Well, I have to say, I didn’t expect that last night that’s for sure.

For year’s I’ve been able to fall on my German family heritage as an excuse when it comes to having some skin in the game in the latter stages of international tournaments, but last night England completed their second back-to-back final mission by beating the Netherlands with that last minute Watkins winner (more on that anon). But now, I have to admit, Gareth Southgate and his team have delivered another major final opportunity, having also got to the World Cup semi final in 20128 and the Euro 202 (played in 2021 because of the COVID period). It is a record that you look at on paper, you’d be hard pressed to besmirch. And I will hold my hand up and admit, I’ve done a bit of besmirching myself.

England went in to this tournament looking ropey. They’ve spluttered their way through it with unconvincing victories and a very good set of penalties, but last night against The Netherlands I thought they were the deserving team and although they had a huge slice of fortune with the penalty (I didn’t think there was nearly enough from Dumfries to give an overturned VAR decision by the referee and his officials watching on), after they were level they were the better team and created the better chances. Foden hit the post, had one cleared off the line, Kane forced a good save from Verbruggen and Saka had a goal disallowed for offside. England created the better chances and whilst the Netherlands still managed to fashion one or two themselves, I thought they weren’t quite at it last night.

It’s interesting because I thought they’d certainly looked like they were pulling it together rather than England in the tournament before that, but when the two sides finally faced off, it was England and some of their big game players  who stepped up. It’s almost as if some of those players remembered just how good they are and it clicked.

That’s decent enough to think about, when you consider their next opponents, who will be heavy favourites and a team I still think are going to win this tournament when it’s all said and done. But the ol’ cliché of ‘anything can happen in a one off match’ I suppose applies here and it’ll be interesting to see how England cope with the plethora of quality players the Spanish have.

The only real Arsenal news kicking around is that we bid £50k for Dan Bentley from Wolves and that Nuno Tavares is nearly a Lazio player. Let’s deal with the Bentley deal first. £50k is basically peanuts but given that Wolves only paid £57k for his services from Bristol in January last year, I’m not sure why Arsenal would pay much more. He’s their reserve ‘keeper and made a total of eight appearances last season (including against us in the home game at The Emirates) and the noises are that Arsenal want him as a number three ‘keeper. That makes sense to me; it’s a bit of a risk mitigation exercise because of the exit of Okonkwo, Hein going out on loan and the rumours of a possible Ramsdale exit. Arsenal don’t want to be forced in to a Runarsson-style deal and so having a guy like Bentley in as a ‘just in case’ feels sensible. Perhaps if Wolves get more than they paid for him – £75 -£100k? then the deal can be done. But this isn’t going to be a natural back up and it means Arsenal have hedged their bets, which is fair enough. He’s made a total of 438 games in all competitions, he’s experienced enough, he’ll be a good ‘vibes’ man and Arsenal don’t break the bank.

As for the Tavares deal, it feels like it makes sense to me. We signed him for £7million I think, Lazio are expected to pay £7million after the obligation to buy deal goes through (probably based on him playing and staying fit) and we get the money back we paid for a player that hasn’t quite worked out, as well as a sell on fee that will ensure we might even turn a small profit. Again, a decent return for a player who has been around a bit and who has a contract that expires at the end of next season. He was a guy who I thought at times showed some real flashes of brilliance and there’s no doubt that going forward he’s got something about him. But his propensity to switch off at the back and do mental things sometimes (remember scoring that goal early on against United and then inexplicably handballing it in the second half to give them a penalty?) probably meant he was never really going to work out under Arteta. Hey, it was a low cost gamble which, ultimately, won’t impact us too much I don’t think.

Other than that there isn’t really a lot going on. I see that it’ll be a Colombia vs Argentina Copa America final, which might be a bit spicy, but over this part of the world all eyes will be on that England versus Spain match up on Sunday. Should be a good’un.

That’s it from me for today – enjoy your Thursday in whatever you’re doing and I’ll catch you all tomorrow for some more musings.

Laters people.