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VIEW FROM THE ENEMY: Arsenal Fan On Sunday, Ronaldo and Winning The League

Andrew Weber, from the popular Gunner blog, Arsenal FC Blog, has been big enough to have a quick chat with me following our 3-1 victory over them on Sunday.

Scott the Red: At the start of the season, did you think winning the league would be beyond United in light of Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure?

Andrew Weber: No, I didn’t. My prediction at the start of the season was that Arsenal and Manchester United would be up in the two spots with Chelsea third and Liverpool out of the Champions League places. I haven’t been far off, I have to say. United are always a threat for the league because they have a smart manager and a winning mentality. Most teams in England are still scared of them because of their recent history and it means they will generally get enough points to hover around the top, even if they lose the big games.

STR: We haven’t been brilliant in many of the big league games this year, losing away to both Liverpool and Chelsea, despite playing well against the latter. But our win over your lot this weekend was definitely our best performance in a big Premiership game this season. But why didn’t Wenger learn from the mistakes of last year’s CL semi?

AW: The game against United at Old Trafford earlier in this season suggested he had learnt his lesson. He played a possession game, we were far more secure at the back and only the most one-eyed United fans would say they deserved more than a draw out of that game. Why he decided to play an all-out attacking game at The Emirates is beyond me. It played to your strengths and meant that even with a lesser team than last season you were able to exploit our weaknesses.

STR: Over the past few years we’ve seen United get the results when they’ve mattered against Arsenal. There was the 4-0 in the FA Cup, our 2-1 towards the end of the 07-08 season, the Champions League semis last season, the point that won us the Premiership last season and now Sunday. Do you think Arsenal are missing big characters that would help you in these games?

AW: To be honest, I don’t feel we are. Cesc, Arshavin, Vermaelen, Song, van Persie and Bendtner are all players that I would consider big characters. They have more heart, soul and drive than a lot of our players have had inprevious seasons. They are the reason we’ve been able to grind out results and get near the top of the table despite a fairly horrid injury crisis. At the moment we are being let down by a small minority – Denilson and Almunia are struggling for confidence, Clichy is in a bit of a slump and if you have a couple of players underperforming it makes it hard to win the big games.

STR: I imagine Wenger brought Sol Campbell back to give you an old head at the back. You were “delighted” when Silvestre signed for the same reason, saying “He ticks all the right boxes – experienced, a Premiership player, a proven winner and of course French.” Are you as confident about Campbell, despite Silvestre’s lacking impact?

AW: I think Sol is a good signing. He appears psychologically revitalized since his break from the game and that is probably the most important thing. His opening two performances have been good and I wouldn’t have a problem with him playing a number of games before the end of the season. His pace isn’t great but if he plays alongside Gallas or Vermaelen, whoare both quite quick, it’s not too much of a problem.

STR: He hardly played a blinder in your FA Cup exit at the hands of Stoke. Regardless, I imagine the more important issue is hanging on to your best players rather than bringing in new faces. How long do you think you can hang on to Fabregas before he leaves for Barcelona?

AW: I really don’t think it’s as cut and dry as the media makes out. He is the Arsenal captain, a player who loves the club and will be around for awhile yet. I don’t think he would go anywhere until 26 or 27 if he does but if Arsenal are winning trophies by that point – which I suspect they will be – then he may not leave at all.

STR: Honestly, I think you are kidding yourself. There’s no doubt he feels a lot for the club, but you have to understand that Barcelona will always mean more to him. If you win things again, he can leave knowing that he has contributed to your success, and if you don’t win things, he can cite that as the reason for leaving. But with all the hype surrounding him, do you think he has been Arsenal’s best performer this season?

AW: You could pick any one of Song, Vermaelen or Fabregas. It feels like every single time I write a match report I make mention of how well that trio play. We’re still conceding goals at the back but Vermaelen’s no-nonsense approach has improved our defence, Song has provided us with a player whois able to assert himself physically in the midfield while Fabregas hashad his most productive season yet. The fans will surely vote Fabregas as the best but at this point in time Song would get my vote.

STR: You’ve told us about your great players, but which of ours do you think would get in to Arsenal’s starting XI?

AW: Evra and Rooney for sure. Vidic would be an amazing partner for Vermaelen. Whichever goalkeeper you want to give us! In midfield Fletcher would probably be a good addition alongside Cesc and Song while up front van Persie, Arshavin and Rooney would be my pick. I’ve picked five United and six Arsenal there so we must still be better team!

