Euro 2012: Who Wore It Best?

So we’re now a week into Euro 2012, and quite a few Arsenal players have been mixing it up on the fields of Poland and Ukraine. Since there are a million people over-analyzing every moment of play in every game, I thought it might be fun to look at the first round of Euro 2012 group matches from a different perspective. Perhaps a more aesthetic perspective. Oh yeah, take a seat Joan Rivers, it’s time for the Stan’s Army Arsenal Edition of Euro 2012 Fashion Police! Footballers will appear in order of their team’s appearance in the tournament.

Disclaimer: The following opinions are my own and are completely subjective.

First on the runway is Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny, who made an inasupicious start to the tournament by getting sent off in Poland’s opening match against Greece. While he was on the pitch, however, he stood out from the crowd in this solid yellow number.

That kit was red card worthy on its own

I have to say, I’m a huge fan of the Poland kits for Euro 2012, produced by Nike, especially the white “home” kits. If Arsenal had a player who was out in the field rather than in goal, I’d go so far to say that they would be the favorite to win the Stan’s Army’s Best Dressed at the Euros 2012 award, but I can’t say the same for our man Szczesny. I’m just really not digging that goldenrod shade of yellow, and his woeful performance in the first match didn’t help his cause. No hard feelings, but he’s closer to worst-dressed than best.

Moving on, recently-loaned forward Andrey Arshavin captained his Russian side against the Czech Republic, and while his Arsenal future is currently in question, he is still technically an Arsenal player, so let’s see how he looked.

Andrey “I only show up for the Euros” Arshavin

Not too shabby from the little Russian. He was looking sharp in the opening match in this red on red kit, featuring a two-tone white and blue diagonal sash, along with gold numbers and Adidas’ trademark three striped sleeves. The red socks also have a sharp two-tone white and blue horizontal stripes. These kits are pretty classic in style, I can’t say I have any complaints at all. A strong entry from the Russians.

Next up we have Tomas Rosicky, who has the advantage of having two looks for us, the first, and in my opinion best look, (red on red) is from the Czech Republic’s recent 2-1 defeat of Greece, while the second look (white on white) is from the their 4-1 pounding at the hands of Russia.

Better look, better result for the Czechs

The lesser of the Czech’s looks

Let me just say straight away that I’m a huge fan of the Czech Republic’s red kits. I think the blue field behind the crest on the left shoulder is very slick looking, and the deeper color red used is top notch. I’m a bit of a Puma fanboy, so it should come as no surprise that I enjoy the Czech kits. To me the white kits leave something to be desired. Though not poor, the white kits just don’t do it for me, and are a bit too plain for my taste. My only complaint about both kits is the font the numbers are in. I’m not a big fan of that modern pixelated look on the numerals. Overall though, Rosicky gets high marks from me, and may be tough to beat.

Another Arsenal man with an unknown future with the club is our old pal Nicklas Bendtner. We all know that Nicky B. is the greatest striker in the world, but will the Danish target man also be crowned the best-dressed Arsenal player in the Euros? Take a gander.

The greatest kits at the Euros?

I recently discovered that Bendtner is not only the best striker in the world, but also a high end jewelry designer. So, will Nicky B. take home some more bling? Not likely. While I don’t hate these Danish kits, they’re pretty bland, and those red stripes on the shorts that point in are just a disaster. The black and red horizontal sock stripes are a nice touch, but they don’t save the entire kit. I give it a C, it’s solidly average in my mind.

edit: Not only did Nicky B. and Denmark break out the red against Portugal (pictured below), but he caused a uni-based stir by revealing his boxers, which bore the name of a sponsor, “Paddy Power” which is an online betting service. For his trouble, Bendtner received a £80,000 fine and a one-match UEFA ban. In doing so, Bendtner’s fashion statement has taken center stage, making him a dark horse candidate for Euro 2012 best dressed, so stay tuned!

