City play Arsenal on Sunday in what feels like a huge game for the club. Currently 7 points off leaders United, a defeat for us at the Emirates coupled with a win for United at home to Liverpool, and suddenly there’s a double figures gap. That would be a huge dent to our title hopes. Ahead of the game, I caught up with Arsenal fan George McNeil, otherwise known as Football Agenda on Twitter, to get his thoughts on the match. Football Agenda is one of the most fair-minded and insightful Twitter accounts out there, so it seemed only right to get his opinion on things ahead of Sunday.
This feels like a huge game for City. Is there a similar feeling for Arsenal?
A little bit. It feels like an opportunity to send a message that Arsenal can still have a decent season. As is usually the case with Arsenal, this season has seen incredible inconsistency with brilliant performances against City, Liverpool and Spurs, tempered with shocking displays against Norwich, Swansea (h) and Man United. Then, you add the cup exit to Bradford and you see why Arsenal really need to get some momentum and not drift too far away from Chelsea and Spurs in the race for the Champions League places.
Who has been your best player this season?
Gervinho. Just kidding, it’s a hard one to say – Szcz has been great at times (after injury), Cazorla has had some incredible games, Walcott has been scoring for fun and Wilshere has been like his old self. This might be a silly choice, but I’d probably say Mertesacker – he’s kept us in some games, and helped us keep some scorelines respectable. He brings authority to the defence and has been far better than any pundit would care to tell you.
Try and sum up the genius of Arsene Wenger for me.
The man’s a genius, a fantastic manager and an incredibly interesting character also. He’s lost a lot of support due to some dreadful defending in recent years, some famous hidings and the obvious lack of silverware but I’d struggle to find a significant improvement on him from the available candidates.
The ‘Wenger Out’ campaigns that tend to surface intermittently always make me laugh. It seems absurd from the outside. What do you make of all that?
A joke. Whatever your views as to who is the best man to take Arsenal forward, you simply have to respect what Wenger has done at Arsenal – trophies (yes, he has won some), consistent Champions League football, some truly special players, a new stadium, a bright future, an unbeaten season and local bragging rights for years. The loud minority who voice this view come across as incredibly spoiled, and I believe most fans would agree.
The ticket prices for our supporters has led to many saying they won’t be attending the match. City are also guilty of charging extortionate prices, as are a number of other Premier League sides. What are your thoughts on this issue?
City fans are totally justified in their refusal to pay £62 for a game of football. The price is absolutely extortionate and this is the only way that those who can change things will notice. It’s a league wide problem, not just an Arsenal and City problem, and it’s been very depressing to see some use the issue to bash either club.
Do you think the Premier League is as strong now as it was a few years ago?
I thought about this recently and my conclusion was I wasn’t sure. Some of the promoted teams have been excellent value and really helped the league (Norwich and Swansea leap to mind), and some teams have really pushed on and gone to the next level (Spurs, Everton and City). But then you consider how the likes of Arsenal, United, Liverpool and Chelsea have declined and it blurs the question. I’d argue it is as strong, but not with any real conviction to be honest.
Give me your PL team of the season.
Begovic / Zabaleta, Mertesacker, Nastasic, Baines / Fellaini, Toure, Mata / Suarez, Van Persie, Michu
Which City player would you most like to see at Arsenal?
Can I only take one? We could use half the squad! Defence would be very useful with Kompany or Zabaleta, I’d love to see Yaya in an Arsenal shirt, but the player that we need the most would be Aguero – our attack is short on numbers and quality, and someone like Aguero would drastically improve it.
I always ask this one because I know City fans find it quite interesting. Does City’s wealth make you dislike us?
I think I’m a bit weird in that I don’t dislike City at all. I have a lot of Arsenal supporting friends who detest them, but I’ve found it interesting seeing another team win the league and pose a threat to United. Signing all our players is a little tedious, but City play some great stuff and their fans really have suffered over the years so most really appreciate the success and don’t see it as normal.
City’s last league goal at Arsenal was scored by DaMarcus Beasley, so I’m going to have to predict a tight 1-0 to Arsenal – though I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see City finally get a result at Emirates.