Manchester United will walk on the pitch at the Emirates as champions and the Arsenal players will show them the respect of a guard of honour.
Over twenty years ago we were Arsenal’s first opponents after Liverpool’s defeat against Nottingham Forest confirmed that the North London club were champions. That game was played at Highbury and our players gave them a guard of honour.
Just over ten years later, Arsenal won the league at Old Trafford following a goal from Sylvain Wiltord. Their fans still sing about that day and, to be fair, they don’t have much else to sing about these days.
Ahead of today’s game, Andrew Mangan from the excellent Arseblog has taken time out to have a chat about all things Arsenal.
Scott: What was your favourite United Arsenal game?
Andrew: Obvious answer is the 79 Cup Final, because it’s the first game I remember properly, but seeing as you’re arriving at our place as champions the 2002 title winner at Old Trafford is a good one.
S: The glory years, eh? Back then, which United player did you hate the most?
A: Easy, van Nistelrooy. Although Silvestre always annoyed the fuck out of me. Imagine my joy when we spent actual money on him. A real nadir in our transfer business. And yes, I include Chamakh and Park in that.
S: Silvestre, whose only red card in his entire career was at Highbury for nutting Ljungberg. Those were the days. Anyway, Arsenal fans get a reputation for being massive gimps because of the Away Boyz and the talk of the “Arsenal Poznan“. How representative do you think this is of modern day Arsenal support?
A: I don’t know what the Away Boyz are, and is that Poznan thing going to happen? I hope not. Either way, I don’t think either thing is really representative of Arsenal fans in general. Every club has their should-be-locked-in-the-attic brigade.
S: When looking to the next generation of fans, Arsenal will be introducing a brilliant teenager section at the Emirates next season. But then why will still be charging other fans £100 a ticket. Why do you think the club can manage to get some things so right, and others so wrong?
A: Well, not every ticket for every game is £100, I suspect that’s a misconception that becomes accepted wisdom. To be fair to the club they’ve often had these kind of initiatives, cheap tickets for Carling Cup games etc, but there’s obviously a trade-off when it comes to Premier League and season tickets in general. It’s also worth pointing out that season tickets include 7 cup games in the price, something the DAILY MAIL and co ignore when they do their pieces on how expensive Arsenal tickets are.
S: Surely £100 for any game is taking the piss. Still, Arsenal know how to make money but we haven’t seen that reflected on the pitch. Would you swap Arsenal’s model for the way Chelsea/City have won trophies or for the debt the Glazers have put United in?
A: The big frustration isn’t so much Arsenal’s model, but that we haven’t used all the money available to us. We’re owned by two billionaires but choose to use what we have. I can understand that, but it’s obvious there have been implications for the football side of things, especially during years when money was a bit tight.
After so long without a trophy the temptation is to leave all that behind and get someone to pump in millions, to overlook all the implications of that, but football clubs exist over a long period of time. Do you make decisions to change things in the short-term that may be regretted in the long-term?
I don’t think either model is ideal. Surely for any football club (or business) the best way to operate is to spend what you earn and what you can afford. Football is a weird business though, and there doesn’t appear to be just one right way of doing things.
S: Plenty of good players have made their move away from Arsenal in recent years. Why does every decent player that leaves Arsenal get labelled a mercenary?
A: I don’t think they do. Some are, like Nasri and Adebayor, for example. They both left for more money, no doubt about it, but I think there’s a fairly balanced view of players like Fabregas and even van Persie. It’s possible to think he’s a cunt but also understand what drove him wasn’t just money.
S: Who is your most important player now?
A: Hard to say really, I don’t think there’s as much emphasis on one player as there has been in previous seasons. Fabregas and van Persie, for example, were obvious, but that’s not the case with this team. You could suggest a spine of Mertesacker, Arteta and Cazorla is the most important part of the team, I’d say.
S: Where do Arsenal go from here?
A: Improve the squad properly in the summer. There’s a new sponsorship deal adding £30m a season to the pot, the kit deal is up for renewal which, you would hope, brings in something similar (if not quite as much), and the key part is to use all the resources available to improve the team.
I don’t see any big names departing this summer (perhaps Sagna, but as much as I like him he’s not of the same importance as a Cesc, for example), so spend well during the off-season and go into the next season with a bit more optimism.
Then cry as the season falls apart in a two week period in February, but hey, c’est la Arsenal vie.
S: Which team do you enjoy beating the most?
A: Whoever we’re playing next, but obviously Sp*rs is a game you always want to win.
S: Finally, your players will be giving us a guard of honour today. Do you remember the guard of honour United gave your lot in 91?
A: Not really, I remember the game at Old Trafford though!
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