Opposition view: Arsenal

By Ric Turner, Fri 18 December 2015 10:02

Opposition view: ArsenalFeaturing Vivek from www.gunnerstown.com

Ahead of Monday's top of the table clash at The Emirates, Bluemoon caught up with Vivek from Gunnerstown to get the lowdown on the opposition...

What are your expectations for this season?

The expectations for the season couldn’t be clearer: win the Premier League. City haven’t run away with the league as I thought they would after the first few games so the league is there for the taking. Will we win it? I am not entirely sure but I am confident we’ll be in the mix going into April.

Are you happy with the manager?

Yes. The criticism of Arsene Wenger tends to revolve around three areas: tactics (especially in the big games), transfers and injuries. And improvements have been made on all three fronts in 2015. Since that defensive, controlled 2-0 win at the Etihad last season, the naivety in our approach has disappeared except for that 5-1 mauling in Munich. Cech, Sanchez, Ozil, Gabriel, Calum Chambers, Debuchy, Monreal and Welbeck were all signed over the past three years and they’ve all cost Arsenal big money. While we are again blighted by injuries, Wilshere, Welbeck, Coquelin, Cazorla and Rosicky are all out to non-muscular injuries. It is the hamstrings and groins that cause us problems and it looks like those injuries are reducing. Yes, he hasn't won much over the past 10 years but he keeps us near the top and doesn't drag us into a relegation battle (Take a minute to laugh at Chelsea! LOL!).

Who are your key players?

Laurent Koscielny and Mesut Ozil. Koscielny is the best defender in the league and his development at Arsenal has been nothing short of magic. He’s so crucial to our defensive set up and his presence has become all the more important given the absence of Francis Coquelin. Ozil operates at the other end of the pitch and he is finally starting to show England why Wenger broke our transfer record for him. He is the best creator in Europe by a mile and despite Arsenal’s lack of genuine goal scorer, he’s racked up the assists this season and that says all you need to know about his genius.

Were you happy with the business conducted during the transfer window?

Having watched Petr Cech for 20 games now, I’ve been forced to completely change my definition of a good goalkeeper. He’s brought so much to the squad in terms of leadership and experience and our only signing could turn out to be a title-winning buy. On the other hand, we should have signed another midfielder but the emergence of Coquelin probably convinced the manager against signing a defensive midfielder. Looks like a dumb decision when he’s injured and you have to depend on Flamini to sit in front of the back four.

Are there any rising stars in the squad that we might not have heard of?

The one I was excited about was Chuba Akpom. He’s on loan at Hull and is getting a lot of game time but he hasn’t performed as well as I had hoped. Dan Crowley is another bright prospect and was surprisingly recalled from loan after some impressive performances for Barnsley. And there is The Jeff! Jeff Reine Adelaide arrived during the summer and was superb in preseason. Wenger described him as ‘something special’ so that’s raised the expectations a notch higher.

Your Achilles heel?

Defensive Midfield. Francis Coquelin’s emergence was such that Wenger was forced to change his midfield setup. Coquelin and Cazorla formed an unlikely pair in but with both of them out until March, our midfield balance looks precarious. Flamini doesn’t have the pace, intensity or the discipline that Coquelin brings and Arsenal have looked more vulnerable as a result over the past three games.

If you could have any City player in your team who would you choose?

It’s hard to look beyond Sergio Aguero. He misses large chunks of the season and yet ends up with loads of goals. With the creativity we have in Ozil, Sanchez and Ramsey, I’d love to see a ruthless goal scorer at Arsenal and Aguero fits that bill perfectly.

What is your perception of City as a club?

At first, I was among the many Arsenal fans accusing City of buying their way to titles but that’s probably more down to frustrations with Arsenal’s failures than the success of City. The signings under Mark Hughes were pretty average except for Tevez but since Mancini took over, the quality that’s come into the club has been unbelievable. I’ve got a lot more respect for City than Chelsea and in Manuel Pellegrini, you’ve got one of the managers I admire the most. The investments made in the academy shows the club is taking a long term approach but I think City will continue to spend big until they win the Champions League before settling into any sustainable business model.

Likely starting XI for the game, and score prediction?

Arsenal are likely to field an unchanged X1 so it will be Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Ramsey, Ozil, Campbell, Walcott, Giroud. I mostly refrain from score predictions but if Sanchez is available from the bench and the team turns out focussed, I’ll go for a 2-1 Arsenal win.