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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Vermaelen Re-signs! / Arsenal 2-1 Sunderland – Match Reflection

One of the worst things about Arsenal’s slow start to the season for myself and fellow American fans is that Arsenal matches are getting bumped to more obscure television channels or not shown live at all. This was the case this week, as only Fox Soccer Plus (which is not a part of my television plan) carriedSunderland@ Arsenal live. The game was not replayed until Monday night, so I was only just able to catch the match in full. As such, my reflection will be both brief and tardy.

Big news of the morning here has nothing to do with Arsenal 2-1 Sunderland, and that news is that Thomas Vermaelen has signed a new long-term deal with the club. Assuming health, which with Vermaelen is a large assumption; this is an important move for Arsenal. Vermaelen, when healthy, has been a top-notch center half, and Arsenal always look a better team with him in the squad than without him. By all accounts he’s also well-liked in the locker room, and a leader at the club, so locking him up long term sends a strong message to other players & fans perhaps wondering about the future of the club. Let’s hope that Vermaelen can convince van Persie to make a similar move, though I don’t expect that to happen until Arsene makes other moves to solidify the club’s position for the future.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Alright, now on to my quick-and-dirty match reflection. Things started as well as anyone could have possibly hoped for, with captain Robin van Persie scoring a mere 29 seconds into the match, the fastest goal scored in the Premier League this season. The good times kept rolling for The Arsenal, who dominated the first 25 minutes of the match. As we have seen so many times, however, Arsenal failed to get the second goal, despite three or four stellar chances (van Persie’s right-footed chip off the post most readily comes to mind, but there were others). During this stretch,Sunderlandlooked completely off the pace, never even threatening the Arsenal defense, and in every way other than the score line the match looked a rout.

As so often happens, Arsenal were punished for failing to pull 2 or 3 goals in front during their period of total dominance when former Gunner Sebastian Larsson tucked in a beautiful free kick from just outside the box in the 31st minute. The equalizer total shifted momentum, and all of the suddenSunderlandnot only were even on the scoreboard, but also took it to Arsenal, who looked shocked to be even again. It took a miracle save from Szczesny (or a terrible point-blank miss from Lee Cattermole) to keep the game level as it went into halftime.

To Arsenal’s credit, they came out and controlled the game again in the second half. Rosicky played as well as I’ve ever seen him play while filling in for Ramsey in the middle. In fact, it was Rosicky and Song who pressed the game in the midfield, as Arteta never seemed to get into the match. Gibbs, predictably, went off with an injury early in the second half, butSantosappointed himself well in emergency fill-in duty. Again, it’s becoming a given that Arsene’s first substitution will be due to injury, which pretty much sums up the season up to this point. After terrible set pieces taken by Santos, Arteta, & Walcott in succession, it van Persie finally earned himself a free kick in a position he fancied and made the most of it. It took until the 82nd minute, but the captain again put the team on his back and put Arsenal ahead with a glorious free kick. The end was shaky, to say the least, as Sunderland threw everything they had at Arsenal’s makeshift defense, but in the end Arsenal got the three points they deserved, and climbed up to 10th in the table in doing so.

In sum, Arsenal were the better team for the vast majority of the match, but again did not respond well to adversity at home. They did respond better in the second half, but it shouldn’t always take 2 goals from van Persie to get all the points. Arsenal will only be able to win consistently if people like Gervinho & Walcott start scoring consistently. The same could be said for Arshavin, who looked good after he came off the bench, but the moral of the story is that production must come from somewhere other than the captain.

And now for the awards…

Man of the Match – Robin van Persie

Honorable Mention – Tomas Rosicky / Alex Song

Gingers Do Have Souls!! – Jack Colback

Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Arsenal – Match Reflection

Ian Kington / AFP / Getty Images

Reality Bites

Let’s get real. It might sting a little bit, and believe me, I want to do this even less than you, but it has to be done. Arsenal are 7 games in to the 2011/12 Premier League campaign, and sit 15th in the table. It’s time to take a look at who this team really is, and what we can realistically expect from them this season. Oh yeah, and they played some little game this weekend against Sp*rs, we should probably talk about that too. The only way I can stomach this match reflection is to break it down, so here’s the good, the bad, and the oh-so ugly from Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat at White Hart Lane.

The Good

For the second match in a row, Arsenal have had an unproven youngster emerge as one of the best players on the pitch. Mid-week against Olympiakos, it was Oxlade-Chamberlain; Sunday at White Hart Lane, it was the twenty year-old Frenchman Francis Coquelin. I thought it was telling that Frimpong played in the Champion’s League against Olympiakos, a game in which Wenger rested van Persie & Ramsey, and it was Coquelin who got the nod in the North London Darby. I’ve thought Coquelin has appointed himself well whenever given a chance, so I was glad to see him get the call, and as with The OC, he rose to the occasion. To my eyes, Coquelin was Arsenal’s most dynamic player on the pitch against Spurs, and especially in the first half he seemed to be everywhere on the pitch. He looked confident on the ball, covered back well on defense, and even held his own when pressed into duty as both right back (briefly due to Sagna’s injury, before Jenkinson came on) and center half (when Mertesacker moved to center forward in the waning minutes of the match).

