It’s a funny saying and one that is quite the cliché in sports, but gee a week is a long time in football.
The world cup kicked off in Brazil and, I have to say, it has been quite the entertaining tournament so far. The group games are at some difficult times for us here in Australia (and for you readers in the UK too no doubt) but I have found myself drawn into getting up and watching from the comfort of a nice warm couch or even just cracking an eye open in bed to see what state the game is in and deciding to press on with watching from there more often than not. The Socceroos were their usual battling selves without the quality required to really make Chile pay for the pressure we put them under at stages. I think it may be a different story with the Netherlands in less than 12 hours and a couple of hamstrings to starting players, to test our depth. It’s been an enjoyable first round of games and I am really looking forward to seeing things heat up as the group stages come to a head, with certain teams (England, Spain and Uruguay especially) feeling the pressure after game one losses. I can only imagine the media pressure being generated back in the UK and I don’t envy being any one of those players under the microscope right now.
In a lot of ways, the World Cup has served to fuel the fires of speculation and admiration for us as Gooners, as we bay and claw at each other on social media about the qualities of those players who we have been linked with during the transfer window thus far. So what I thought would be fun to do, would be to create little mini reports/opinions on the relevant players who we have been linked with so far this summer, as they perform (or fail) for their nation on the world stage in Brazil.
The first two players to report on are both being linked through various outlets as we have all seen. So without further ado;
Serge Aurier – RB – Ivory Coast vs Japan:
The man who has personally linked himself with a move to the emirates on numerous occasions provided 2 lovely assists during Ivory Coast’s 2-1 come back victory against Japan. There’s no doubting the quality of the delivery for each of the goals (Bony’s glancing header and Gervinho’s near post accident) and when you start thinking about what our big front man could possibly do with service of this type, it’s hard not to be a little excited. He was deployed on the right side of defence and due to the nature of the game was more of a wing back than a regulation full back, as an attacking threat combining on the right with Gervinho and, at times Kalou. From an attacking point of view he was more involved in the game as his side pressed the Japanese further and further back. Looking at his defensive output for the game is a little more sobering (Ivory Coast as a whole was fairly poor from this point of view) He made only one tackle for the game, which was successful mind you and his teams only one for the match. As for clearances, he was able to complete 2/3 attempts successfully. From an athletic point of view, he was one of the standouts, travelling over 9.7km against a team average of 8.4km during his full 90mins on the field. To be honest, this is the first game I have seen Aurier play and I have to say, I will need to see a lot more before I am convinced that this is the player we all want and need to come in to fill that important RB position vacated by Sagna.
Pros – Stamina, Athleticism, Crossing (der).
Cons – Positioning, Strength, Tackling.
Touted Transfer price £10M
Mario Balotelli – Italy vs England:
Mario has many fans across the world, none bigger than himself, and this is a trait which divides many football fans the world over. What most of them won’t argue about though, is his prowess as a striker which was on display as the Italians knocked off a plucky England side in their opening group game. His winning goal came just into the second half when England were perhaps settling back into the game. Apart from his goal, the thing I noticed about his game for the Azzuri, was the explosiveness of his play. He almost lulls a defence into a false sense of security. He rarely goes deep to collect the ball, he doesn’t charge around demanding possession instead preferring to wander into and out of spaces ahead of the ball, shifting opponents around. He seems to be a master of his craft though, recognising an opportunity and exploding into channels or pattern movements which create havoc and uncertainty at the back. His distance covered numbers from the game indicate that he travelled less than the team average distance which is unsurprising considering he was subbed in the 75th minute, but his speed and sprint repeats over distance were well up on the rest of the team. He completed 16 passes and received the ball mostly through the centre forward and right wing positions. Defensively he contributed nothing, not getting back to assist at corners, not making a successful tackle or clearance for the game. As a striker you can hardly blame him, but when you think of what Giroud currently contributes from a defensive set piece point of view, this doesn’t match our current philosophy of team defence.
Pros – Speed, Finishing, Positioning. Cons – Workrate, Defence
Touted Transfer price £25M+
So there you have it, make of it what you will and watch when you can. It really is shaping to be a great tournament. I will return to you again soon when there’s more to discuss as we slog our way through some early mornings and late nights in the never ending quest for footballing satisfaction.
*all stats taken from FIFA official match statistics found at http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/matches/index.html