EURO 2012 Arsenal Player Reports: Group A 08/06/2012

Over the course of this tournament, I will be writing some reports on Arsenal players and how they are doing for GunnersOpinion.com. This is the first, covering the Arsenal players who featured in the Group A games today. 

 

Poland and Greece opened EURO 2012 and in the hosts’ lineup was a certain impudent young goalkeeper by the name of Wojciech Szczesny. The 22-year old’s first half may rank among the easiest of his career. Aside from a small number of goal kicks, his only contribution was to punch the ball away from a corner, which prompted a counter attack. His kicking was inconsistent as ever, but nothing greatly concerning for the team, as they went to the break a goal ahead thanks to Robert Lewandowski’s header.

 

His second half was far less comfortable and far shorter. The 22-year old was almost immediately faced with a Greek attack. As a Vasilis Torosidis’ cross came in from the right-hand side towards Theofanis Gekas. The tall centre forward sprinted in front of his marker, but his attempt to head the ball in was blocked. The ball bounced back into the area; only the cross flew towards Gekas, Szczesny had stormed forward in an attempt to catch it. As Gekas’s initial effort rolled back into the path of Dmitris Salpingidis, the Arsenal ‘keeper was nowhere to be seen. Salpingidis’ had an open goal to aim and poked the ball straight into the top corner, drawing the two sides level.

 

But Szczesny’s day was set to get even worse. A beautiful chipped through ball from Kostas Fortounis was picked up by Salpingidis, who had evaded the poorly-held offside trap and taken a strong first touch on his path towards the goal. Left exposed by his defence, Szczesny appeared to panic, tripping Greece’s first goalscorer in his attempts to upend him. The referee had little choice but to send Szczesny off, with his awarding of a penalty to the Greeks. Szczesny’s proverbial bacon was saved when the man who replaced him, Przemyslaw Tyton, saved Georgous Karagounis’ rather weak penalty. The game ended 1-1 and the Arsenal man will now miss Poland’s game with Russia on account of suspension, but will be available again for their final group match against the Czech Republic.

 

The two other Arsenal players making appearances on the tournament’s inaugural day were Andrey Arshavin and Tomas Rosicky. While the Czech Republic and their captain Rosicky had a brighter start to the game, it was Russia who claimed the opener. The goal came from a move started their own captain Arshavin. His pass to Alan Dzagoev set in motion the move that eventually culminated in the CSKA Moscow man opening the scoring. Arshavin’s contribution for Russia’s second was more pronounced. From the left hand side he sent a perfect, defence-spliting ball to Roman Shirokov, who chipped the ball over the onrushing Petr Cech. Arshavin looked like his pre-11/12 season self. And he was playing down the left, and thriving there. There was no doubt about his ability. His position on the pitch did not make a great deal of difference, either, showing that the root cause of his poor form in the season that has just passed was purely a motivational problem.

 

The Czechs brought it back to 2-1 early in the second half, although Rosicky was not involved. The first notable contribution from either player in the second half was again from the enigmatic Russian. He threaded a glorious through ball to Aleksander Kerzhakov, but he dragged a very good opportunity wide. On 75 minutes, Rosicky had a strong shot well saved by Vyacheslav Malafeev, but it was Russia who grabbed the next goal, again through Dzagoev. Arshavin then claimed another assist, sending through Roman Pavlyuchenko to score a quite brilliant goal to take the score to 4-1. Rosicky had a subdued evening but Arshavin ran free; he looked reformed. He was a key figure in a team which looks as though it could be a very good bet to do something special at this tournament.

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