STR: Course you are. With this better team, fancy doing us a favour this weekend against Chelsea?

Of course – history proves it is possible. We won 2-1 last season at Stamford Bridge and we can do it again. The main thing is that we get our passing into a groove, don’t push forward too recklessly and a few of our big players fire. Bendtner will surely be starting too and although he polarizes opinion, my view on him is that he is a very dangerous player who will prove that if given a good run in the side.

STR: You’ve had to play United and Chelsea in one week, but who do you think will win the league?

AW: You could really pick any of the top three at this stage, although the argument for Arsenal has probably weakened since the weekend. As I said before, United will always pick up points because of their character while Chelsea appear to be the best group of players in the Premiership. At this stage if I had to stick my nose out I’d probably say Chelsea out of the two of you, yet it could all change very quickly. In terms of Arsenal, things are certainly not over. If we get a result against Chelsea and are within 5 or 6 points of the top of the table after the Liverpool game then we stand a good chance. Our run-in is ridiculously easy compared to United and Chelsea and our recent run of results, prior to the weekend, shows we have the squad capable of putting a good run together. Bendtner will be back, reports are van Persie will be back in March and we will finish strongly.

STR: You’d drawn two of the past four in the run up to playing United but you’re right, things do change very quickly in the league. But if Arsenal are trophyless again this season, how long will Wenger have? It’s hard to believe that the last time you won a trophy was when we were robbed in the 2005 FA Cup final. It feels like forever ago though, given that we have won three league titles, the European Cup and two League Cups since then. It is interesting to note that since winning his first trophy in 1990, Fergie hasn’t ever gone longer than one season without winning something. How many seasons will Wenger get?

AW: The thing about Wenger – which I think United fans would understand abovemany others – is that his impact cannot really be measured simply by trophies. Sure, we want to win. Sure, we don’t want to be a feeder club or just a club that is worried about finances or blooding young players. But in a long-term way that is what the club and Wenger have decided to do and the fans must be patient with him to ensure he gets sufficient time to see his plan come to fruition. For me it’s not really about trophies, it’s about developing squads of players to their peak every three or so years and having a really good run at the title. That was what was so disappointing about last season. We were so close to the league in 2007/08 that to see us lose key players and basically have a year of no progress last season was disappointing. If we’d hung on to Flamini and Adebayor hadn’t had his head turned then we would have had a chance. As it is this season is pretty much what I expected last season and perhaps the next one will be our best shot at the league.

STR: I suppose that has to be the worry for Wenger. He will keep bringing through talented players, only for them to leave for a bigger a club/a club which provides them with a greater chance of winning something. But at least you’re not massively in debt eh?




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75 Comments

  1. Scotty says:

    *And, I can assure you, Manchester United would be higher than 6th in the transfer league…

  2. arsene wenger says:

    you should have interviewed me,id have told the truth, the whole team would get in our team lol except for that fucking cunt carrick, thats cescs spot!

  3. arsene wenger says:

    i would take denilson out of the team ,put him on charity duty collecting money at the turnstyles,put darren fletcher in the team and we would be world beaters

  4. Guns_Galore says:

    —————VDS ——————-

    Sagna – Vidic – Vermaelen – Evra

    ——- Fletcher—Song———-

    —Park—-Fabregas—Arshavin–

    ————–Rooney—————

    6-5 United.

  5. John Ferry says:

    Wow, this is the smartest banter I have read. Great discourse.

  6. Gooner77 says:

    Anyone who wonders how loud the chorus of dissent is growing against Wenger should read this.
    Leading dissenter in the Wenger out brigade

    http://www.arsenalnewsreview.co.uk/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=1513&cntnt01origid=30&cntnt01returnid=42

  7. Toms says:

    Rather have some beautiful football to rival us than the boring blocky play of Chelski and Liverpool. I want Wenger to win something actually…. just not at our expense.

  8. MG says:

    Arsenal deserve respect – The way the first 20 minutes went – the match could have gone on a yo-yo score.

