tournament) then this causes major problems for central defenders. Koscielny is very aware that he will have his work cut out for him this evening.
“I know Torres well having played against him and it might also help me that I have played against Barcelona – and Spain and Barcelona resemble each other.
“It’s easier to play against a team with a fixed centre-forward. [Playing without one] means that you have to keep your concentration and keep an eye on everything that’s going on around you.
“Do we fear Spain? Yes and no. Everyone would dream of playing against Spain, whether it’s in a quarter-final or a semi-final. It’s an exciting game to play in. It’s up to us to enjoy it, I don’t see why we should fear them. They have their qualities but so do we. If you go all-out attack against Spain, you are in trouble. We will have to keep it very tight against them.
“Rami and I have played one match and a half together and it went quite well. We know each other’s qualities. He knows I’ll be there at any time to cover if there’s a problem. I feel in good shape physically. I try and give my all in training. I played the whole game against Serbia but haven’t played since, but I still feel fine. We’re playing against the defending champions and I think this has all the ingredients to be a fantastic match.”
This should be a very interesting game. When France swept away Ukraine in the group stage, there was suddenly a big buzz as pundits began to suggest that they could be the dark horse in the competition. However, the spats in the dressing room coupled with the fact that Spain have an unbelievable team means that the French will really struggle this evening. I do not expect them to roll over completely, but there is no doubt that a win for Les Bleus is extremely unlikely.
It is no coincidence that Arsenal’s longest period of poor form in the Premier League coincided with the period in which Bacary Sagna was absent with a broken leg. To his credit, Carl Jenkinson did his best, but he too was then sidelined for an extended period with a back injury, meaning that Arsenal were forced to rely on Johan Djourou and Francis Coquelin.
Sagna is now sidelined again, having broken the same leg for a second time, and it is unknown if he will be fit in time for the new season. Although Jenko did put in a few good performances, his lack of experience (he is only 20 years old) began to show and suggests that we need a new right-back as cover for next season.
Debuchy will feature against Spain in tonight’s the quarter-final as he seems to be preferred to veteran right-back Anthony Réveillère. The 26-year-old has only made 8 appearances for Les Blues since winning his first cap in November 2011, but is clearly seen as one for the future by Laurent Blanc. He is a highly versatile player who can play in several different positions if required; he is competent at left-back and originally started his career as a deep-lying playmaker.
Earlier this week, Lille manager Rudi Garcia confirmed that Newcastle have already made an offer of £4 million for Debuchy. The Magpies seem to be attracting young, talented French players, having signed Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye in the last few seasons. They are also linked with Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, who is the captain of Montpellier, and Cheikh M’Bengue, a left-back who plays for Toulouse. Garcia is resigned to the fact that Debuchy could leave Lille, but made fun of Newcastle’s bid, which clearly falls well below their valuation.
‘He is torn between staying with us and playing in the Champions League in our new stadium or going elsewhere.
‘If he does go and it is a sporting progression, then we will be happy to see him evolve – but we have not planned to replace him.
‘But I do believe that Newcastle have faxed an offer of £4million – but they must have the wrong player.
Lille are believed to want somewhere in the region of £6.5 million for Debuchy, who apparently has a release clause of £7m. Asked whether he was surprised at Debuchy’s performances for France, Garcia said:
“No [they haven't surprised me], as he plays with France as he does with us. He plays high and attacks, but defensively is also very rigorous and he exudes confidence.
“Without insulting Reveillere and Sagna, he is trying to show he should always be right-back for France.”
This transfer is one to watch very closely. Sagna is approaching 30 and has been suffering from injury problems, so it would be good if we could bring in a slightly younger but still very experienced understudy. There is a 10-year age gap between Sagna and Jenkinson, so Debuchy who would fit in nicely somewhere in the middle.
Ben Arfa, who will play against Spain in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 on Saturday evening, is thought to be on the radar of several major European clubs after a very successful season in the Premier League.
