For once in my life I hadn't missed Arsenal much during this international break. My household had all picked up the cold, fever, bug type thing that has been doing the rounds. Everyone but my other half have been struck down. Instead of working, reading or writing blogs I have been sleeping or coughing my guts up so I guess I haven't really had the time to miss Arsenal.
I just knew that France would qualify tonight. I am an idiot for not putting a bet on it only because I felt so certain about it. The situation reminded me of the Arsenal vs AC Milan second leg a few years ago. Attacking and scoring early was a gamble Arsenal quite simply had to take. It was the same for the French last night. The tempo had already been set from the first match, the mind set from both teams had already been created and if France scored first and early enough then the boost for them and the deflation for the Ukraine's would swing the match in favour of the home side. It finished 3-0 to the home team. If the first leg was 0-0 then you just know it would have been a much tighter match.
Great news for Laurent Koscielny who now doesn't have to take the flak and negative pressure from being partly at fault for the French defeat in the first game. Also positive news for Oliver Giroud, Bacary Sagna and who knows perhaps even Flamini if he has a fantastic season. Players want to play in the world cup and hopefully the good spirits can spill over when they return to London.
I was watching the England vs Germany match and thought England were going to win after their high energy quick start but it quickly turned out that England's only game plan would be to pass it as quickly as possible to Andros Townsend to run down the right a little then cut inside and either lay the ball off or shoot. Basically trying to make an over hyped player into a one man team.
How many times have you seen Townsend link up with team mates with a flurry of good combinations? I cannot think of many. It is all very school playground. Give it to that fast tricky kid and he can play the game on his own. When I think about it England are full of individuals like Gerrard who needs to force everything. Townsend as spoken about above and me me me Sturridge.
Even with all his impressive goal tally I rate Daniel Sturridge less and less every time I see him. Don't get me wrong, he can score goals. He has a hunger to score goals and if that is all you want in a striker then you can make a good case for him but for me, he is another who is not a team player. A player that cares only for his own headlines, all he wants to do is shoot and when others do the same he throws his hands up in the air and snarls. As he did with Suarez a few weeks ago.
Per Mertesacker has played against Sturridge twice in the space of a few weeks and has stopped his scoring on both occasions. The BFG has come in for some ridiculous lazy criticism since arriving to Arsenal from German football. He is slowly changing opinion after many top displays for Arsenal. As I've said previously, it takes the narrative a little while longer to catch up to reality.
Portugal overcame Sweden in the other big qualifier. Ronaldo grabbed a hat trick, I've only seen these highlights but it is no wonder that Ronaldo destroyed them given such a high defensive line. Ronaldo's first goal in particular made me realise just how much we missed Theo Walcott. We have missed that right to centre run and I was thinking about just how difficult it is to score without players running into areas to score goals. When you have a team of players who all want to come to feet then how do you find the back of the net? It is not easy and we saw that against Manchester United, Crystal Palace, West Brom etc
Theo Walcott will help get Mesut Özil a lot. We saw enough on Özil's debut when he found Walcott three times darting inside his full back. The German is well known for his craft in making the final pass, that final pass is not designed for anyone else in this Arsenal team. There is no Ian Wright, Marc Overmars or Freddie Ljungberg to pick out so we need the one player who will give our midfield that split second bit of movement as Ronaldo provided last night.
We've won many games due to the quality of players we have along with our character. I am fully aware that I sound like an unfixable record but it's the elephant in the room who is doing the moonwalk on top of a glass table. It is hard not to continue to point it out. The fact that we are top of the league without that fundamental side of the game is quite impressive and gives me plenty of confidence.
At least Theo is back for Saturday. Maybe from the bench but at least we have that option. It is good that a few of our players have had a rest before the weekend but post international fixture against a side who press so hard scares me a little. We may have to be sharper than we usually are after these international games, if not then I fear we will struggle to get our game together. But we can still beat Southampton at home without being at our best, that said we could also drop points if we are not switched on.
I'd imagine that all the recent 'transfer talk' will disappear once more now that we will have something to talk about again. Funny how that happens eh?
Before I get off to bed, have a look at Drawing a line under a difficult period written by JR. A great read.
'till the next time
UPDATE: If anyone has a really good Arsenal gif and wants it placed on the site then please throw it my way. You can send the link via the contact button.