Spyin' Kop: Arsenal, them and us.

Posted by Armin on November 26, 2004, 11:36:38 PM

After a succession of quality teams at Anfield this week we have to make do with boring old Arsenal.  Famous throughout the world as the exponents of the 'bore draw' the long ball specialists bring their uncultured brand of kick and hope football to Liverpool in desperate need of some points following their laboured draw with West Brom last week.  Truly these are dire times for Gunners fans and so we are especially lucky that some of these poor unfortunates took themselves away from their strict regimen of teeth gnashing and hair rending to give us their thoughts on the eve of battle.  This week we  would like to thank Darren from Arsenal-land.co.uk, Alastair and Exiled in Newcastle from Arsenal-Mania.com and Bruce from Gunnershigh.com based in New Zealand.

RAWK: How is the season shaping up for the Gunners?

Darren: Pretty nicely overall. We've built on last season's unbeaten season and broken Forest's record. We're in all 4 competitions still and our youths have beaten Everton and Man City full teams and having just had the annual dodgy November we're in good shape in the league. So excellent overall.

Exiled in Newcastle: Rather good start, but into a bit of a lull now. Thing is after the ‘49’ it was bound to happen, but we’re the same team and we’re probably only a deflected winner away from another run.

Alastair: Losing the unbeaten record has clearly affected the players but our down turn in form really first reared its head when we drew 1-1 with Rosenburg. However things are not going as bad as some have made out, we have only lost one game in 52 league matches and being two points adrift in November is hardly a crisis. The home game with Chelsea on December 12th will be vital though, so we must have our form back by then.

Bruce: The season started off well, keeping on going from where it left off last season. Expecting a lot but fearful of what might happen when that 'defeat' to end the long run would finally come. It came in the 10th game of the season against rival Manchester United and since then Arsenal has only be able to put one win together in the four games since then. From being in a 'bullish' mood, things are starting to look a bit 'bearish'. However, if Arsenal can string a few win together then it can change so quickly.

RAWK: What are your expectations for this season? Have they changed from day one?

Darren: My expectations are the same. I expect us to be champions and win back to back titles with the side we have. With Reyes, Van Persie and Fabregas we're a better squad without doubt. I also hope we can do better in Europe and perhaps reach the semi's or better.

Exiled in Newcastle: Big. No. You can’t help thinking big after an unbeaten season. Some say it’s cocky, but it’s well founded confidence really. How could we not be confident? You’ve seen what this team can do, and that’s absolutely
anyone, anywhere (except the mancs at ot when Homer Riley’s in town).

Alastair: We still feel we can retain our title and we know if we play to the best of our abilities we should do so. Europe however is still a sticky point and whereas in August a lot of us felt this may be our year, our starting form suggests we probably will not in fact win it.

Bruce: Continuing on from the question above. Things have changed a bit from day one. Chelsea is looking stronger both domestically and in Europe. They are looking like the team to beat. Arsenal has struggled in Europe. I think the next couple of games will dictate whether the mood has changed. Two games in UEFA Champions League against PSV Enidhoven and Rosenburg, will see whether Arsenal will be a contender in the second phase of the Champions League. Arsenal also have to get two good wins under their belts against Liverpool and Birmingham City to give the fans faith that they still have the good to take out the Premiership.


RAWK: Who do you think is your most important player(s)?

Darren: Robert Pires, Ash Cole and Thierry Henry.

Exiled in Newcastle: Henry is obvious. So are a few others. But I think it’s how the ‘fringe’ players perform when they get in that’s going to define our season. If
you’ve seen us in the League Cup for the last couple of years you’ll know about our youths and a lot of them could feature this season.

Alastair: For all the hype our offensive players get the loss of Sol Campbell has clearly affected our performances. That said, if Thierry Henry has a fantastic game you can take it to the bank we will win!

Bruce: Thierry Henry is the most important player in my eyes.


RAWK: Your worst player(s)?

Darren: Pascal and Cygan

Exiled in Newcastle: Kanu. Looked good for a while but since then has done bugger all (apart from 45 minutes at your place…ahem) since except ‘steal’ his wages from us and get a passport. He’s gone? Well how was I to notice?

Alastair: Pascal Cygan, watch him for five minutes and it will be obvious why!

