Date: 22nd February 2012 at 5:00pm
Written by:

Good afternoon.

The North London Derby where host us this time looms once more and as many of you may have realised, St. Totteringham’s Day has been cancelled and all indicators are that this may well be a permanent arrangement.

In honour of this tawdry wrong being righted I thought it would only befit such an occasion to do a quick fire pre-match Q&A with the grande fromage of the online opposition. 

So I needed to talk to the fairy that sits proudly at the very top of Arsenal’s Internet tree.  There was only ever going to be one man  …Arseblogger.

  Our fans aren’t really used to all this winning business. But they are certainly coping, on day to day basis. Would you say that fans are taking an equally pragmatic approach to their season thus far?

  Oh absolutely, I have never known a season with more rational debate, well-mannered discussion and little or no hysteria. It’s like we’ve found Utopia. In your face Sir Thomas More.

  You built a gigantic stadium. You pumped your revenue streams with CL money. Do you still feel that playing for is as ‘aspirational’ as it once was or is it all just about money when it comes to securing and indeed retaining the services   of players?

 It’s hard to deny that the business side of things has impacted on the football, perhaps too much. We seem a well-oiled machine on a corporate level these days, increased marketing staff, more focus on the ‘brand’ etc, but it seems to have come at the expense of the team.

I don’t think you can say it’s all about the money. Players at are very well paid, more so than your players, for example, but the wage structure is odd. Players are rewarded in advance, they’re paid for their potential rather than their actual quality, hence guys like Bendtner, Denilson, Vela are out on loan because their wages provide a stumbling block to any permanent transfers.

Obviously though, if you’re playing Champions League football every season you remain an attractive proposition to players. Without it you’re shopping for Carrolls and Downings.

  Transfers. Who would you identify as a stand out success in the last 18mths?

 Koscielny (a bit more than 18 months, but still). I like Arteta but he should have been signed while we still had Fabregas, Mertesacker will be a big miss for us – despite his long-legged lolloping he’s a good player. Beyond that not much but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looks a real talent, some evidence that Wenger hasn’t lost his eye for talent despite some unfortunate signings.

 Who would you ship in (within the usual realistic constraints) to ‘boost’ your lot?

 Never a question I’m comfortable answering because it’s not my job to know. It’s the guy paid millions of pounds a year who has the extensive scouting network at his disposal. And it always seem a bit Championship Manager when asked this question. In which case the answer is Cherno Samba and Kennedy Bakircioglu.

  It has been said that Arsene Wenger has inveigled himself into such an extraordinary position at that it will be he that decides when it is appropriate for him to walk away. Is this true?

 In a sense I guess it is. The old board has been replaced, for the most part, and there appears to be something of a knowledge vacuum now. The new owner seems content to let Arsene continue and the manager has always said he respects his contracts. That said, I just have a sneaky feeling this might be his last season, whichever way the rest of it plays out.

  Has there still an ‘in Arsene we trust thing’ about among fans or is it getting hairy? I mean, you’re hardly scrapping for relegation. Are fans overreacting or is it more of a media generated thing?

 It’s somewhere in the middle. I think anyone with half a brain, regardless of who you support, knows that the media loves a crisis. Anything that adds fuel to that is manna from heaven for them, and as well as that there is an issue with a certain large shareholder who would like nothing more than for discontent about the current set-up to spread. So yeah, there’s a media generated element to it.

All the same, you can’t overlook the fact this is an side with real problems. Not new problems either and ones which are getting worse through inaction both in the transfer market and perhaps on the training ground. People talk about seven years without a trophy, which is a difficult point to argue against, but maybe seven years without a trophy only feels as bad as it does because we had such unprecedented success under Wenger beforehand.

I think most fans will admit something’s got to change, but quite what that change is and how it should come about is still open to debate.

  Scott Parker has been a huge revelation for us. I’m not convinced that vocally he’s very captain-like but he leads by example. Do you feel that you’re missing a figure in that role?

 People have always said lack of a vocal leader since Tony Adams or maybe Patrick Vieira. In Cesc Fabregas we had a similar kind of ‘lead by example’ on the pitch captain and I don’t think anyone can argue with the kind of example Robin van Persie has been setting over the last 12 months. There does seem to be a lack of leadership at times, which is odd because I think if you look at Szczesny – Vermaelen – Arteta – van Persie they’re strong characters – so maybe they feel inhibited for one reason or another.

Maybe we need some more Englishmen in the side like, say, Carroll and Downing. Oh.

 Roy Keane said that this is the worst team he’s ever seen. Mind you Roy Keane lives in a static caravan with David Icke and a German shepherd called Torquemada. But lots of sane people, ex Arsenal players and managers have been quite damning. Is what’s being said true or simply a few people with agendas media whoring?

 It’s nowhere near the worst Arsenal side I’ve ever seen but it’s certainly the weakest during Arsene Wenger’s reign. It’s easy to stick the boot in without being constructive, any old cnut can do that otherwise we wouldn’t have blogs. But if you look at what Dennis Bergkamp said recently HERE he’s pointing out the flaws in a more constructive manner.

The issue really is that the team, despite changes in personnel, seem to suffer from the same problems. Skittish defence, all the mental strength of Joey Deacon and an ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with maddening regularity.

Subject to our games against you, Manchester United and Chelsea we are doing a good impression of a Champions League qualifying side. With Chelsea and even Newcastle snapping at your heels do you think you’ll qualify?

 I don’t see Newcastle staying up there to be honest. Chelsea certainly have the players but things aren’t working for Vilas Boas and if we can’t take advantage of that then we don’t deserve a top four finish. It’s just impossible to predict what we’ll do – we had a good run from September to December, climbing from 17th to 4th, but the only thing consistent about us is our inconsistency.

The outright betting is tighter than a gnat’s urethra for this NLD.
Your prediction please…

 Impossible to call, form goes out the window on derby day blah blah, but I think there’ll be plenty of twitching and a lot of nail biting. Score draw.

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