BOLOGNA, Italy (AP) Defending champion Germany will again meet Spain in the Under-21 European Championship final after both won their semifinals on Thursday.
Luca Waldschmidt and Nadiem Amiri scored late as Germany came from behind to beat Romania 4-2, while Spain routed France 4-1.
Spain lost 1-0 to Germany in the 2017 final and will now have its chance for revenge in Udine on June 30.
In the first semifinal, in Bologna, Amiri gave Germany the lead in the 21st minute after racing from inside his own half but George Puscas leveled from the spot following a foul by Timo Baumgartl on Ianis Hagi.
After 20 years at the club, Arsene Wenger stepped down at the end of last season, in which Arsenal failed to break into the top four for a second consecutive season, allowing for a fresh set of eyes to come in and manage the side. In comes veteran Spaniard Unai Emery, who perhaps couldn’t live up to expectations in France but certainly beat the odds over and over again with Sevilla and Valencia in Spain.
Emery’s attention to detail and defensive focus could pair well with Arsenal’s wonderful abundance of creative, playmaking midfielders. But based on Arsenal’s preseason performances, there’s still plenty of work to be done at both ends of the pitch.
Arsenal will finish top four because….the new signings gel and add strength in depth to what is an already very strong squad. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hits the ground running in his first full-season at the club with 20 or more goals, partnering at times with Alexandre Lacazette or trading spots with him between the heavy workload of matches. More importantly, the summer signings of Sokratis, Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi and Stephan Lichtsteiner help shore up Arsenal’s leaky defense after a few months of struggles to start the season. Torreira, affectionately called “pac-man” for his ability to eat up attackers all over the field, morphs into the best defensive midfielder Arsenal has seen since the days of Patrick Vieira.
Arsenal will miss out on the UEFA Champions League because….defensive problems remain. While the team is beautiful in its attack, Emery is left pulling all the hairs out of his head wondering why Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis can’t figure out how to play together and defend as a unit. With Laurent Koscielny set to miss a large chunk of the season coming back from his torn Achilles injury, Arsenal miss his defensive leadership. In addition, both Lacazette and Aubameyang struggle to score in the big games, making Arsenal fans continue to suffer as the team fails to live up to expectations.
Best possible XI: List the team’s strongest lineup for this season when everyone is fit
Arsenal found itself outside the Champions League for the second straight season, and with a new manager entering, the club could have been in for a rough summer. Instead, it’s been very good so far by all accounts. Arsenal spent strategically and already, Guendouzi looks like a strong signing, having performed well as a holding midfielder in multiple preseason matches. Leno looks like the future goalkeeper the Gunners have been wanting with Torreira and Sokratis shore up a creaky defense. In addition, the Gunners were able to hold on to Aubameyang, Lacazette, and though his future is still up in the air, Aaron Ramsey so far. Through preseason, it’s clear that Arsenal needs to work more defensively, but in terms of the attacking side they’re looking good enough to start the season.
Star player: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: The French-born Gabon International was a star both domestically and in Europe for Borussia Dortmund. If he can produce at his old level, Arsenal will be just fine.
Coaches’ Corner:Unai Emery: The 48-year-old manager comes from Paris Saint-Germain, where he gained valuable experience coaching some of the biggest names in world football. But the majority of his coaching success has come in Spain. With Valencia and Sevilla, Emery constantly beat expectations and helped his side play better than the sum of its parts. If he can pull that off for Arsenal, he will quickly win over fans.
PST predicts: After a strong offseason, Arsenal look set to return to the club’s old glory as a regular top-four team. The spine of the squad was improved, which should give players like Mesut Ozil, Henrik Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi the freedom to attack down the wings and through the heart of the opponent’s defense. The new manager should refresh the player’s attitudes and deliver a fitter, more defensively-sound squad, which will help in terms of getting back in the Champions League. Arsenal may still be a bit away from challenging for a league title, but they’re not that far off.