Arsenal were the better team in the midfield, and as a result had the lion’s share of possession throughout. For stretches Arsenal put the Spurs defense under consistent pressure. The best stretch of sustained pressure led to Ramsey’s 51st minute equalizer, which was again created by Alex Song, as he drove deep into the box with the ball, and put a nice cross right on to Ramsey’s boot. Song again appointed himself well playing out of position at center half, and kept Adebayor in check all match long.

The Bad

Despite a good finish giving him the only Arsenal goal of the match, Ramsey never seemed to get in the flow of the game. Walcott also never got involved in the game. I’d have thought he’d play with a little more urgency after the performance that Oxlade-Chamberlain made in the Champion’s League.

The team again did not respond well to adversity, and seemed to wilt after van der Vaart’s opening goal. Speaking of van der Vaart’s goal, did he settle that ball with his chest or his arm? It’s no excuse for the poor defending, but that may have been a bad no-call. More on that goal later in the “ugly” section.

Injuries, injuries, and more injuries. It would be nice if just once Wenger didn’t have to burn one or two of his substitutes due to injury. This time it was Sagna who had to be replaced, giving was to the not-ready-for-prime-time-player Carl Jenkinson. It’s not Jenkinson’s fault, as he should have never been in the game, but he looked completely overmatched against Gareth Bale. Bale’s pace was far too much for Jenkinson to handle, exposing him repeatedly on the defensive right side. The worst news was that Sagna fractured his fibula, and will be out for three months. In years past, Jenkinson would not have even sniffed the pitch, except perhaps in the League Cup, but due to injuries and the overall lack of depth, Jenkinson has and will continue to play for the first team.

After the start to the season he has had, it’s a surprise to see Szczesny’s name in the “bad” column of the match report, but his overall strong performance was marred by the soft goal he gave up to Kyle Walker in the 73rd minute, which ultimately proved to be the decisive score. Walker’s strike was strong, but it was from far outside the box, and was a ball that we have come to expect Szczesny to get to. Let me correct myself, he did get to the ball, but it went straight through his hands, and we are right to expect better from the young Pole.

The Ugly

While the match was pretty ugly overall, it was ultimately again the defense that let Arsenal down. Again set pieces and secondary runs were Arsenal’s undoing, but this time Szczesny contributed an uncharacteristic howler for the winning goal. With a defense playing as poorly as Arsenal’s, it doesn’t matter how well Arsenal holds the ball, or how dominant it looks in the middle, because every counter attack looks as if it will produce a goal. This game was a perfect example that possessing the ball means nothing if you cannot finish consistently, and if your defense is a sieve. I think we all realize this by now, but this Arsenal team can concede a goal at any time, out of nowhere, so no one goal lead will ever be safe. What was so ugly about this weekend’s performance against Spurs was that for the large part of the game, Arsenal looked the better team, but they could not finish, and every time their defense was tested, it looked shaky.

Getting Real

The rational fan has now seen enough of this Arsenal team to realize that this is not a top-4 team in the Premier League. This looks to be a middle of the table team, which will do alright at home, struggle on the road, and be frustrating to watch all season long. We can hope for a cup run, and isn’t unforeseeable that this team could make it to the knockout round of the Champion’s League, but to expect anything more out of this year would be foolish. Wenger will again be faced with dire needs after the season, assuming nothing major gets done during the January transfer window. The team is thin all the way around, and to be able to compete in the Premier League, it takes more depth than Arsenal have. They simply cannot weather the injuries that they have had, and that every club has. You can blame it on bad luck to have lost Vermaelen, Wilshere, and now Sagna for long stretches, but I blame the club for not being prepared to weather the inevitable injuries. Again, the international break seems to come at a good time for the club, perhaps allowing Arsenal to get a little healthier, and attempt to shake off what has been an historically bad start to the season. Let’s all hope that we don’t pick up any more injuries over the international break, and get behind our team again on the 16th againstSunderland, because all we can do is keep marching forward.

Man Of The Match – Younes Kaboul (the difference in the match was that Spurs’ fill-in defenders rose to the occasion, while Arsenal’s did not)

He Deserved Better – Francis Coquelin (he was a bright spot, I can’t wait to see more of him, and likely will as he looks to have passed-up Frimpong on the depth chart)

Best New Dad – Jack Wilshere (Big congrats to Jackie Boy, who welcomed his first child into the world on September 29, 2011. Archie Jack Wilshere, a real gooner from the start. Now let’s all hope that the new daddy’s ankle heals quickly, please.)