Inside the Opposition: Arsenal – An Interview with FK

After Part 1 of our Inside the Opposition this week with Michael Keshani, we welcome back FK for our second installment. When I spoke to FK, an Arsenal season ticket holder and fan of 26 years, he was in Abu Dhabi airport in the Etihad Airways lounge being overlooked by a giant poster of Vincent Kompany. “I prefer to fly Emirates, obviously,” he said.

Here we talk about Arsenal’s signings and look ahead to Saturday’s game.

Are Sanchez, Welbeck, Debuchy and your other new signings enough to see an Arsenal challenge?

Given the club’s FA Cup win in May and our undisputed, new found wealth, Arsenal fans would have been forgiven for expecting the club to push on and go all out for the Premier League title & other honours in 2014-15. We have replaced some outgoing personnel; Fabianski-Ospina, Sagna-Debuchy, Vermaelen-Chambers and finally released the last of our ‘dead-wood’ in Bendtner & Park – freeing up substantial wages.

At the start of the summer, like many Arsenal fans, I had hoped we would add to the squad with particular focus on a central (defensive) midfielder and a world-class striker – two areas which let us down in 2013-14. We’ve certainly added goals to our squad in Sanchez, Welbeck and of course, recalling Joel Campbell from loan who had an impressive World Cup with Costa Rica. Central midfielders like Khedira, Carvalho & Schneiderlin were all linked to us and so to be left with the ageing Arteta, and the not-so-good Flamini, is massively disappointing.

Feels silly to criticise what’s been our biggest window ever (c.£82m) but there is a popular feeling amongst the fan-base that we’ve not addressed the aforementioned areas. Of course, the other problem is that our rivals have also strengthened well, particularly Chelsea, so I think we’ll fall just short of the title. Again. Sigh.

Were you disappointed Arsenal didn’t sign Cesc? Didn’t you have an advantage with that one?

Gutted. Many of those who follow me on Twitter will know I loved Cesc. I’ve watched some players in my time and he is up there amongst the best. Such a gifted player who makes football look so easy. I was desperate for Wenger to bring him back and I always knew that if he didn’t end up at Arsenal, he’d almost certainly end up at a rival which is totally heart-breaking.

I would have been happy to forego re-signing Cesc had it meant addressing the needs of our squad but the reality is that I don’t think we’ve done that adequately and go into the new campaign with c.£50m+ in the bank. Arsenal fans kept convincing themselves that we didn’t need him but given that Ramsey, Ozil, Wilshere, Walcott & The Ox were all fit together only twice last season, you always have room for a player of Cesc’s ability. You can never have too many good players. We had first refusal on him, so upon reflection, ‘letting’ him go to Chelsea, my title favourites, is absolutely inexcusable.

Does Welbeck fit the bill?

Being honest, I’ve spent the best of the last 18-months trying to convince my United-supporting friends that Danny Welbeck is an average player at best. Now that he’s at Arsenal, I’ve jumped on the ‘I’ve always rated him’ bandwagon – as you would expect. Danny’s an interesting signing because I think he’ll get to play in his preferred position (striker) and with support from the likes of Ozil, Ramsey, Walcott, Sanchez & Cazorla – he will get so many chances. He seems a typical Arsene Wenger purchase, young, raw, troubled seasons whilst played out-of-position etc. What I do like about him is his work-rate; defends & presses from the front, he’s young, quick, powerful & English – Arsene is slowly putting together a very strong & talented British core. I’m just not sure Welbeck is the clinical, ruthless striker that we’ve criticised Giroud for but I would be delighted to be proved wrong.

The FA Cup seems to have bought Wenger some time. Are his detractors diminishing?

Football has changed massively over the last decade. Everybody wants success yesterday. The thirst for immediate success has changed the way clubs are run & operate. Oddly, those trying to run self-sustainable clubs adhering to FFP the guidelines are seen as underperforming. Over the last 2 or 3 years, there has been a noticeable divide amongst the fans. Many are still in favour of Wenger but there is an increasing minority who want him out. Sadly, I think the differences are irreconcilable. For me, he’s the best man for the job. He guided us as best he could through a very difficult time for the club, during a global recession and at a time when rich clubs appeared out of nowhere. I hope the FA Cup win has given his mojo back and I sincerely hope he leads us to further glory in 2014-15.

What can City fans expect from Sagna?

Quite frankly, a brilliant right-back. Firstly, Bacary Sagna has been a wonderful servant to Arsenal Football Club and I have no ill-feeling towards him for leaving. He’s strong, agile and excellent defensively. Not the best offensively and of course at 31 years of age, he’s unlikely to get any less injury prone or quicker. Ultimately, I just can’t see him being picked ahead of Zabaleta but I suppose he can comfort himself with his lucrative contract. On a separate note, City fans can expect some gorgeous photos of his wife, Ludivine, the most beautiful woman I have ever met.

Why can’t Jack Wilshere seem to fulfil his potential?

The biggest debate amongst Arsenal fans. Will he? Won’t he? Jack was superb in 2010-11, bossing teams like Barcelona but then missed almost 18-months through injury and has never looked right since. I think this is where the frustration stems from; we all know how incredibly talented he is & how good he can be..

My understanding is that there have been fitness issues with him being pushed too hard and rushed back too quickly, resulting in repeat niggles which naturally, have hampered his progress. I think he’s almost back to full fitness now and is showing glimpses of his best but he has some way to go. The best thing he could do now is focus on his  fitness, remove himself from the media by controlling his off-the-pitch behaviour & keep his game simple – there is no need to try too hard on the pitch, take that one extra touch, take on that one extra man. Keep it simple & effective and he’ll fly. It’s also easy to forget that he’s still only 22 years old.

What do you make of City’s title chances?

I think with Chelsea, you are favourites for top-two. I think Chelsea will just edge it as they’ve added exceptional quality – in exactly the positions they needed. Courtois, Cesc & Costa is virtually a new spine with talent like Felipe Luis to replace Ashley Cole. They look very, very strong. I think City will come close – too much depth in the squad not to. Just make sure you don’t forget Yaya’s birthday this year!

Combined Arsenal-City XI







Score Prediction

I think it’ll be a tight game, nothing like the match at Wembley a few weeks back. Given we’re at home, I think we’ll just edge it though City are capable of being so clinical on the break. For me the game will be won & lost in midfield, perhaps the team scoring first claiming the points. I’ll for 2-1 Arsenal.

Interview by Rob Pollard

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