The 25-year-old joined Newcastle on loan from Marseille in August 2010 (with the move becoming permanent in the Winter transfer window) but only made 4 appearances in the 2010/11 season because of a broken leg.
Hatem returned to the Newcastle line-up after a full year on the sidelines and has become an integral part of Alan Pardew’s team. As he became more match fit, his performances improved to no end; in the second half of the season he was arguably one of the best players in the league. Ben Afra scored 6 goals and made 7 assists during the season, including a neat finish after a fantastic run from the half-way line against Bolton.
According to the article in L’Équipe, Ben Arfa would prefer a move to Arsenal simply because he is not sure that he would get much game-time at Chelsea. The Blues have just brought in Eden Hazard and Marko Marin to add to Juan Mata, Daniel Sturridge and Torres, making a place on the wing highly contested. Ben Arfa spoke to the magazine earlier this month and suggested that he may be tempted to leave Tyneside if a “really serious proposal” from a big club were to come his way. However, Newcastle apparently value him at £20 million, despite only paying around £7/8m when they signed him 18 months ago. This could prove to be a major stumbling block as we all know that Arsène Wenger won’t overpay for anybody!
The one advantage of signing Ben Afra is that he is tried and tested in the Premier League, unlike some of the other players that we have apparently been following. Chelsea forked out a ridiculous £32m on Eden Hazard with no idea as to whether he can actually cope with the physical demands of English football.
“If I do not have a really, really serious proposal, I’ll stay.
“If a big club comes, but does not propose something interesting – that is to say, the coach really wants me – I’ll stay.
“If I do not feel the confidence of the [interested club's] coach 100%, I will not leave. I still have three-year contract. But I know it can go fast.”
If I were him, I would not be thinking about leaving Newcastle this summer. Newcastle have built a very strong team that could challenge for Champions League again next season and he knows that he is guaranteed lots of game-time. He is only 25, so he has plenty of time to secure his dream big-money move later on in his career.
Lukas Podolski has become the youngest European player ever to reach 100 international caps. Podolski celebrated this landmark by scoring his 44th international goal as Germany beat Denmark 2-1 to go through to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012.
Despite only turning 27 last month, Podolski is 7th on the list of all-time appearances for Germany; in my opinion (and subject to injuries) he could be on target to beat Lothar Matthäus’s record of 150 appearances for Die Mannschaft.
However, there is no denying that he faces stiff competition on the left wing from the likes of Andre Schurrle, Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and a number of other talented young Germans.
Despite also being eligible to play for Poland (he was born in Gliwice, Poland, but his family emigrated to Germany when he was only 2 years old), Lukas chose to represent Germany at U21 level and has never looked back; he made his first senior international appearance in 2004 and has since featured in all major international tournaments.
Other Arsenal players have not been as lucky at the Euros. The big news today is that Nicklas Bendtner has been banned for a game and given a huge fine for revealing his “lucky” Paddy Power-branded boxer shorts when he scored against Portugal. Bendtner’s behavior directly contradicts all sorts of UEFA sponsorship/advertising codes, even though both Nicklas and the Irish bookmaker deny that any money exchanged hands.
Robin van Persie is another Arsenal player who did not have the best of tournaments. Despite his fantastic form in the Premier League, RvP squandering several opportunities and struggled to really make a huge impression at the Euros. Holland came bottom of group B (the Group of Death), losing all 3 of their group matches with only 2 goals scored. However, Van Persie can at least be proud of his fantastic goal against Germany, while the good news for Arsenal fans is that he now finally has time to sort out his contract with Arsenal.
Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott are both major doubts for crucial Euro 2012 matches against Portugal and Ukraine respectively.
Rosicky missed the Czech Republic’s 1-0 win over Poland with an achilles injury and it is looking increasingly unlikely that he will be able to feature in the quarter-final on Thursday evening.
Czech coach Michal Bilik described Tomas as “irreplaceable”, but was happy with the performance of replacement midfielder Daniel Kolar against Poland.
“It’s difficult to say we have Rosicky. We all know he’s irreplaceable.
