Arsenal Depot

A depository for musings on Arsenal FC

Euro 2012 Day 6: Robin Scores Once, Bendtner Twice And Arry’s Gone

Before I put my thoughts down on yesterday’s matches, just a word on the parting of Spuds from their manager – or more precisely, the sacking of the triffic ‘Arry Redknapp. He becomes the ninth Tottenham manager that Arsene Wenger has seen off since his arrival at Arsenal – and his departure is further proof that changing managers is no guarantee of short-term or long-term rewards.

For a bit of a chuckle, do read Phil Wall’s tribute to Harry – an excellent updated version of ‘I Will Survive’.

On to the Euros. Eight goals were scored in the two Group B matches yesterday, the most of any day at Euro 2012 yet. Both games were closely contested and exciting to watch from a neutral perspective. Although both Arsenal strikers scored, their efforts were not enough to earn points for their respective teams.

In the Denmark-Portugal game, four of the five goals came from crosses while one resulted from a corner. Both teams looked to use the wide areas as neither had a playmaker in their line-up – Christian Eriksen is considered as such, but had another ordinary game. He was well-watched by Miguel Veloso and Joao Moutinho this time, but did have one good moment when he slid in the pass that eventually led to Jacobsen’s assist for Bendtner’s second goal.

Bendtner himself had a good game and gave a lesson in finishing to Cristiano Ronaldo. While the Portuguese wasted some excellent chances for his team, Bendtner took up decent positions in the penalty area and converted twice from his three opportunities. He does well in this Danish team because he’s the focal point of their attack and the wide players are always aiming to find him in the box. Of course, the knowledge that he’s the star player in the team is surely good for his much publicised ego as well.

In the other match, Netherlands saw more of the ball but it was Germany who looked the more threatening going forward.  The Germans put in an assured professional performance in closing out the game and justified their tag as one of the tournament favorites. Both of Mario Gomez’s goals were set up by good team play and finished by sublime skill from the tall striker.

At the other end, it was only a piece of individual brilliance from Robin van Persie which gave the Dutch some hope. For a must-win game, Bert van Marwijk’s decision to start with two holding midfielders was more than a little surprising and back-fired big time. The Dutch coach was probably trying to fix their Achilles heel which is the defending. As it turned out, his defensive midfielders let him down with both Van Bommel and De Jong being conspicuous by their absence in marking Bastian Schweinsteiger, who assisted both of Germany’s goals.

Unlike in the first match against Denmark where Robin had more clear-cut opportunities, yesterday’s chances for the Arsenal captain were more created by his own good movement off the ball. There was a fantastic run he made in the first half which Van Bommel spotted and found him with a good diagonal ball. Unfortunately, it just ran slightly away from RvP and he couldn’t make good contact on the volley. It will be classified as a missed opportunity, but not many strikers would have created the chance in the first place and RvP is often a victim of his own brilliance.

At times, it’s an area of his game that goes unnoticed by fans but Arsene Wenger has spoken in the past about this quality:

When you look at great players, they are on the move and everybody else stands and watches the ball. That is the difference. They look like they attack the ball all the time but in fact it is because they anticipate a lot and they are a little bit ahead of the other players.

….Robert Pires, for example, was fantastic like that. When you analysed him he was always moving when others were standing and Robin has that quality too.

The other quality which gets overlooked is his work rate. In the game against Denmark, Robin ran more than any other Dutch player. For a striker whose is positioned furthest up the pitch, it’s an incredible statistic and shows how much he gets involved in all phases of his team’s play.

However, all is not lost for the Dutch yet. Such is the nature of the competition that if Germany beat Denmark in their last group game and the Dutch can defeat Portugal by more than two goals, the Oranje will still go through to the quarters. It’s not unimaginable but to use a term we got quite familiar with last season, ‘their destiny is not in their own hands anymore’.

Spain take on Ireland today while Italy meet Croatia. Spain and Italy have enough quality to make both matches rather one-sided contests. But Croatia did enough in their first outing to suggest they might stretch Italy although Ireland are likely to chase shadows for long periods this evening. Comfortable 3-0 victory for Spain and 2-1 for Italy.

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