In the shock of the tournament, Bendtner did something stupid to draw attention to himself!

Arsenal captain Robin van Persie is next on the scene, sporting the traditional orange of the Dutch national team. This year’s version, produced by Nike, is a very modern design. Here’s a look:

What number is RvP wearing? Is that a 1b?

I’m usually a fan of Holland’s kits, but I can’t say I am this time. For me, the number font is just too modern and blocky. I mean, the 6 on van Persie’s kit looks ridiculous without a top. I’m also not a big fan of the two-tone orange. And what’s up with the trim on the sleeves and bottom of the kit being black, but not the neck? Let’s keep it consistent, guys. Overall it’s just a big mess really. I have liked the black change kits I’ve seen the Dutch wear in the warm-up matches, but they are still plagued with those horrible numbers, so overall it’s just not their year. Who knows, maybe those awful kits contributed to how terribly they played in their 1-0 loss to Denmark. Stranger things have happened.

edit: Though it did not help them on the pitch, the Dutch broke out their black kits in their final game against Portugal. The team looked sharp, but their play again fell flat, as the Dutch went out without a single point in Euro 2012. While the black kits won’t erase the memory of their poor play, perhaps we’ll at least remember the Dutch looking decent while playing like shite, and that’s only thanks to these black change kits (pictured below).

RvP looks good in the black Dutch shirt, but will we ever see him in an Arsenal shirt again?

New Arsenal signing Lukas Podolski started for Germany in their opening match 1-0 win over Portugal. Germany usually represents pretty strong in the national team kit department, and this year’s entry is no exception.

I hope we get to see those beautiful green change kits

What the Mannschaft lacks in flashy color options, they make up for with a typically classy design. This year’s version features three very thin diagonal stripes creating a sash effect. The top stripe is black, the middle is red, & the bottom is gold, mirroring the stripes on the German flag, a nice touch. While not eye-catching color-wise, the Germans look sharp in this kit. If, however, the Germans get to break out their fantastic green change kits during Euro 2012, that will be a game-changer. I’ve got my fingers crossed already.

Arsenal youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was a surprise inclusion in Roy Hodgson’s England starting lineup against France, let’s see how he looked.

Definitely the best of the white and red bunch

I know I harped on similar kits from the Czech Republic and Denmark, which also featured primarily white with red numbers and details, as too bland, but I really like what Umbro designed for the Three Lions to wear in Euro 2012. I can’t really even explain what it is about the kit that I like better than other similar kits, but it just looks good to me. This kit was somewhat controversial, as it was the first England primary kit ever to not include any blue, but controversy aside, I think Umbro hit a home run with this design. Will it be enough to secure Chamberlain the coveted best-dressed award? Only time will tell.

Damn you Stevie G. for ruining a beautiful Arsenal moment!

edit: Oxlade-Chamberlain came off the bench against Sweden, almost combining with Theo Walcott for what would have been a delicious Arsenal-to-Arsenal goal for England, but alas Steven Gerrard’s ego got in the way and stole the cross basically off Chamberlain’s boot. All the same, check out Alex sporting the England blue kits.

edit: Theo Walcott not only played a starring role for England in their 3-2 win over Sweden, but he also looked sharp in England’s blue-on-blue change kit (pictured below). Personally, I prefer the red & whites, but Umbro did a nice job with both England kits. Have a look.

Super-sub Walcott shows off England’s blue kits.

edit: Now that Arsene Wenger has confirmed that the Olivier Giroud deal is 90% done, I think it’s safe to add Giroud into the best dressed mix. Here he is sporting the new France shirt by Nike (below). I think these kits are sharp, and prefer them to England’s similarly-colored two-tone blue change kits (above).