“He tried [to see if he was ok] before the match [against Poland] and he couldn’t start, but Daniel Kolar played a great match.”
Theo Walcott limped off during England’s training session on Sunday with a hamstring injury. It is thought to be a recurrence of the injury which kept him out for extended periods of the season with Arsenal. Although unlikely to start, Walcott was Roy Hodgson’s big-impact substitute against Sweden and would probably have played half an hour or so against Ukraine.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Hodgson confirmed that Walcott was taken off during training as a precautionary measure, but was unable to say whether or not he will be available on Tuesday.
“Unfortunately he [Walcott] had a slight set-back in training today, and that’s the major concern for us. He felt the hamstring that kept him out for so long at the end of last season and which we were slightly concerned about when he joined up with us.
“We took the precaution of taking him from the field because he felt a slight tightness there. Whether he can start or not will depend upon what the medical people will tell me, and I need to check that if I do start him he won’t be leaving the field after just five minutes and leave us with the 13 men rather than the 14 I’d count on.”
This is a big shame for Walcott because it is the first time that he is actually getting some playing at a major tournament. He did not feature (despite being a shock inclusion in the squad) at the World Cup in 2006 and was controversially left out of the squad for South Africa 2010. England, of course, did not qualify for Euro 2008. Walcott made only a small cameo appearance in England’s first game against France, but did, however, score and set up a goal in a fantastic substitute performance against Sweden on Friday evening. This was only his 4th goal for England, and his first since he scored a hattrick against Croatia in 2008.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been dropped to the bench and replaced by Andy Caroll for England’s game against Sweden at 8pm. There is also no room in the Starting XI for Theo Walcott, who made only a short cameo appearance against France on Monday afternoon.
Kick-off for the England game has been pushed back by 15 minutes in order to accommodate Ukraine vs France, which was delayed by an hour because of heavy rain. France are currently 2-0 up (goals from Menez & Cabaye), meaning that England need a win against Sweden in order to keep pace at the top of the group. Whoever comes second in Group D is odds-on to face Spain (the likely winners of Group C) in the quarter-finals.
Other than Andy Caroll, the England team remains unchanged from the team that drew against France. AOC’s performance on Monday was pretty solid, although I can understand if Roy Hodgson feels that he needs a bit more of a physical presence against Sweden.
Arsenal players are so far having not having the best of tournaments. Robin van Persie scored a fantastic goal against Germany, but The Netherlands still sit bottom of their group after 2 games. Nicklas Bendtner had an equally frustrating game against Portugal as his brace was not enough to stop Denmark losing 3-2. Tomas Rosicky is facing constant injury problems, while Laurent Koscielny has not played in either of France’s games. However, the big news was that Wojceich Sczcesny was sent off in Poland’s opening game against Greece. That said, Andrey Arshavin seems to have had 2 good games for Russia.
Englandteam to play Sweden: Hart, Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole, Milner, Parker, Gerrard, Young, Welbeck, Carroll.
Below I have embedded a video of Robin van Persie’s goal for the Netherlands in their 2-1 loss against Germany on Wednesday evening.
Despite being one of the favorites to win Euro 2012, The Netherlands are hanging on for dear life. Holland lost 2-1 to Germany and currently sit bottom of Group B (the so-called “Group of Death”) with 0 points from their opening 2 games; Bert van Marwijk’s side lost 1-0 to Denmark in their opening game of the Euro 2012 finals.
All four teams in Group B (Netherlands, Germany, Portugal and Denmark) were in the top 10 of the FIFA World Rankings at the start of the tournament.
The Oranje have to win against Portugal on Sunday and hope that Germany beat Denmark just to be with a chance of proceeding, and even then it will come down to goal difference.
Given his fantastic form in the Premier League, I am sure that I am not the only person to have bet on RvP to be top goalscorer at the Euros. However, van Persie does not particularly good record in international competitions (his disastrous game against Denmark provides possibly one of the best examples). The fact that Holland could be out in a games time hardly helps. Luckily for me, I also put money on Mario Gomez.