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Well that was the day the Euros finally took off, wasn’t it? The early matches determined who England would face in Nice next Monday. It went to the wire. Another European question will occupy hearts and minds tomorrow. This is a football blog, no really! And so many readers are not concerned about which way David Beckham, or Rio Ferdinand, are voting, never mind this old fool.

Back to football, and Hungary and Portugal provided the roller coaster match the tournament needed. Six goals shared and at the final whistle it looked as though England would face Portugal in the last sixteen, albeit for seconds. As the handshakes started the commentator spoke of developments in the Iceland match against Austria. Somebody said something to Christiano Ronaldo and he immediately started exchanging words with team mates I would love to have heard.

Iceland have had an astonishing introduction to tournament finals football. They surprised everyone by qualifying for the first time, and after ninety minutes were looking at completing the group stage unbeaten, level at 1-1 with Austria. Not surprisingly the Austrians were piling on the pressure in the last of the four added minutes when Iceland broke and Traustason swept in a cross from Bjarnason. (Admit it, unless you are Icelandic you just yelled WHOOOO? twice).

The result put Iceland into second place in the group and they now get the chance to humble England. I’m not sure it will be an end to end thriller, but it will be a fascinating clash of styles. England may have preferred opposition with a more open style than that which Iceland have employed thus far. That isn’t a criticism. They have played to their strengths, which they have to do, and it is up to the supposedly better teams to work out how to break them down.

What could create the same feelings as the early kick-offs? The script was written. Ireland would give Italy a fight before the latter would produce yet another late winner. Ireland didn’t read the script, however. They most certainly did give the azzurri a fight, but as the game was drawing to a close Hoolahan was set free. This was surely the moment for a sensational ending? He tamely found the goalkeeper’s hands. That was that, it seemed.

The thwarted substitute produced a wonderful cross from the right, Brady took flight and planted forehead on plastic. This time the gaping goal was found and a million Irish pets recoiled as their owners experienced that moment of frenzy, of release, at the simple act of scoring a goal. If you cannot be at the game social media is quite the place to be at moments like that. For a few precious minutes positivity and humour takes over a place that can be a host for good and bad.

All of which means that the four teams from Britain and the Republic are united in qualifying for the knock-out phase. At least one must go as Wales will meet Northern Ireland on Saturday. The Republic have a meeting with hosts France which will doubtless prompt hours of talk and video of that Titi handball. If the Irish show the same spirit and commitment as tonight then what are the odds against a penalty shoot-out?

And England? The round of sixteen really is in their hands. Iceland will give it all and have nothing to lose, but it is time for Roy to work out his best eleven and stick with them, injuries and suspensions permitting.

Evening all.

I have square eyes, it is official. Since the events of Thursday have seen five of six Euros contests, a gripping T20 cricket match, and a remarkable series clinching win by England in Australia with the egg-shaped ball. If you are a sports lover this is a wonderful time to be alive.

Only the inconvenience of having to put a full day in at work (the first in three days) meant I could only listen to Italy’s nigh on inevitable late winner against Sweden. I still haven’t seen it, or indeed any of the match so feel unable to comment further. By the time Croatia and the Czech Republic kicked-off I was in the local, and taking full advantage of the cut price pints!

The Croatians so dominated most of the match and that was obviously frustrating for this far from neutral observer. Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky found themselves 0-2 down with a quarter of an hour to go, then all the drama unfolded on and off the pitch. It was a joy to see Tomas roll back the years with one sublime cross with the outside of the foot that demanded a finish from Skoda (no, I’m not going there!).

Joy turned to sadness when Tomas pinged a hamstring and became a passenger. Was that the last we will see of him on a football pitch? It was confirmed today he will certainly miss the rest of the Euros. Croatia’s thugs then became the centre of attention, turning on their own supporters and unleashing a barrage of flares and firecrackers. I read earlier that they may well be motivated to get their team kicked out of the team to spark regime change in the Croatian FA.