    Truth is though that we have learnt to play them – sad then that we couldn’t put Barca to bed in the CL final

    You can’t see an ageing Chelsea compete with Arsenal in years to come – it will be interesting to see if Arsenal can get over their mental block against them on Sunday

    Well that’s we wish for anyway : )

  9. Jandsdad says:

    @ arsene wenger

    I know you come on here alot , imo a little bit too much, now you have called our player, Michael Carrick a fucking cunt.
    This is a player who has won more medals than your whole team has won put together.
    If you get a chance, maybe you should watch the game again and come back to me when you realise where your precious cesc was for the majority of the game.
    I’ll give you a clue. It rhymes with Tarricks Rocket.
    Show some respect next time.

  10. willierednut says:

    I felt sorry for carrick on sunday, trying to play football with fabregas in his pocket.

  11. Darragh says:

    I note on transferleague.com that Arsenal let Michael Jordan go for free in te 06/07 season.

  12. Jandsdad says:

    @ willierednut

    nice one ha ha

  13. arsene wenger says:

    jansdad i have respect for michael carrick, its nothing personal , and its true he has won more medals than our whole team put together (nearly), he plays in a great team and even though i dont rate him he would still start if he was at arsenal and id be happy , and yep cesc didnt have his best game but he was still our best player probably but we have quite a few poor players who get exposed on this type of occasion so you cant expect oneman to carry the deadweight ,to beat man united every player has to play well and also claim a piece of luckbut we had at least 5 players that are not even good enough for us in my opinion, if the premier league is a 3 tier league only two teams are in tier number 1 and arsenal aint one of them, it didnt take this result for this to dawn on me, we have a good foundation withing our team to build on but the good is surrounded by crap, thats the difference between man utd chelsea and the rest of the league and most of europe ,again i apologise for upsetting you when i called michael carrick a fucking cunt, i dont even dislike the fella like most ex spuds or horible fucking cunts like terrygerrard totti kevin davies sam alardyce lazybayor bellamy cashley hull hansen, he just is a fucking cunt for havin a good game against us,credit to him

  14. Jandsdad says:

    @ arsene wenger

    fair enough, it did seem from your previous comment that you were underestimating Carrick’s ability , from your explanation you have shown your appreciation for him, Michael Carrick is not a Spud anymore.
    He has the medals to prove it.
    I understand you were trying to be jovial but calling him a fucking cunt wasn’t needed.

  15. sYam says:

    deluded.. carick better than fab?? hahahah.. u r effin funny

  16. arsene wenger says:

    jansdad, you know what it is, its when you write something it can be misunderstood, especially when the author has a name chosen like mine, but fair dues man united were very pleasing to the eye at the weekend but carrick really made them tick, proper footballing lesson, if we cant learn from that (the second time because this is twice in 6 months) then we might as well give up trying to be a minimum pleasing on the eye showpiece type of team and just become a more direct well financed bolton wanderers(chelsea)

  17. willierednut says:

    @s y am
    He was on sunday, ya heard.

  18. Andrew Weber (Arsenal FC Blog) says:

    @ READ CAREFULLY WHAT I said – What’s the point in answering Scott’s questions if people like you are going to be a child about it.

    Idiot.

  19. Mic says:

    After our performance against Arsenal at home, I thought we were in for a pounding against them at the weekend, how wrong was I? He’s bang on, we didn’t deserve a draw at all let alone a win!! Arsenal might have an easy run but they do drop easy points at times, I think this could be where their title challenge ends, I really do hope we go on to win the league.

  20. Gooner77 says:

    @Mic

    In reality we have never been on the race. We had a good run and may still have one but most of us know in our hearts that we are not better than you or Chelsea, the games against both sides have proved that. Remember at the beginning of the season everyone said we were gonna fall out of the top four? Now it’s that our title challenge is over when no one said we would even be close. I think we’re the 3rd best team in the country and that’s where we will probably finish.

  21. mufcdevils says:

    agree with lots. at least unlike the cocky fabregas

  22. thesavage says:

    I think the piece with Andrew demonstrates that when football fans with a decent knowledge of the game and a real passion for their team get together, an interesting conversation is there to be had, obviously people will still be partisan, but they will also be a degree of honesty and mutual respect for the other side.

    Here’s hoping Arsenal have a blinder against Chelsea and we knock the hell out of Portsmouth.

  23. asite says:

    sir, no i am wrong. lord alex ferguson is so great, his ideals are so good that next season he should sign up of being the next manager of angels fc located in heaven. lord alex, u will alwayz be in our heart

  24. yolkie says:

    @Andrew Weber

    Just a couple of q’s I’d like you to a;

    You mentioned that your combined XI would be 6-5 in favour of Arsenal.

