With the international break in full swing, we thought it timely to take a look at Arsenal players in and how they got on in Euro 2012.
Something readers know well about me is how random my writings can be.
It is true to a certain extent, I can write scout reports on promising youngsters one day, and then talk about a pre-World War I English goal-scorer the other. I had a crazy idea the other day in the back of my mind, and I asked myself, why shouldn’t I evaluate how Arsenal players performed at Euro 2012?
Out of all the ideas I had that day, this one made the most perfect sense to me. Only me!
Eleven Arsenal players, at the time, featured in Euro 2012 – a tournament that was worth remembering for the great moments it had.
Obviously, none of 11 players won the tournament, but they all had their moments – both good and bad.
England – Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
18-year-old, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the surprise addition to the England squad for the Euros. The chances of him starting during the tournament seemed very low. To everyone’s surprise, however, the youngster started England’s opening game vs. France. It was his first match at a major tournament and he featured on the pitch for 77 minutes – giving a solid performance. The Ox’s dribbling skills were noteworthy during that match, tearing France’s defense apart at times.
Chamberlain was now a guaranteed starter for the rest of the tournament. Well at least,
that’s what we all thought. Roy Hodgson loves surprises, and to everyone’s astonishment once more, he went on to feature for a combined three minutes vs. Sweden and Ukraine as a substitute. Overall, he played only 80 minutes during the tournament. After all, he’s just a promising 18-year-old player who has just started the first steps of his career. Euro 2012 was the first of many tournaments for the Ox, and that’s guaranteed.
Theo Walcott on the other hand, didn’t start a single game for England at Euro 2012 – but that didn’t really stop him from shining. After being excluded from the England squad called up for the 2010 World Cup by then England boss Fabio Capello, Theo had a point to prove this time. He didn’t feature for a single minute in England’s opening game vs. France. When England were down to Sweden 2-1 in the following group game and only 29 minutes were left on the clock, Walcott came on for Milner and fired a screamer to level things up at 2-2 only three minutes after coming on.
It was recorded as the longest ranged goal scored in the tournament, and what a looping goal it was! With 12 minutes remaining till the full-time whistle, the pacey winger made another impact with a brilliant run in between two Swedish defenders to deliver a cross for Welbeck to give England the lead. It wasn’t the last chance he created that match as well, providing a key pass for the Ox during stoppage time but was wasted.
It was the perfect definition of a super-sub performance, and the 23-year-old was the center of attention amongst the English fans and media. In just 17 minutes, Theo scored and assisted – something James Milner failed to do throughout the entire tournament.
Once more, Hodgson stuns everyone by dropping Walcott again in England’s fixture vs. Ukraine. He featured as a substitute for 20 minutes in England’s final group game vs. Ukraine but failed to replicate his heroic performance against Sweden. In the quarter-finals against Italy, Theo featured for 59 minutes (including extra time) but didn’t succeed in coming up with a moment worth remembering. England were knocked-out, but Walcott had a fairly good tournament.
Germany – Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski
Per Mertesacker was benched throughout the entire tournament. The 27-year-old, once a regular starter, didn’t feature for a single minute. Several factors resulted in Low’s decision of benching the mighty centre-back, with his recent injury in February at the Stadium of Light in February being the main one. The defender was out for a couple of months, and made his return from injury in June vs. Switzerland. Alongside Mats Hummels, Per played the entire 90 minutes and that didn’t go just as planned. The Germans conceded five goals!
Joachim Low gave the Arsenal defender another chance in a friendly but with a different centreback partner – Holger Badstuber. It wasn’t assuring enough for the manager, and he opted to start with Hummels and Badstuber at Euro 2012 – leaving Per on the bench.
Lukas Podolski had a fine performance at the Euros. He played the full 90 minutes in Germany’s games vs. Portugal and Holland. On the half-hour mark, he had a clear-cut chance to open the scoring when Mesut Ozil set him up on the edge of the box, but he crashed his first-time shot well over the bar. His defensive contributions were vital, as the 27-year-old constantly tracked back. The new Arsenal signing has an average performance against the Dutch; firing a few shots, creating chances and always looking very dangerous.
Germany’s last group game against Denmark was Podolski’s 100th international match with Germany, becoming the youngest player in history to reach that number. Well after just 19 minutes in to the match, Podolski opens the scoring.
He got subbed off in the second half for the first time during the tournament, but nonetheless, had a fantastic game. Lukas didn’t take part in Germany’s match against Greece in the quarter-finals, a match which Germany won 4-2. In the semi-finals, Italy were next. Podolski’s fine display at the tournament was forgotten after a horrible first half against the Italian team. Low’s decision of starting him over German sensation Marco Reus looked bad, leading to his substitution before the beginning of the second half. Lukas was subbed off immediately in the second half, and that was his final impression of the tour. The fine display seen by the German at the early stages of the tournament only made Arsenal fans more excited about their newest signing.
France – Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud
Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud played a combined 122 minutes for France at Euro 2012.
Despite numerous mistakes from Philippe Mexes in the group’s opening game, Koscielny was still benched and didn’t feature in any of France’s group games. The 26-year-old had a great season with Arsenal ahead of the tournament, but France Laurent Blanc clearly favored Mexes over the Arsenal defender – much due to Mexes’ partnership with Rami which Blanc had used predominantly throughout his reign.