RAWK: What do you expect in the way of atmosphere, singing, pies etc from your trip to Anfield?  How does it compare to rival grounds?

Darren: It compares quite well in the main. Definately better than Villa which makes Highbury look like a rock concert. I avoid Pies, more room for beer...

Exiled in Newcastle: I like going there personally. I’ve been going to The Arsenal for long enough to easily remember the Kop as a terrace and it has generally been an enjoyable place to visit. There have been some fools, but there have been far more laughs. One of the few ‘myths’ of football that’s actually
true is about the Kops humour. And I have to praise your stewards. Most
grounds getting through the turnstiles at the away end can be
uncomfortable, but yours always make it easy and fun.

Alastair: This will be my first time at Anfield this Sunday and I cannot wait! I am expecting a great day out and some good but friendly banter from the Liverpool fans and I am sure I will not be disappointed!

RAWK: Any young up and coming players in the squad that we might not know about?

Darren: Well not sure if they'd be involved but Gael Clichy is a Cole clone aged 19 and Fabregas who's 17 but I guess you guys have seen those 2. I could name the side that beat Everton in the Carling cup and they are are pretty handy to be honest.

Exiled in Newcastle: Well I’ve already talked about the league cup squad, and you could mention any of them. We’ve probably got a full team (and subs!) of
teenagers who are good enough to play in the premiership right now.
Obviously being good enough at that age doesn’t ensure success, but if a
quarter of them make it at Highbury then that’s virtually half a team in
place that have come through the ranks.

Alastair: Where do I start?! To be fair players like Van Persie and Fabregas have had quite a lot of press attention, so I am going to go for Matthieu Flamini. We contraversely poach....er bought him from Marseille in the summer and what we have seen of him he could be the next Manu Petit for Vieria. With injuries to Edu and Gilberto there is a good chance he will feature on Sunday too.

RAWK: Do you have a particular memory of any previous meeting between us (lets not mention Michael Thomas please)

Darren: It's up for grabs nooooowwww, Thomas! Right at the end!

Exiled in Newcastle: Actually the night Mickey ‘did it’ was the only league match I didn’t go to that year, but that’s a whole other story. Actually, I think that
everything that happened that season somehow improved the relationship
between our clubs fans, which was getting rather taught. Anyway, he did
win you the FA Cup…

Alastair: Ignoring the above mentioned one, it is so hard to pick one out as games with Liverpool have been crucial over the last few years. The 2001 Cup final was a heartbreaker for us of course, but our win at Anfield in December 2001 was probably the launch pad for our double that year. Likewise the cracks in our defence of said double started to appear when Heskey got a last minute equaliser in February 2003, but then you have Pires' wonder goal last year! There is rarely a dull moment!

Bruce: Yes, lets mention Micheal Thomas. One of the best moment ever!

RAWK: We know of Arsene Wenger's acheivements, what is his biggest weakness? (if any!)

Darren: He was a rubbish player if that makes you feel better, but seriousally I'd say buying defenders is not his strong point.

Exiled in Newcastle: Wouldn’t back him in an arm wrestle contest… Actually, considering he’s known as Mr I Didn’t See It I think sometimes his honesty costs. For a start he’ll answer anything at his press conferences. The famous
‘unbeaten season’ quote that he was hammered for was a result of it. He
was asked if he thought the team could go the season unbeaten when we
were on a (league) run in the high 20’s. He said of course I believe my
team can go unbeaten because I believe my team can beat anyone so I
never believe they’re going to be beaten. Or something like that. Next
day the press is ‘Wenger says “We WILL go the season unbeaten”’. And his
honesty means he has no favourites in the press that get titbits from
him, so he’s the only manager around who doesn’t have some paper willing
to plant stories for him.

Alastair: How topical, this seems to be consuming Arsenal fans at the moment! Personally I think he could be more flexible in his tactics, Arsenal seem to have an excellent Plan A, but when this is not working we cannot scrap a winner. He also seems to have a fear of substitutions at times and Fabregas apart, seems very adverse to playing youngsters unless he absolutely has to at times.

Bruce: Alex Ferguson!


RAWK: What sort of line-up will Arsene put out against us?