    The players in that XI from Arsenal from what you said would be Sagna, Vermaelen, Fabregas, Song, Arshavin and van Persie.

    Despite the cordial banter I think a bit of perspective is needed.

    Sagna had a decent debut season and has been decidedly average since. Vermaelen has admittedly somewhat impressed in just over half a season but would you put him in ahead of Ferdinand or Vidic? Really? Arsenal have continued to leak goals at a steady pace and have looked poor defensively in the big games. I would have four United centre halves in front of him, Rio, Brown, Vidic and Evans. Maybe a slight bias but I’d take a years wait on this – I can’t see how, in your right mind, you could choose any Arsenal central defender over Rio or Vida – and Evans was not only exceptional last season but he has been good when fit this season and out of he and Vermaelen on Sunday; despite the goal, it was clear who was the better defender. I’m not using this is a direct comparison but Bruce used to score loads of goals; but he could defend and the proof was in the trophy count and the defensive record. Has Vermaelen really made a noticeable impact to your back line? Not when it really matters, so far. In my opinion. I notice O’Shea hasn’t been mentioned. Scoff. He’s not the most fashionable. Consider though in the cold light of day; who has been the better right back in the last 3 years between O’Shea, Brown and Sagna. It’s a toss-up between O’Shea and Brown, O’Shea performing in a record breaking and title winning team, Brown being the regular in a Champions League winning side, one thing’s for certain, Sagna’s a distinct third.

    Onto midfield – Song, again, (like Diaby) is having a decent season, but if we’re talking a combined team we can’t really base the selection on 5 months of performances against smaller (with all respect) teams. The Fabregas conundrum is one that does interest me. A player who excels against smaller teams in a 3 man midfield but who 9 times out of 10 goes missing in a 2 man. A player lauded as one of the best midfielders in the world but who hasn’t really dominated an important game since Arsenal made the CL Final almost 4 years ago. I’m not doubting his obvious talent; maybe it’s a management thing, but in recent head-to-heads in that 4 year spell I can recall O’Shea, Anderson, Fletcher and Carrick now all doing an effective job on him. That’s not to say I don’t rate him and wouldn’t pick him in such a side. I would; but then again it would depend on the criteria we’re selecting on. In a strongest 4-3-3 yes I would just edging out Hargreaves.

    Onto the forwards; Arshavin? Really? Berbatov takes a battering but he has at least been as consistent; one could argue that Berbatov’s trophy count makes the difference. Aside from two cracking games at Anfield (Well, the second game was just the goal) I didn’t think he’d done anything at all in the English game. Before this season everyone was throwing their hat on him for player of the season. How woefully misguided. However; my preferred choice of formation with the combined side would be a 4-3-3 (that being one that gets the best of each player and team). Arshavin would be my choice because Berbatov doesn’t fit; but I don’t know if I would pick him in front of Nani – not just based on the last three games, but the potential and his performances in 07/08, fortunately Ryan Giggs negates that choice.

    And van Persie? The only reason I could assume that you omitted Ferdinand was due to injury and on that count I would presume you would discount van Persie – however I’ll just think for the sake of argument that you’re doing it based on ability. I couldn’t really argue too much with his selection because I think he’s deadly but in terms of a combined XI and thinking really Rooney has to play you would think about the combination (I assume we’d be thinking about a practical side that would be effective).

    With this in mind this would be my choice :

    4-3-3

    van der Sar

    O’Shea – Ferdinand- Vidic – Evra

    Fletcher
    Fabregas – Anderson

    Valencia – Rooney – Giggs

    Subs : Kuszczak, Evans, Brown, Clichy, Song, Scholes, van Persie

    Benefits are the experienced and winning back line, a midfield with energy in Fletcher and Anderson and intelligence through Fabregas and Giggs. Exploit the pace of Valencia; the football between Fabregas/Rooney/Giggs would be worth the entrance fee, Fabregas playing as the free midfielder would give Rooney support too.

    So it’s only one player from Arsenal- controversial choice I suppose, the selection of Anderson another, but in terms of trophy achievement and big game performance I can’t really see how you could argue with it. And, it shows how much we would benefit from a Scholes in his pomp – I’m pretty sure the way Fergie wanted us to play in 2002 was something like this.

    There are a couple of issues in there I’m sure you’ll like to disagree with; just one other, who in your mind is Arsenal’s best ever player, having undoubtedbly been priviledged to see the very best selection?

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