Whatever their reason their distracted team conceded a last minute penalty and Necid ensured that the Czech’s hopes of reaching the last sixteen remain alive. A pleasant memory perhaps for Tomas to reflect on as he goes into a summer of decision for him.

Talking of distraction Spain’s comfortable thumping of Turkey was watched through half of one eye as it shared double billing with the Surrey versus Middlesex T20 at the Oval. Surrey and Spain were dominant, and the two goals that Alvaro Morata scored will have once again raised hopes amongst the Arsenal faithful that we are involved in any discussions about his future this summer.

Watching powerful opponents take each other to the limits of physical exertion at half past ten in the morning is an eye-opener in more ways than one. England, seeking their first ever series win in Australia asked for and gave no quarter. The Wallabies, not surprisingly, were more than happy to engage in a bruising encounter. England somehow protected, and then extended a narrow advantage, finally winning 7-20. It was gripping, unmissable top flight sport.

The good mood didn’t last long. The Republic of Ireland held Belgium for 50 minutes, and might have had the lead if the referee hadn’t bottled it when Shane Long was the victim of a double kung-fu assault. There had to come a time though when Belgium’s misfiring (please don’t say it) golden generation (you said it, damn you!) clicked into gear. Lukaku started and finished the scoring with Wiesel’s header splitting those two strikes.

Iceland gave us hope for a fairytale finish when awarded a penalty against the Hungarians. Gyfli Sigurdsson converted from the spot and the rearguard action that followed was cruelly ended when the unfortunate Saevarsson turned Nemanja Nikolic’s cross into his own net to hand Hungary a point.

As I type a rather dull contest between Portugal and Austria is becoming hugely enjoyable. Who wouldn’t enjoy the sight of the loathsome, self-important Ronaldo firing a penalty against the post, and then seeing a match winning header ruled out for offside. In vain it seems I am waiting for Leicester’s Austrian defender, Christian Fuchs, to make a mistake so I have as a headline, For Fuchs Sake. Hey-ho, the whistle just blew on a 0-0.

Now, how to end this Saturday. Of course, the US Open is on live.

Have a great Sunday, ‘holics.

Mixed Feelings – Oh Yes

A day many had anticipated eagerly. The half-day holiday required by England versus Wales turned into a strange one. The football blogger should avoid the complexities of political comment. We lose enough readers in the summer as it is. However it is impossible for anyone in this part of the world to restrict their opinions to just the Euros today.

So as not to antagonise those who read this from far away (and some from closer to home) it was a day when football provided what it does best. A distraction from the real world. Here that real world became a place where democracy itself came under attack with the senseless and violent murder of a member of Parliament. Other parts of this world experience vile acts such as this far more frequently than us, but that it happened here is testament to the shifting political sands in the United Kingdom. Or should I say the currently United Kingdom?

For now suffice it to say that two young girls, aged five and three, are deprived of a mother, and a devoted husband has a gap in his life that can never be filled.

This all happened as a football match was taking place. It seems absurd to return to the Euros, but the full horror of what was happening in Leeds hadn’t unfolded as England faced Wales in Lens. It was a meeting of neighbours united by the actions of others in Marseille, thankfully. I hope tomorrow’s papers don’t tell a different tale, but it was wonderful to see a match take place with both sets of supporters enjoying comical, but peaceful exchanges.

“We are top of the league” chanted the Welsh, almost throughout, and indeed they were, until the 92nd minute. England dominated from the first whistle but lacked a cutting edge in the attacking third in the opening half. Rooney conceded a needless free-kick in a moment of a very light shade of red mist. Bale hit a hopeful effort from 35 yards, and Hart allowed it to beat his palms.

Roy Hodgson chose to do the obvious at half-time, On came Jamie Vardy of Leicester (or Arsenal), and of course he would get the topical equaliser. Daniel Sturridge, also sent on at half-time grabbed the dramatic injury time winner. For a moment the unfolding drama in the north of England was cast to one side.