Arsenal started the day off with a bang, signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund for a record fee, and there are more deals expected to be completed today, including Olivier Giroud to Chelsea and Michy Batshuayi to Chelsea. In addition, with the World Cup six months away, some other players will be looking for a loan around Europe for more playing time.
And remember, there is a live Deadline Day show on NBCSN and online from 5 p.m. ET today which you can steam by clicking on the link below.
Criticized by some fans for his lineup choice — Wenger picked Rob Holding, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, and little-used goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez amongst others — the manager said his players just weren’t up to the intensity.
“We were not incisive enough. They defended deep and were sharper and fitter than us. With a two-goal advantage they defended very well.”
“When you look at the team we had, I don’t think that was the problem. We didn’t have the right urgency from the beginning of the game.”
Wenger’s been on-point much of this season, but his “fitter” comment backs up the lineup choice. Throw in Lucas Perez and Carl Jenkinson, and Arsenal had few players getting regular run in his Starting XI.
Should Wenger have used more first-choice players in the chase for hardware, or is the Premier League chase far more important to this season? There was a better way for Wenger to go about choosing his lineup, although weekend opponents West Ham also sat several key players.
It’s a pre-season friendly for the Premier League side, but it never ends up playing out that way. This Thursday night in San Jose turned out to be an entertaining meeting between Arsenal and the MLS All-Star bunch that saw Arsenal youngster Chuba Akpom tap in the winner in the 87th minute after goals from Didier Drogba and Joel Campbell had evened out for much of the match.
The game was wide open early, as Theo Walcott had the game’s first chance, and Giovanni dos Santos had a good look down the other end in the ninth minute, saved by Petr Cech.
Minutes later, the opener came for the Gunners as a lovely touch from Joel Campbell chipped over MLS goalkeeper. Laurent Ciman attempted to box out Campbell as the ball trickled towards the net, but instead brought down the Arsenal striker. The foul by Ciman usually would have drawn a straight red card for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity, but not looking to ruin the event in the 10th minute, the referee pointed to the spot but only showed the Montreal defender yellow. Campbell then slotted the penalty home to give Arsenal the lead.
Elneny had a go on 26 minutes looking to double Arsenal’s lead with a vicious strike from outside the box, but Blake produced a stunning save to tip it over the bar.
With a game to play in less than 48 hours, the two NYCFC players David Villa and Andrea Pirlo departed after just a half-hour, with Sascha Kljestan and Nacho Piatti coming in.
The game seemed to settle in after the opener, although the game was not lacking competitiveness, as evident by a number of heavy challenges. Amid plenty of pre-match talk centered around Didier Drogba facing former Chelsea teammate Petr Cech, the All-Star striker leveled the match just before the halftime break. A great ball from Kljestan to Giovanni dos Santos unlocked the young Arsenal defense, and Drogba was there to finish off the chance on his third attempt, seeing the first two saved and blocked.
Arsenal brought on new signing Granit Xhaka after halftime, while USMNT youngster Gedion Zelalem came on with just over 20 minutes to go. Xhaka ripped off a good long-range shot that forced a solid diving save by substitute goalkeeper David Bingham.
The visitors brought on their youngsters as the second half eased along, with Chuba Akpom and Jeff Reine-Adelaide seeing action. Cyle Larin came on late for the MLS All-Stars, and USMNT veterans Clint Dempsey and Chris Wondolowski made appearances as well.
With the clock winding down, Chris Wondolowski brought back shades of 2014, firing over the bar with a glorious chance to win it for the MLS All-Stars after hard work by Larin down the right. Minutes later down the other end, the Gunners took the game in its grasp. An overlap to perfection between Alex Iwobi and Nacho Monreal opened things up at the near post, and the latter placed it on the doorstep for Akpom to tap home the winner.
The loss is the first for MLS All-Stars since 2013, and it’s the first in six games against a London opponent.