From Highbury to Morgan to Simeone. A Cultured Left Foot gives us a glimpse behind the Emirates unrestFri 29 Apr 16 by Russell Saunders
In order to get the lowdown on tomorrow’s opponents I’ve been chatting with Stuart from the Arsenal website A Cultured Left Food
Q. Major positives and negatives from this season for the Gunners?
A. Positives feel few and far between, which as we’re fourth seems a bit bizarre. Alex Iwobi’s emergence has been fantastic, great movement and a genuine talent for the future. Jack Wilshere returning to fitness, Mesut Özil’s form has been astonishing.
That’s the biggest negative as well or it leads onto it, at least. A decent striker with the number of chances Őzil’s created? Even a half-decent one. We’d have been champions three months ago the way this season has turned out. That we’ve had to wait for Danny Welbeck to arrive and provide impetus shows how badly it’s turned out this season.
And the repetitiveness of the failure, the same numbing mistakes. I feel that I’m banging my head against a brick wall, slowly and almost whimpering that we’re in Groundhog Day with no respite coming.
Q. Norwich have bought a ticket for the top 2 divisions rollercoaster – often scary and painful but never dull. For Arsenal, top 4 – Champions league year after year. Does it get ever get boring?
A. I’ve got a good idea of what you’re talking about. My dad is a Swindon fan and in my youth I saw plenty of them travelling up and down the lower divisions, often without rhyme or reason compared to the previous year.
Is it dull at Arsenal now? Painfully so. It’s not the fourth place finish itself, it’s the manner we end up there, it’s the nature of the Round of Sixteen exits in the Champions League. Good or average, we will lose the home leg with an irretrievable deficit for the second leg. It’s the same reasons for the last decade, the same frailties. It’s so easy to play against Arsenal if the players are well-drilled. We’ve been saying and seeing the same since 2006.
Would I swap it for ten seasons of finishing 7th, 4th and 1st in equal measure? Yes, in a heartbeat.
And before anyone says it, I am well aware that most clubs would swap places with us in an instant but it genuinely is dull knowing you’ll see a team fight harder for fourth than they will for the title.
Q. If Arsene resigned tomorrow, who would be the popular choice to take your club to the next level?
A. We tend to go with the wind. Whoever is the flavour of the month tends to find favour with us at one time or another.
Currently, Diego Simeone is the man but Arsenal have a tricky summer ahead. If Wenger leaves, all hell will break loose against the board for not acting sooner and missing out on Pep Guardiola. The only ones who wouldn’t have liked Guardiola are Wenger’s loyal brigades and for no other reason than he might do a better a job.
At Arsenal, I’d hasten to add, there’s every chance he’d have fallen flat on his face. It’s the risk we’ll be taking.
I like the idea of Simeone; a traditional Arsenal style based on strong defence but with a piercing attack. I think he’d take a year or two to get the squad playing his way and it would be turbulent – by our standards – having a manager who is openly emotional. And fun to be honest.
Q. You can’t pick your celeb fans (Ed Balls isn’t to everyone’s taste here in Norfolk) but how do the regular Arsenal-flavoured musings of Piers Morgan go down with you? Does he have his finger on the AFC pulse?
A. Ed Balls is Norwich fan? I never knew that. I was quite taken with Delia’s drunken ramblings but I understood that National Treasure, Stephen Fry was *the* celebrity fan for Norwich.
Piers Morgan is an utter scumbag. He has no redeeming features and serves no purpose beyond his ego.
I will never forgive him for Copenhagen and nor will a lot of others. I would back the Arsenal board forever if they banned him from the club. OK, maybe not but they would get a few brownie points with me.
Q. Much talk here in Norfolk about the need for our club to move to a nice shiny new stadium – is it to be recommended or do you miss Highbury?
A. I miss Highbury intensely. Every time I step out of the tube station, my instinct is to veer off to the left. That split-second tells you all you need to know. Will I ever feel the same about The Emirates? Not sure; half the problem is that the number of memories etched into our mind is small.
The great matches, those where the emotions of a particular ninety minutes are seared into your very being. I can think of a few, wins over United, Liverpool, beating Tottenham 5 – 2 in consecutive seasons, Bayern, Barcelona but I think maybe the biggest problem, certainly at the moment, is that the discontent is stopping the stadium finding its place in our hearts.