By the time Northern Ireland kicked off against Ukraine the full horror of what had happened in Yorkshire had been confirmed. It is likely it didn’t detract from the incredible emotions those in the six counties experienced as they produced a spirited performance to pull off an historic 2-0 triumph. Here’s hoping they will do something against the world champions on the last group stage matchday.

The world champions themselves could have made life much easier for ‘Norn Iron’ against Poland this evening. Given the history of fixtures between the two I would have expected a more combative fixture in all honesty. The 0-0 draw suited both, who will go into their final group match as favourites, but Mesut, Lukasz, and company have opened a possibility for an astonishing final day.

And with the final whistle came the news programmes. Real life took over again. We live in a different place tonight. It is important we wait to understand the thinking of the assassin, a terrorist for sure regardless of his colour or creed. As Dylan once sang, the times, they are a changing.

I thought it about time to share some things with you. Yesterday (Saturday) I spent a day at a major sporting event with a full house of mixed origins. We drank all day, the crowd were appreciative of the efforts by those on both teams. There was no abuse of Sri Lanka or their smiling supporters, only a sense of well-being.

At 8pm as England were kicking off their Euros campaign I boarded a train homewards and followed the events of the evening on Twitter. Now I didn’t see all of the footage live, so may have a less than accurate view on what transpired. Hindsight is a wonderful gift and has been applied heavily today. Yes, having England play Russia anywhere at 8pm was perhaps asking for trouble. Putting it on in Marseille added to the high risk of the fixture.

What is particularly disturbing about the events at the end of the match is that there was little protection for a crowd that included women and children when the Russian gangs infiltrated a section containing England supporters. The nature of England’s travelling support has changed since the bad old days and few of those in the section that was attacked were ‘hardcore’.

It is a tragedy for football that the growing ‘family’ nature of those following it should be subject to such appalling behaviour. Terrified, they fled over fences designed to keep them in, and the Russians out. The stewards and minimal police presence did little to restore order, it appeared. It is fitting that only Russia have been charged over the events of the evening, and worrying that French politicians have called for action against both countries. It’s time to look in your own backyard, you hypocrites.

That isn’t to ignore the acts of the England supporters who congregated in an area of town pre-match where they knew full well that groups of locals as well as Russians would entertain their desire for a degree of muscle-flexing. These are, I’m assured by those who are out there, a minority. Thousands of England fans avoided the known trouble spot and drank with locals and Russians elsewhere and had an entirely different experience.

The reaction to the events in Marseille and the attacks by the French locals on Polish and Northern Irish fans is to have alcohol bans prior to future matches. Alcohol is not the issue, however, and the majority of supporters who have travelled from around Europe to celebrate the Euros will pay the penalty. Those committed to determine who are the alpha males in France will continue to seek each other out.

By the end of the tournament it is likely that we will see that it is not only Russians, English, or indeed French, who have minorities of idiots determined to take advantage of the strange policing of the event. Let’s be clear too, that the authorities have much worse than marauding football hooligans to worry about for the duration of this championship. It is worrying though, with that in mind, that supporters are able to bring flares, and indeed a flare gun, into a stadium at a major tournament.

Let’s pray that Saturday was a wake up call for all involved in ensuring that this championship is played in a much better atmosphere. The vast majority of those in and heading for France will make great efforts to unite with football supporters of all nationalities. The sensational press will concentrate on those who don’t travel with that intent. Perhaps they too should consider their contribution.

And the gendarmerie, please consider an approach that protects those who have no desire to engage in such behaviour from the organised and hostile few. It is awful that you should have to, but innocents should be allowed to enjoy a festival of football, not fear for their safety.

So the Euros are nearly upon us and will hopefully distract us, and more importantly our rivals, from the transfer window. Ahead of Friday’s opener Arsene Wenger has been talking to Arsenal.com about the upcoming tournament.