Arsenal’s newest man, Olivier Giroud

Overall a fairly vanilla kit, but I do like the thin hoops around the end of the sleeves.

edit: Laurent Blanc finally came to his senses, starting Koscielny over Mexes against Spain, but even a heroic performance from Kos couldn’t bail out the rest of the largely-listless French squad, as they went out 2-0 to Spain in the quarterfinal. Here’s a shot of Koscielny looking sharp in the France all white kit (below). Giroud, who will soon be officially announced as an Arsenal man, also got some field time in France’s all white kits (above).

Despite the loss to Spain, Koscielny showed his quality.

As it stands, I would say that Rosicky is my leader in the clubhouse, with strong pressure from Podolski and Chamberlain, but as I said before, those green change kits are Podolski’s ace in the hole. Szczesny and our dear (for now) captain are battling it out for worst-dressed, and I really can’t see anyone else challenging them for that dubious honor.

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“It’s done.” – Arshavin exits Arsenal for Zenit loan

1/24/2012

So now that it appears official that Andrei Arshavin has left Arsenal to go on loan with Zenit for the remainder of the season (the Russian confirmed as much via his twitter account – @AndrArshavin23 – by saying simply “It’s done.” just after the Russian transfer deadline had passed), let’s take a quick moment to reflect on all the wild and varied reactions that have come out as this news broke today. As I see it, there are basically three camps:

(1) Those that like Arshavin, and see him as getting a bad rap or as a scapegoat for the squad’s underperformance over the past two seasons, and accordingly are none-too-thrilled with the decision to let him leave for the remainder of the season. Let’s call these folks “Arshavin Apologists,” shall we?

(2) Those who think Arshavin is nothing but a lazy, overrated, worthless pile of dung, and who cheer his exit as a prototypical case of addition-by-subtraction.  Let’s call this lot the “Anti-Arshavin Association” or “AAA” for short.

(3) Those more in the middle, who see Arshavin for both his many flaws, but are also able to appreciate the moments of brilliance and explosive potential that he brought to Arsenal when he was in form. They speak not in emotional terms about their love for Andrei, or how he has harmed them personally and emotionally, but rather think about the implications of the move to the club as it is. Let’s call this last group the “Realists” (and yes, you can basically tell which camp I fall in just by reading the monikers I have given to each of the three respective groups).

As it is already obvious that I count myself in the later group, let me just cut to the chase and explain why I’m a Realist, and not an Arshavin Apologist or a AAA member. I am bothered by this turn of events, but not because of the player Arshavin has been for Arsenal, but rather because of the timing and my inability to reason out why things have transpired as they have. Aside from delivering a splendid cross for Thierry Henry to put home to beat Sunderland a couple of weekends ago, Arshavin hasn’t brought much to the table this season for Arsenal. He has been relegated largely to substituted duty, and even those appearances have been dwindling since the first of the year. I have heard suggestions that either his teammates or the coaching staff, or both, have grown tired of his play. I don’t know if any of that is true, but if that is the case I understand wanting to get rid of him, but why like this? If Arsenal was going to dump him just to be rid of him, the time was during the January window, so there would at least be the possibility of reinvesting the £1 million they received from Zenit for him in the club this season. If the money can’t be spent to bring someone in to help the club this season, then why ship him away now?

All that is accomplished by loaning Arshavin out at this point, after the transfer window in England has closed, is to be rid of his presence, and to have one less option should further injuries befall the club in the last three months of the season. I know he hasn’t been great, hell I know he hasn’t been much of anything, but he’s at least got the potential to be something, and I’d rather have the potential of something than nothing when it comes down to it. Arsenal are out of all competitions except the Premier League, so they won’t play much more than once a week from here on out, so I get that the need for a fourth-favorite winger isn’t great the rest of the way, but this should be all hands on deck time at The Emirates. Even if you don’t think you’ll ever use him in the best-case scenario, isn’t it better to have Arshavin around just in case, especially when the team is clinging to 4th place and a Champions League spot by a thread?

