Last night Italy knocked out Spain on pens in what was apparently a pretty good game, but I am up in Edinburgh with The Management doing touristy things, so wasn’t able to watch the match. It’s funny though; from the first match they played Italy looked like one of those teams that would go deep in the competition and so it has born out that way. They are decent defensively, have scored goals, will probably be favourites no matter who they play at the weekend in the final, but I still think they have been good without necessarily looking like they are blowing everyone away.
Not like years in which France have won the competitions, or when Brazil have romped to World Cup victories with superstars like Ronaldinho, etc. This Italian team just looks like a load of good players who elevate their quality as a team. It’s interesting to see.
Even more so given that they await the winners of tonight’s semi final between England and Denmark and the Dane’s will pose a threat like no other faces by this England side. Gareth Southgate’s players are yet to even concede a goal in this tournament but that that run will come to an end eventually, probably this evening, so I am intrigued to see how they react when it does happen. Do we get the England of old that fold and wilt? Or, given the attacking prowess and profile of some of the England players, do we see them unleashed and the shackles off if they are chasing the game? It’ll be intriguing to see how it all unfolds.
From an Arsenal perspective the question is whether Buyako Saka plays and I think if he’s fit then Southgate probably picks him. It’ll be another opportunity to shine on the big stage and for us as Arsenal fans it’ll feel good to have that representation in the game. Not only that though, I think it’ll also be very good for the player himself, because it’ll be another chapter in his young career and another experience of a big game. There’ll be a decent crowd of 60,000 people there tonight and that’ll help the home team, but for every big game that Bukayo plays you feel that it’ll only help to elevate his career more.
My hope is that he plays tonight, England go through and he plays in the final, because when he walks back in to London Colney for pre season training he’ll feel an inch or two taller. He’ll be Bukayo Saka, England international and star of an international tournament, rather than Bukayo Saka, promising young teenager. It all helps towards his development and hopefully that has positive knock-on effects for us next season.
Speaking of knocks, we have a bit of a problem on our hands with Gabriel it seems, as he’s been withdrawn from the Brazilian Olympic team due to an injury on his knee. This is a problem for us; if he’s out for just a week or so then they’d probably keep him around, so the fact he’s come back means it’s probably longer than that. A month would take us to 8th August and mean his pre season is effectively non-existent. It means that even if it is not a serious injury, he is out for the beginning of the season at best, but if it is a serious one we could see him out for a chunk of the season.
David Luiz has gone and the noises still exist that Saliba is off to Marseille. Ben White is still not confirmed and over the last couple of days we’ve also heard rumours about Pablo Mari being interested in a move away to get more game time. I suspect that will effectively have cold water poured on it now and the Spaniard will be getting plenty of game time at the start of the season, but does the Gabriel injury make Arteta think twice about Saliba?
My gut feel says probably not. He’ll have Holding, Mari, Chambers and maybe White (assuming he signs) at the beginning of the season, so Saliba’s path would still probably be blocked for game time. But it does make you wonder. Sometimes a path just opens up for a player and they take it. Just look at what happened to Hector Bellerin; Debuchy’s injury forced Wenger to play the young Spaniard and he flourished, ultimately causing the end of Debuchy’a Arsenal career, before it had really even had the chance to begin. Maybe something similar could happen for the young French defender?
Of course the difference is that we didn’t spend a bucket load of cash on Bellerin and he was a relatively unknown when he broke through, but that doesn’t mean the story can’t be similar for Saliba. We’ll have to see how it unfolds.
There was also confirmation yesterday that Guendouzi’s loan to Marseille was done. He’s farewell messaged it already so whilst it is a loan, it is clearly intended to be an obligation to but given some of the clauses in there, so I tho I we can close that somewhat tempestuous Arsenal players career at the club. Some people just have too much baggage so I’m not shedding too many tears.
Right, that’s me done for today, so I’m off to Edinburgh Castle for a spot of sightseeing. Catch you all in the morrow.
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