Hosts France kick the whole thing off on Friday evening against Romania, while England start their campaign  against Russia on Saturday evening. I expect to miss it as a drenched me will be on my way back from a day in the showers at Lord’s enjoying a day of test cricket, or not as the case may be, according to the weather forecast.

The Arsenal manager has hinted at a closer than usual contest, with the gaps that once existed between the competing nations now much smaller than has been the case in the past. It’s a fair point although Denmark and Greece in particular may feel this is a tournament that has always offered opportunity to countries without a track record of success.

“For me, the Euros are a bit more interesting, because the levels are a bit more level than at the World Cup. At the World Cup, you sometimes have big differences between some countries. That is not the case in Europe anymore.”

Quizzed about the chances of the hosts, and whether that would give them an advantage, Arsene spoke of the challenge awaiting France. Hit the ground running, and they will be at an advantage, but if they don’t…

“I believe it can be a handicap until you get to the level that is expected from people. After, it becomes a massive plus. France has won three times (World Cup and Euros) but twice at home.”

It would be a surprise to see the trophy lifted by someone other than France, Germany, or Spain but it has happened before. I don’t see England having the strength in depth, particularly defensively, to go the distance. It would be wonderful though to see one of England, Wales, Northern Ireland, or indeed the republic go all the way. My glass is half full.

Arsenal Tribute To Muhammed Ali

Whilst on the official club website I saw that Arsenal director Ken Friar laid a wreath at Highbury on Monday in memory of the late Muhammad Ali.

Highbury hosted the world heavyweight title fight between Ali and Henry Cooper on May 21, 1966.  A crowd of 46,000 filled the old girl to see the fight, three years after Ali won their previous bout in five rounds at Wembley.  Ali won at Highbury too, this time in the sixth. Ken Friar was instrumental in organising that evening, which I remember listening to on the radio with ‘holicdad. Ken recalled The Greatest fondly, as did all of us lucky enough to follow his career and life.

“No one deserves it more. I felt very emotional laying the wreath. The fight was probably one of the most momentous evenings ever. It was an electric night, the weather was great and we had everybody there. We had all the film stars in, we had George Raft, Diana Dors, Rocky Marciano. It turned out to be an amazing evening, especially with the way the fight turned out. Poor Henry, who I became very friendly with in later life, was cut to pieces but there was hardly a mark on Muhammad Ali. I met Ali. I was very fortunate there. He was awesome, in a word, he had charisma beyond belief and everything about him exuded fame.”

When Andy Murray Met Robert Pires

On a happier note, did you catch on the web earlier this week that Andy Murray recently met one of his sporting heroes and Arsenal great, Robert Pires, over a relaxed game of Petanque in Paris.

This forms part of Standard Life’s ‘Master Your Dreams’ campaign, where Murray took some precious time out of his French Open preparation to meet Robert Pires, the talented (and yes, Blogs, dreamy!) member of the historic Arsenal ‘invincibles’ side who remained unbeaten throughout their 2003/4 title winning season.

In this short film, not only does Pires show off his exemplary Petanque technique, the sporting greats acknowledge a shared love of football and Arsenal to address the big questions facing the sport at the moment. It might just change your opinion of Andy!

I scan Arsenal.com and the BBC. Jamie Vardy is mentioned on one but not the other. Claudio Ranieri says we have triggered the release clause. Olivier Giroud said after grabbing a brace for France against Scotland that ‘Jamie’ is coming to score lots of goals like he did for Leicester. Now we wait to see if Arsenal can push this most unexpected of deals over the line.

It looks as though most people are now getting used to what a couple of days ago was something of a surprise. Those who thought we were aiming for an Higuain or a Morata seemed less than impressed. I did wonder myself if he was the type of player we were looking to fill the striking vacancy, but a little time to think throws up some justification.