Maybe it never will, maybe that’s what’s happened with the modern game. Perhaps the biggest problem for me, is that I grew up with Highbury and now I’m older, I’m more sensible. Apparently.
The biggest warning is this: don’t swallow the lies about the wealth and what it will mean for the club. At the end of the day, when the club gets richer, the shareholders take the money in increased company value or dividends.
Q. Wilshere back – Giroud on a long scoreless run – Sanchez never scored against Norwich. The Canaries are up for a battering after your North East 0-0 surely?
A. Ha! 0 – 0 written all over it if Giroud or Walcott start as the central striker. Welbeck has the movement which brings Alexis and others more into the game. Not sure why Giroud started at Sunderland, it was almost as if Arsène felt that the game offered Giroud the chance to boost his confidence.
If you see either of them in their current form in the XI, Norwich fans should feel quite optimistic about keeping a clean sheet.
Q. Is Ryan Bennett in for a kicking after ‘nudging’ Alexis Sanchez into a camera pit earlier this season?
A. Is that who did it? That tells you all you need to know about any animosity. Santi Cazorla’s injury was the one that’s occupied our minds more from that day. It was the sort of injury where Wenger needed to be strong and say, “No, we play you with ten men; we can make up the ground next week”. I’d have admired that (I think) when the dust had settled. Moaned like hell at the time, I’m sure…
Bennett’s wasn’t in the Shawcross or Taylor league so no hard feelings in that sense.
Q. Which two Premier players (other clubs) would you like to see in the red and white next season?
A. There are three reasons why you hate a player. Either:
1. They have wronged one of your own through causing an injury – Taylor / Shawcross, or,
2. They are an a***hole – Joey Barton, or
3. They are bloody good and you know they are capable of winning the match
The first choice is Harry Kane. We need a good striker and he is bloody good. Vardy’s had a decent season but at 29 is too old to make a significant difference right now. He’s one who I think will still be at Leicester next year with his age counting against him.
The second is tougher. Kante has done well at Leicester, so has Mahrez and we could do with the addition of both although Mahrez is a tough choice because he will take Iwobi’s place. Not too sure it’s a sensible long-term buy unless the club think Alexis might do one in a coming summer.
Kante it is; no other central midfielder has caught the eye in the same way.
Q. Norwich have nothing, while you’ve gone for it big time. I’m talking statues outside the ground – are you a fan of? Classy hero reminder or cluttering pigeon rest?
A. I like the idea of the statues but think we’ve missed a trick. Instead of two or three statues, we should have gone the whole hog and built one of those life-size chess boards with the ‘greats’ as pieces. A latte, a game of chess; how very middle class we’ve become!
It’s a nice touch by the club. One of players such as David Rocastle, George Armstrong, I think, are all that’s missing. You’ve got to draw the line somewhere and Arsène has his marble bust so maybe that’s it.
Q. If Arsenal were a cheese, what kind would they be and why? For Norwich, a crumbly, hard cheese would best describe this season.
A. Ripening brie, in danger of turning rancid.
Q. Favourite Arsenal vs Norwich game from history?
A. 5 – 0 in 1989. It was the first match after Hillsborough and I remember being a bit concerned because Norwich were a good side in those days (I think they were third at the time). Liverpool had closed the gap to three points and we needed to win. Did so convincingly and played really well. I have a feeling that Norwich made a decent game of it to begin with.
But Norwich were a bit like Leicester; everyone wanted them to do well. Except Arsenal it seems as everyone was battering the hell out of each other when the two sides met six months later!
Q. Final score tomorrow night? I’m claiming a 1-1 draw with no conviction whatsoever.
A. If I was a Norwich fan, Arsenal’s form would lend itself to believing that was a possible outcome. It’s a shame you’ve lost your way recently. I wonder if Alex Neill will set the side to defend in the way Palace did, how Sunderland did: with numbers and force Arsenal into stereotype? Do Norwich have the players to do that?
I suppose we’ll all get answers on Saturday but in all honesty, I’ll display the big club mentality you’re expecting: 3 – 0 to The Arsenal.
Cheers to Stuart for his thoughts. Very entertaining and enlightening. The Cultured Left Foot can be followed on Twitter (@YogisWarrior).