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.


Spend Stan Kroenke’s Money

It's time to WIN...BEN...STEIN'S...MONEY!

I don’t know how many of you watched late afternoon Comedy Central in the late 90s / early 2000s, but if, like me, you did, I imagine you also fondly remember Win Ben Stein’s Money. I’m not quite sure what it was about that show, maybe it was the mano-a-mano “Best of Ten Test of Knowledge” showdown, maybe it was a young Jimmy Kimmel as the host, or maybe it was just Mr. Stein’s dulcet tones, but that show was undeniably magic.

Among the things today that hold my attention as much as Win Ben Stein’s Money did in my younger years, is transfer talk. I know, I know: it’s all a bunch of speculative hooey, but it’s damn interesting speculative hooey, and I love it despite its lack of objective merit (much like The Real Housewives series – Lisa Vanderpump & Kandi Burruss are my homegirls!). That being the case, let’s lay down some ground rules and get to it.

Now that it looks like Stan Kroenke is out of the bidding for the Los Angeles Dodgers, what is he going to do with all that cash he was about to splash on a baseball team? I bet I can think of one of two little things coughMarioGoetzecough! Oh excuse me; I don’t know what came over me, coughEdenHazardcough! Oh dear, it’s happened again, I’m quite sorry. Now that I’m over that little coughing fit, let’s move forward.

For the purposes of this exercise we have to assume Arsenal will be in the Champions League in 2012/13, because without the Champions League to attract players to the club, and without the extra revenue, all of this is wishful thinking. So, if our baseline is somewhere around £50m that Arsenal has to spend, assuming Champions League revenues, let’s go ahead and figure out how best to spend it.

Lukas Podolski for Germany

Again, for the purposes of this exercise, I’m going to assume that the Podolski transfer is happening, and that the reported £11m transfer fee is his actual price. I honestly do believe this will get done, and while I can’t be sure on the money, it does sound about right to me, given that he is (I believe) going into the last year of his current deal. So, we’ve spent £11m of Stan Kroenke’s money, that still leaves us with about £39m. It’s a good start, but there’s much work to be done.

Jan Vertonghen plays for Belgium

There have also been quite a few stories circulating recently that Ajax’s Jan Vertonghen, who will almost assuredly leave for the Premier League this summer, would prefer Arsenal over City or Sp*rs (and who could blame him?). I’m on record as being 100% for this move, and what’s more, it would set up my dream conspiracy theory scenario, but more on that later. The real reason to spend Kroenke’s money on Vertonghen is that while our central defense may seem crowded with Vermaelen, Mertesacker, and Koscielny already established, YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MUCH DEPTH. That’s my mantra, folks. What separates clubs who challenge for trophies from clubs who only challenge to make the Champions League? The answer is depth. Injuries in football are a given, and the clubs who have players ready to step in and keep the team rolling are the clubs who win silverware. Also, depth is necessary for realistically competing and going far in multiple competitions, and you have to be in the competitions to win them. So, if you’re bringing in Vertonghen, what is his price? I haven’t heard anything solid on that front yet, but I’m going to assume his price will be about £10m. It could be £9m or it could be £11m, but 10 is a nice round number, so let’s go with that.

Eden Hazard also plays for Belgium

With £11m for Podolski and £10m for Vertonghen, that still leaves £29m of Kroenke’s money to spend, and we wouldn’t want it to go to waste, so who else could Arsenal buy? Here’s where my conspiracy theory comes in… If Vertonghen really does sign for Arsenal, you had better believe Jan’s former Ajax and current Belgium teammate Thomas Vermaelen will have had a lot to do with bringing him to Arsenal. Do you see where I’m going yet? You will. So now Arsenal have two Belgium Internationals who are excited to be together, and want nothing more than to create a Belgian pipeline to The Arsenal. You know who else is a Belgium International? That’s right, Lille’s Eden Hazard. He’s young, he’s creative, he’s from the French League, and he’s a perfect candidate to play either on the wing or as a creative midfielder in Wenger’s system, and with two of his buddies from Belgium already at Arsenal, it would be a natural choice. Plus, Hazard’s former Lille teammate Gervinho is also at Arsenal, so between Vermaelen, Vertonghen, and Gervinho, Arsenal should feel like home for Hazard. Sure, City are going to offer him stupid money, but money isn’t everything, and since Hazard would feel more comfortable joining his fellow Belgians & former Ligue 1 teammate to play for The Professor at Arsenal, he just might pick Arsenal over ridiculous piles of cash (let’s call this move the “Anti-Nasri Maneuver”). Hazard won’t come cheap, so let’s just assume it takes most if not all of the remaining £29m to get him from Lille. It’s a lot, but hey, it’s not my money.

Matias Suarez playing for Anderlecht

Since we’re already dreaming, let’s add in one last piece to the puzzle, and in the process, make Arsenal younger and more dangerous on the wings. Tim from 7am Kickoff (@7amkickoff) wrote a fascinating article yesterday about Chu-Young Park’s value going up since his mandatory military service has been deferred until 2022, and how Arsenal could send him to Anderlecht in a swap for Mathias Suarez. If this is even a possibility, I say go for it. Park was only purchased as a backup to van Persie, and with the addition of Podolski, he becomes (if it’s possible) even more obsolete than he is currently. The young Argentinian would fit into Wenger’s system much better than Park does, because of his ability to play the wing or through the middle, so he could see time in the squad where Park has not. Again, YOU CAN’T HAVE TOO MUCH DEPTH. Who knows if it’s a realistic move, but if it is, it would be a major coup to get a young talent like Mathias Suarez out of our £4.5m investment in Park last Summer.

Lastly, I think it’s safe to assume that there will be some exits over the summer as well. I’ve got the likes of Bendtner, Arshavin, Denilson, Almunia, Carlos Vela, Squillaci, and Chamakh all tabbed as possible sales. I know Wenger won’t be able to unload all of these guys, but even if he only sells 4 or 5 of the 7 I listed, and even if he sells them at bargain basement prices (as that’s all they’re worth at this point), surely those sales will make the club another £10m or so, which Arsene can put together with whatever is left after the Hazard deal (if there is anything left) and go buy some 18 year-old kid we’ve never heard of, like he does every summer, and everyone’s happy. Arsene gets his youth investment, the fans get the Summer spending spree that they’ve always dreamed of, Stan and the Board get the fans off their backs for never spending, and Arsenal is picked pre-season as a serious contender for silverware. Win-win-win.

I know this won’t all happen, but I do think it is at least fiscally possible. I know Arsenal never spends this way, but just imagine if they did. I don’t expect the purse strings to finally loosen up this Summer, but let this article serve as an argument for what could happen if they did. Seriously, just look at the team Arsenal could put on the pitch in 2012/13 just by playing Spend Stan Kroenke’s Money:

GK: Szczesny, Fabianski

DEF: Sagna, Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vertonghen, Gibbs, Santos, Djourou, Miquel

MIDS: Wilshere, Song, Hazard, Rosicky, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Diaby, Ramsey, Frimpong, Coquelin

WINGS: Walcott, Gervinho, Hazard, Podolski, M. Suarez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ryo

ST: van Persie, Podolski

That team is deep and scary at every position, and a legitimate title contender. In theory, it could happen. It won’t, but it could.

Continue to Pray For Muamba, that man is a fighter and an inspiration.