Primarily the attraction was probably that he is a home-grown player. There is still a question mark over the future of at least three of the English lads on the books and this may help to facilitate a move for one or two of Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, or Theo Walcott.

The latter is a particularly interesting case given that he has not been able to nail down the central strikers role he is said to have favoured. Arsene Wenger was clearly ready to give him that chance last season. He flourished when we were more of a counter-attacking side, for instance in the drubbing of Manchester United his high-pressing was a significant factor in our victory that day. However he tended to struggle against massed defences and of course the injuries he picked up made for a difficult season.

Arsene may feel, having seen the relative success that Danny Welbeck enjoyed when replacing Olivier Giroud in the second-half of the season, that we still need the option of that type of pacy and direct striker, if only to keep Giroud on his toes. The big Frenchman did look a complete striker in the first-half of the season when fighting off Walcott for his place.

There is an added attraction to Vardy, in that he is more than capable of playing on the flanks. He and Alexis either side of an in-form Giroud would provide considerable firepower. One of the side-effects of the signing of Granit Xhaka may be a desire to get the ball forward more quickly. He has a range of passing over distance that Vardy and Alexis may feast on.

There are question marks over Vardy’s character but he proved last season with Leicester that he has the attitude of a winner, and a work ethic that may rub off on some of our more delicate flowers. All in all the deal is starting to make more and more sense and the Gunners are to be applauded if they seal the second significant acquisition of the summer before the Euros get underway.

Any chance of a third, please Arsene?

The club season over, your average blogger (I’m way ahead of you pal!) is hoping that international football provides a rich seam of material. To be fair the friendlies ahead of a major tournament are exercises in experimentation that sometimes work, and sometimes don’t. Tonight (Thursday) I will mostly be looking back, for obvious reasons.

I’m well aware that this blog, indeed most Arsenal blogs, is/are read by many who, at best, don’t give a monkeys about England’s preparation. The good news for you is that Hector Bellerin has been named in Spain’s squad for the Euros and provided his first assist in their comprehensive drubbing of South Korea. His elevation to full international is a just reward for a superb domestic season with the Gunners.

Then there is something of a bittersweet moment, Tomas Rosicky’s wonderful strike for the Czech Republic in their win over Russia has surely made him a starter for the Euros? In the same team Petr Cech became his country’s most capped player in a comfortable win over Malta. I will definitely be following them in France.

It isn’t just competition time in Europe. Alexis has been involved in Chile’s defeats by Jamaica and Mexico ahead of the Copa America Centenario. The holders may not look in good shape for the tournament which is being held in the USA but it would be foolish to rule them out before the tournament proper kicks off.

Sooner or later one has to consider Jack Wilshere and England’s prospects in the Euros. Forgive me, but I was born in London, and I fully appreciate the impact of a successful tournament for Roy Hodgson’s charges. Unlike Chile, England have qualified with a perfect record and have won their three warm-up friendlies. We cannot ignore, however, that the performances in the run up to the tournament have been less than convincing.

As an Arsenal man I will point out that tonight’s performance against Portugal took a turn for the better when Jack Wilshere was introduced with around 25 minutes to play. Due to his lack of matches in the Premier League this season he has been a target for those who wanted their own favourites picked for a major tournament. Forgive me, but don’t you think a quality player who isn’t knackered at the end of a long domestic season should be first on the team-sheet for such a tournament?

That Hodgson appears to be tinkering with his formation ten days ahead of the big kick-off is not necessarily an issue. He will now know what his team will look like should the key men stay fit, and those who do well in tournaments generally improve over the course of the tournament. Fifty years of hurt ensures that we are sceptical of our team’s chances this summer, but are the usual big hitters in good shape?

We shall see.

We Have A Winner

Congratulations to Sid Sinclair from Winchmore Hill who correctly identified George Eastham as the World Cup-winning Gunner and has won the Art of Football 50 years of hurt teeshirt.

Thanks to all who entered.

