Inside the Opposition: Arsenal (Part 1)

After the wonderful midweek win at Old Trafford, a game which saw City roll over their rivals with a weird level of ease, we now travel to the Emirates to play Arsenal, a side whose title charge has stuttered badly in the last week or so. It’s fair to say that after their defeat to Chelsea and draw with Swansea, the title race is down to three.

Ahead of the game I spoke to FK (@fkhanage), an Arsenal fan I recently met on the EPL Roundtable Podcast. I asked him about Wenger’s future and what a combined Arsenal-City side might look like.

It looks like any hopes Arsenal had of winning the league are gone after the Chelsea and Swansea results. What went wrong this season?

If I’m being honest, we were always outsiders in the title race this season, simply because Chelsea & City have better squads and our failure to add a world-class striker. Considering our bright start to the season, it was a massive disappointment not to add quality during the January window, particularly as Theo Walcott had just been diagnosed with his season-ending, ACL injury. Furthermore, we picked up several injuries to crucial players like Ramsey, Ozil & Wilshere which has seen us struggle in recent weeks. Essentially, we’ve run out of legs at the worst time. Should we go on to win the FA Cup & manage to secure a top-4 finish, I think most Arsenal fans would be content with such progress.

Would failure to win the FA Cup lead to Arsene Wenger leaving the club?

For me, Arsene is still absolutely the right man to lead us. He has guided us as best he could through a very difficult period; overseeing our move to Emirates whilst trying to keep us competitive. Clubs like Liverpool and Tottenham often talk the talk about building a new stadium, but we walked the walk – and we’ve shown it’s not easy. And now, as the financial shackles loosen, Arsene is in sight of his 5th FA Cup as Arsenal Manager. That would be remarkable and with our self-generated wealth, the club need to push on in the transfer market this summer and challenge on all fronts from 2014/15. All said and done, the hammerings against our direct rivals this season and the obsession with 8/9 years of no trophies seems to have split the fan base, with an increasing contingent who would like Arsene replaced, make it difficult for him to continue.

What summer moves would you make if you were Arsenal boss?

It’s clear that Arsenal were after a striker last summer but we failed spectacularly before opting for Ozil. If I were boss, it would be priority to bring in a world-class centre-forward (happy to keep Giroud as back-up). The media link us to the likes of Cavani, Costa, Martinez, & even City-old boy, Balotelli. We need a proven, ruthless goal-scorer. I’d also like to see us bring in an established defensive-midfielder, someone with a big physical presence and power. Finally, it would be great if we could an old-school, out & out winger. Someone who runs at defenders all day long, with electric pace and a composed final ball. Lots of business to be done, we have the money, there can be no excuses. Needless to say, we’d also have to replace any outgoings – looks like City could be signing Sagna.

Yeah, I was just coming on to this. What would be getting if we did manage to sign him?

Intrigued as to why City would make a move for him considering you already have Zabaleta but Bacary is a brilliant right-back and has been one of the best in the league for a long time. Physically strong, versatile (RB/CB) and quick (despite his age), you’d be getting an excellent player. Though similar to Clichy, he’s not the best crosser! I’d be disappointed to see him leave but I suspect we can’t compete with any financial package on offer. We could see Micah Richards moving the other way.

I was speaking to someone the other day who said Kompany is the best centre-back in the league; Mertesacker and Koscielny are the best pairing. Is that a fair assessment?

Vincent Kompany is an outstanding defender, but for me, his most admirable quality is his leadership. He plays with his heart on his sleeve, always gives 100% and looks like he always wants what is best for the team. A proper captain. If I were to nit-pick, I think he’s looked a little clumsy this season, prone to the odd mistake or rash challenge, but all in all, one of the best in the world. Mertesacker & Koscielny have formed the most remarkable partnership. I wrote a year ago that I thought they would challenge any defensive pairing in world football, which sounds utterly ridiculous given that we conceded 17 in just 3 games against our rivals this season, but they are brilliant. They complement one another so beautifully and as a pairing, they are the best in the league.

Which City player would you most like to see at Arsenal, if any?

Easy. Yaya Toure. He was once on our books, but was too impatient to wait for his work-permit to come through.

What have you made of City under Pellegrini?

City have been strong for a few years. Not sure he’s changed the style of play too much but you are great to watch. Etihad was such a fortress early on, as you showed no mercy to visiting teams, disposing of them in such ruthless fashion. Pellegrini has always been a class act. We’ve come up against him before while he was in charge at Villarreal and he seems to keep a low profile. Questionable dress sense on match-days though; a man of his age & gravitas shouldn’t be in a hoody!

Combined Arsenal-City XI?

Going 4-2-3-1:

Szczesny (Hart has been through a rocky spell and Szczesny has really improved)

Zabaleta, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Kolarov, (Kompany is brilliant, but as a pair.. and I love Kolarov)

Toure Ramsey

Walcott Ozil Silva

Aguero (Love Negredo but this boy..)

Prediction?

Given our injuries & recent performances, I think morale will be low and so I’m really worried about Saturday. Heart will always back Arsenal but on this occasion, I think you’ll beat us 3-1. Finally, as it seems we’re out of the race, best of luck to City for the remainder of the season, I couldn’t think of much worse than Liverpool & Chelsea fans gloating about the title. #TeamCity

 

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