I’ve really only heard one valid explanation as to why loaning Arshavin out now makes sense, and it’s this: either (a) Zenit plan to make the move permanent at the end of the season, or (b) even if that’s not the case, he will at least be playing for Zenit regularly, and as such has a chance to up his value before his inevitable permanent transfer in the summer. This rationale makes sense to me; I still think it’s a little risky, but at least it makes sense. Arsenal knows Arshavin will be gone, and this is his best chance to make the club more money when he leaves. It’s a calculated risk.

I guess I’m just more concerned about doing everything possible to hang on to 4th place, so I’m a little more risk-averse right now, which is why I’d prefer Arsenal keep Arshavin and dump him over the summer. If Arshavin flounders in Mother Russia and some combination of Walcott, Gervinho, and Oxlade-Chamberlain go down to injury, and Arsenal doesn’t qualify for the Champions League, the handling of Arshavin will be pointed to by those calling for Wenger’s head. Of course if Arshavin shows a spark with Zenit, and Arsenal finish 4th without him, Wenger looks like a genius. Wenger is putting his chips on the table with this move, we just have to wait until the end of the season to see if he’s got the nuts.

Reassessing the 2011/12 Gunners After Arsenal 3-1 Stoke City

Jamie McDonald / Getty Images

The Stoke City match wasn’t on live in my parts of the States, and didn’t show until 7:00 pm Monday night my time, so I feel like a traditional match reflection would be pretty worthless because of the timing. That being the case, I’m going to forego the match reflection and instead take a minute to ask (and answer) a few questions, and in so doing maybe reassess my expectations for this year’s version of The Arsenal.

Was the Stoke City match Gervinho’s breakout performance?

Arsenal supporters have been waiting all season for Gervinho to start producing goals consistently, and boy did he do that against Stoke on Sunday. Gervinho not only scored the opening goal, but he created both of van Persie’s late goals. Gervinho has consistently looked dangerous in his time with Arsenal, but that has not translated into goals as much as was expected. I look for his performance against Stoke to be a real confidence-builder for Gervinho, and will propel him into a consistently productive player for the Gunners.

Is Arshavin best suited coming off the bench?

The much-maligned Russian has struggled in his starts this season, but has been looked much better the last couple of times he came off the bench. I look for this to continue, with Walcott & Gervinho getting more of the starts, with Arshavin coming off the bench.

Can anyone stop Robin van Persie?

No.

How soon will Man City and/or Barcelona start tapping up our new captain, promising to double his wages?

If we all agree to not talk about it, and not even think about it, it won’t happen… right? (read as: soon)

Is Koscielny’s good form of late sustainable?

If I knew, I’d be more than just a want-to-be blogger in middle America. Let’s hope the answer is “yes.” It doesn’t hurt that Mertesacker appears to be settling in to the English game, but has his improved form raised Koscielny’s play, or vice-versa? Chicken and egg, my friends.

Will we ever see Park Chu-Young?

I would love to know what the deal with Park is. Chamakh hasn’t impressed in his last couple of chances, so it baffles me that Park has remained on the bench in all except Carling Cup matches. I thought this guy was supposed to be ready to step right into the squad. I would love to know what Arsene and his staff candidly thinks about Park’s skill. Is he not living up to what they expected from him?

Why can’t Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain crack the squad?

It’s not like Walcott has been setting the world on fire, surely there’s space for The OC to get into the squad. I don’t expect to see him in the Champions League, or against Chelsea this weekend, but with Premier League matches upcoming against West Brom, Norwich, Fulham, & Wigan, I’d be surprised not to see his name in the starting XI at least once during that four-match stretch.

With Liverpool stumbling, is 4th place back within reach?

I don’t see why not. Arsenal currently sit 7th in the table, and while I don’t think they’ll challenge the top 3, I do think Sp*rs, Liverpool, and certainly Newcastle will all falter enough for Arsenal to finish in the last Champions League spot as long as they don’t drop points in a bunch of matches they should win (you know, like the end of last season).