Bank Holiday weekend is drawing to a close. Curses. Tomorrow morning it’s back to the workhouse but with some memories of the winding up of another season of club football.

Real Madrid triumphed over neighbours Atletico to secure the Champions League in the cruellest of penalty shoot-outs. Hull City secured the richest prize in Championship play-off history. The on-loan Gunners made no contribution to their 1-0 defeat of Sheffield Wednesday. Isaac Hayden wasn’t involved and Chuba Akpom was an unused substitute at Wembley.

Then on Sunday and earlier today we went back to the late eighties. Barnsley ended Millwall’s dream of a return to the championship and some of their supporters paid the penalty, attacked by a Millwall mob in the Wembley stands. Such scenes belong in the past, and fair play to the club itself for the quick condemnation of such behaviour.

Monday’s child proved to be the reincarnated version of Wimbledon as they earned promotion to League One and will now face their hated former selves, MK Dons. It was a flashback to the Wimbledon that was pulling off a major upset by beating Liverpool in the FA Cup Final at Wembley in 1988. But wait…

Let’s hope this is a sign, for twelve months after The Wombles triumph Liverpool went into the last match of the season needing to avoid a two goal defeat to win the League. Alan Smith and Michael Thomas plus their team-mates had different ideas. Let this indeed be an omen.

A word too for Hector Bellerin who rounded off a wonderful season with his first cap for Spain. With the European Championship imminent it looks as though he may well be cancelling his summer holiday plans. Thoroughly deserved by the young man, but I hope they send him back to us fit and raring to go next season.

Win An Art of Football ’50 Years of Hurt’ Tee

It is the last chance to enter to win our competition for our friends at Art of Football, who have launched another outstanding range of teeshirts for the upcoming European Championship. The theme is inspired by the 50 blank years that have followed England’s World Cup triumph in 1966.

Check out the range at the Art of Football website where you will find details of all their offerings. The teeshirts come in a range of colours and sizes from small to XXL. Art of Football only produce a limited number of each design, so your T shirts, like any good piece of art, are exclusive and completely original.

Art of Football have offered a tee of your choice to one lucky Goonerholic reader. To enter the competition just answer this 1966 related question.

Name the Arsenal player who was a member of  England’s World Cup winning squad in 1966?

A) Peter Storey,

B) George Eastham, or

C) John Radford.

Please send your answer to competition@goonerholic.com along with a contact email and phone number plus your Twitter handle if you have one. The winner selected after the competition closes at midnight UK time on Tuesday 31st May, will receive the shirt of their choice. There is no cash alternative. .

That’s it. Get your entries in (just one per person please), and good luck to you.

Hello again from an unusually warm and pleasant West Country. Don’t forget we have a competition running at the moment.

Our friends at Art of Football have launched another outstanding range of teeshirts for the upcoming European Championship. The theme is inspired by the 50 blank years that have followed England’s World Cup triumph in 1966.

Check out the range at the Art of Football website where you will find details of all their offerings. The teeshirts come in a range of colours and sizes from small to XXL. Art of Football only produce a limited number of each design, so your T shirts, like any good piece of art, are exclusive and completely original.

Art of Football have offered a tee of your choice to one lucky Goonerholic reader. To enter the competition just answer this 1966 related question.

Name the Arsenal player who was a member of  England’s World Cup winning squad in 1966?

A) Peter Storey,

B) George Eastham, or

C) John Radford.

Please send your answer to competition@goonerholic.com along with a contact email and phone number plus your Twitter handle if you have one. The winner selected after the competition closes at midnight UK time on Tuesday 31st May, will receive the shirt of their choice. There is no cash alternative. .

That’s it. Get your entries in (just one per person please), and good luck to you.

Talking of England as I sit here it is just under four hours until England continue their warm up for the Euros with a match against Australia at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland. I don’t mind admitting I am still finding it difficult to work up any enthusiasm for the national team at the moment. That may be harsh given their impeccable record in qualifying for the upcoming tournament in France.