Darren: Lehmann
Lauren Campbell Toure Cole
Ljungberg Vieira Fabregas Pires
Reyes Henry

Exiled in Newcastle: I think it depends a lot on Wednseday. There’s a few players that I think will play one of the two. Edu/Cesc…Bergkamp/van
Persie…Reyes/Henry… Campbell/Cygan. Apart from that I think you could
probably name the rest.

Alastair: The strongest one we have available most likely! Hopefully Campbell will be back and we will start with Reyes up front, playing him on the left really is not working as well as it might.

Bruce: Arsenal as Premiership Champions. Liverpool, who cares, as long as it is behind Arsenal!!

RAWK: Do you have a favourite/best chant(s) and perhaps any that require an explanation?

Darren:

Fabregas, ow o ow.
Fabregas, ow o ow.
He's only 17, but better than Roy Keane

Exiled in Newcastle: I’ve got to say the chant I’ve enjoyed the most ever is ‘Champions’. You can’t beat it, every time feels as good as the first. But for sheer
smugness, which is the feeling all of us want to have when we’re
watching our team if we’re honest, ‘We are unbeatable’ was pretty damn
good whilst it lasted. As for an explanation, I wish someone would
explain to me why we started singing ‘Over and over and over again’!

Alastair: "Carefree! Where ever you may be! Chelsea aint got no history! Lampard's fat, the rest are queer, they aint won the league in 49 years!"


RAWK: Where do you expect Arsenal and Liverpool to finish in the Premier League?

Darren:
Arsenal
Chelsea
Man Utd
Liverpool

Exiled in Newcastle: Well obviously we’re going to win it. Actually I’ve honestly believed it every year since before Terry Neill took over, but this year seems more
attainable. The Chelsea down the Kings Road will not last a title race if
they’re still in it then. Team spirit does that. The mancs have got that
but nothing much else. Last kicks of a dying mule. So Chelsea second, then
it’s up for grabs. Anything from 3rd to 6th in all honesty.

Alastair: Arsenal will finish in the top 2, if we can shore our defence up we will win it, if we remain inconsistant then Chelsea will beat us. Liverpool should finish in the top 4 but they will have to sort their away form out to make sure.

RAWK: Which Liverpool player will you fear the most?

Darren: Can I get back to you on that?

Exiled in Newcastle: None. I’m not being rude but I’m one of those fans that doesn’t pay much attention to the opposition. To coin a phrase the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Which, unfortunately, we rather seem to recently.

Alastair: With us having to play one of Cesc or Flamini alongside Vieira I think Alonso could have a great game. The guy has obvious quality and him and Gerrard could become the best central midfield partnership in England.

Bruce: Micheal Owen, opps!!! no longer

RAWK: And your feelings on the new 'Spanish flavour' Liverpool. Rafa Benitez himself and our new recruits?

Exiled in Newcastle:
Er, well I’m half Spanish so I’m all for it! I think Benitez is a good
manager, and he’s lucky that he’s at a club that tend to give their
managers fair backing so I think over time he’ll do well. As for the
players, well you’ve not done bad in what you’ve brought over. Not in
the class of Reyes and Cesc naturally, and I’ll bet none of them can
keep goal as well as Almunia, but good players none the less. And from a
Spanish point of view I think it’s good having players playing in
England. It’ll give the squad a much needed different edge. I mean Reyes
has already found that it’s much more painful being the most fouled
player in England than Spain.

Alastair: Too early to say really. You have not set the world alight but at the same time there have been glimpses of potential. Garcia looks like he could be a very good player when on top form and Alonso I have already mentioned. Benitez will probably become more apparent once his English digresses from Beatles Records!

Darren: Benitez is a top manager and I think he's got Liverpool moving in a better direction and he's done so with the loss of Owen so that says a lot really. Alonso is a good player and Garcia seems handy so all positive I'd say.

RAWK: Care to predict the score?  Go on!

Darren: 2-0 to the Arsenal

Exiled in Newcastle: If I type this hear for you does that make it happen? Please? We’ll win. I think there’ll be goals and we’ll get four out of six. We don’t seem
to like 1-0’s anymore!

Alastair: 1-1, Riise and Ljungberg to score

Bruce: I am hoping for a 2-1 win to Arsenal, as has happened in two of the last three seasons, but I think it will probably be a 1-1 draw.

Thanks to all for their comments.

© Armin 2004

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