Blanc was forced to start with Koscielny in France’s quarter-finals vs. Spain due to Mexes being suspended. Koscielny started and played the full 90 minutes in the quarter-finals against Spain however, due to Mexes being suspended. To no one’s surprise, the Arsenal defender stole the show on his first appearance of the tournament. Spanish forwards failed to go past him. He attempted 48 passes with 44 of them being completed – a 92% success rate. The defender attempted three tackles with all of them being successful, and managed to intercept the ball 5 times. Three blocks were made by him and he cleared the ball 6 times. Laurent Koscielny was named France’s Man of the Match – and Blanc was proven wrong.
I predicted Oliver Giroud to be the tournament’s unexpected star. Yeah, about that.. Things didn’t go as planned. An unused sub vs. England, a ten minute cameo against Ukraine, seven minute appearance against Sweden and 11 minutes on the pitch vs. Spain.
Despite assisting two goals in France’s friendly win vs. Iceland just before the squad selection; Blanc didn’t give the Arsenal man his chance on the big stage.
Denmark – Nicklas Bendtner
Nicklas Bendtner was Arsenal’s surprise player of the tournament.
The Dane’s technical abilities were outstanding throughout the tournament. The 24-year-old played in all of the Denmark’s group games. Despite a shock win against Holland for his side in the opening game, the forward had nothing to do. The game was entirely dominated by the Dutch side. In the second game vs. Portugal, Bendtner and co. were down 2-0 in the first half. Right before the half-time whistle, the Arsenal striker scores in an attempt to turn things around.
Bendtner started off the second half with an excellent display, and his persistence was rewarded with an 80th minute equalizer. Bendtner made it 2-2 with just 10 minutes left, but a late Varela winner left the Danes with zero points at the full-time whistle. The striker was named Man of the Match. He was later fined £80,000 and handed a one-match-suspension for showing ‘Paddy Power’ on his boxers while celebrating his equalizing goal.
Denmark were in desperate need of a win in their final group game vs. Germany in order to go through to the tournament’s next down. They went down 1-0 from Podolski’s strike just 19 minutes into the game. Once more, Bendtner contribute to a come-back goal after providing a fantastic assist to Krohn-Delhi allowing him to equalize. Germany eventually won the match, and Denmark were sent home. Bentdner’s tournament exceeded expectations, ending it with two goals and an assist. The Dane proved that can be a great striker on a good day, and without a doubt, his market value should increase.
At times, Bendtner might not know how to use his brain – however, he can surely use his head properly as his two goals and assist were headers.
Poland – Wojciech Szczesny
Wojcich Szczesny’s tournament was one to forget for the Polish goalkeeper. The 21-year-old had nothing to do in the first half of Poland’s opening game as they were leading 1-0 vs. Greece. At the start of the second half, he made a terrible mistake by going off his line during a cross which led to Dimitris Salpingidis equalizing for Greece. Less than 20 minutes after that mistake, the Arsenal goalkeeper got sent off for a horrible challenge inside the penalty box handing Greece a penalty as well.
The spotlights were on Poland’s second goalkeeper Przemysław Tyton who’s first minute on the pitch was up against a penalty kick. He stepped in, and saved the penalty in a miraculous moment for the Polish. If it wasn’t for his heroics, Poland would have not gained a single point that night. Tyton went on to start for his country for the remainder of the tournament- even when Szczesny was no longer suspended.
It was an awful tournament for him.
Russia – Andrey Arshavin
Russian skipper Andrey Arshavin replicated his performances at Euro 2008 during this tournament. A series of fantastic games meant that Arsenal fans no longer want him out of the club.
The 30-year-old played in all of Russia’s group games. Arshavin was brilliant in his country’s opening game vs. Czech Republic; delivering numerous crosses, providing several key chances and completing 3 dribbles as well. The Arsenal man managed to provide two assists in a 4-1 win. Arshavin was sheer class once more in Russia’s second game against Poland, completing five dribbles and providing yet another assist. His performance meant that he was named Man of the Match.
The midfielder ended the tournament having completed 10 dribbles, as well as providing 3 assists – leaving criticizers of the Russian with nothing to say.
Czech Republic – Tomas Rosicky
Thomas Rosicky had a poor tournament.
Czech Republic’s captain started in the first game for his country only to get humiliated by the Russians in a 4-1 bashing. Inspired by Rosicky, Czech scored two goals within the first six minutes of the match against Greece and the Arsenal midfielder was having a great game.
Towards the end of the second half, Rosicky suffered from an Achilles injury that left him on the side-lines for the rest of the tournament.
Holland – Robin van Persie
Keep the best for last? I don’t think so.
Robin van Persie, Arsenal captain, had a horrendous tournament. Having scored 37 goals in the season before the tournament, it was expected that he would lead Holland to the finals of the tournament. All bets were on him for the Golden Boot! Well, the complete opposite happened as Holland crashed out of the tournament with zero points. Not a single point!
Holland boss Bert van Marwijk insisted on starting van Persie, ahead of Huntlaar, in all of his group games – playing the full 90 minutes in all of them as well. The Arsenal striker had a shocking display in the group opener vs. Denmark, failing to score a single goal from eight attempted shots.
In his next game vs. Germany, he attempted four shots but this time – a right footed strike hit the back of the net but it mean nothing as Germany won the match 2-1.
Holland needed a win vs. Portugal, but Robin van Persie was a no-show. The 28-year-old was constantly dispossessed and beaten, and his side went out of the tournament after 3 consecutive losses.
Easily the Premier League’s best player at the time, he failed to deliver on the International stage. Euro 2012 is a tournament to forget for Robin van Persie.