Those fifty years of hurt have seen moments of hope, all brought to an abrupt end by our opponents in the World Cup Final in 1966. Mexico ’70, Italia 90, Football’s coming home in ’96, but that’s too few for a nation with a massive following.

Added to that Danny Welbeck’s injury, Theo Walcott’s loss of form, and Kieran Gibbs loss of regular football have limited our possible contribution to Jack Wilshere. I wouldn’t be at all sorry if he were to be one of the three cut players this weekend as the squad of 26 is cut to 23 players. A summer of resting in the sun would do his dodgy ankle no harm whatsoever. Now watch him star tonight and clinch his place on the plane.

By the time the tournament kicks off a fortnight on Saturday I may feel differently. I have to admit though I do spend a lot more time watching the other nations in the big tournaments. The likes of France, Spain, Germany, and of course Brazil, have shown us how to play the game and we don’t appear to be learning those lessons. Fortunately I still find pleasure in other good teams winning in style, so whilst I may not be anticipating an England triumph it will be fascinating to see who does turn it on and thrill the watching millions.

To the many Aussie readers of this blog I hope you put up a good performance tonight too. Right, I have cricket to watch, and beer to drink for the rest of this Bank Holiday weekend. I hope you will all be doing whatever is enjoyable for you.

Have a good one, ‘holics.

Well, out of the blue Arsenal today announced the signing of Granit Xhaka from Borussia Monchengladbach. Who could have seen that coming? The undisclosed fee has been rumoured to be an initial £25m possibly rising to £30m depending on how successful his stay at the Gunners is. The Arsenal social media team showed good humour as they unveiled the new man, quipping “Here’s your second look at our first summer signing.” They were quick to distribute the video below.

The first interview with Arsenal Media was also aired and a selection of the questions and answers follow.

Granit, welcome to Arsenal. How does it feel to be an Arsenal player?

“I am very happy to be here. It’s a dream come true and I’m happy.”

You’ve said before that England is your dream and you have not hidden that fact. Why is it so important for you to play here?

“I remember I was young and the first game I watched was in the Premier League. It’s a big dream for me and now that I’m here I am very, very happy.”

What do you like most about Arsenal?

“I like so much. I like the style of football in the Premier League. It’s aggressive and I like the way Arsenal play football. It’s not like other countries but it’s very nice here.”

You say it’s aggressive, and every game in the Premier League is a fight…

“Yes, it’s a fight. I like that but Arsenal can also play football and that’s very good.”

Arsenal finished second last season. Do you feel as though they’re on the cusp of great things?

“Of course. I’ve looked at Arsenal before, on every weekend, and I know they are a big  club. This year they finished second and that was a very good season.”

So a big welcome to Granit from all of us. Arsenal have moved quickly to get one very desirable target. Now another two or three to raise the quality of the squad even further please.

Win An Art of Football ’50 Years of Hurt” Tee

Our friends at Art of Football have launched another outstanding range of teeshirts for the upcoming European Championship. The theme is inspired by the 50 blank years that have followed England’s World Cup triumph in 1966.

Check out the range at the Art of Football website where you will find details of all their offerings. The teeshirts come in a range of colours and sizes from small to XXL. Art of Football only produce a limited number of each design, so your T shirts, like any good piece of art, are exclusive and completely original.

Art of Football have offered a tee of your choice to one lucky Goonerholic reader. To enter the competition just answer this 1966 related question.

Name the Arsenal player who was a member of  England’s World Cup winning squad in 1966?

A) Peter Storey,

B) George Eastham, or

C) John Radford.

Please send your answer to competition@goonerholic.com along with a contact email and phone number plus your Twitter handle if you have one. The winner selected after the competition closes at midnight UK time on Tuesday 31st May, will receive the shirt of their choice. There is no cash alternative. .

That’s it. Get your entries in (just one per person please), and good luck to you.

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