FA Cup Preview: The View From The Emirates

Do you expect Wenger to field his strongest side?

The strongest side available, at least. We’ll be playing Manuel Almunia due to Wojciech Szczesny’s injury, and will be without Theo Walcott, Cesc and Alex Song too. So far this season in this competition Wenger’s chosen to rest our more important players and let the subs play the matches, but I don’t think this will be the case on Saturday. Youngsters Ignasi Miquel and Conor Henderson both got a run-out in the Leyton Orient matches and both impressed, but I’d imagine that if they’re involved it will be from the bench.

Will you be attending and if not where will you be watching it?

I won’t be at the match, so I’ll be at home watching it with the family. It’s just as well it’s on TV, because otherwise the Arsenal put on screenings at the stadium and I have only ever seen us draw in four times of going to them!

What would represent a successful season for Arsenal? Is it a case of top four and a trophy would be a success?

Considering we’re second in the league now, I wouldn’t say a top four finish would be a success, no. Winning the Cup would be a great start for the team, but we’re obviously after the league before anything else. I know no one but us thinks we can do it, but bothered! Seriously though, though I really do believe we can win the league, I think finishing second would be nothing to be ashamed of. If we were to slip up and finish third or fourth, however, it would be a bit of a disaster.

How do you expect your players to cope next season without their snoods?

They’ll be alright, we’ll just get Eric Abidal to step in with the handy replacement he showcased at the Camp Nou! I really can’t believe such a fuss has been made over them to be honest. It’s people who get the ‘ump over players wearing gloves… I don’t care what they turn up in as long as it doesn’t affect their performance.

Do you think will stay at the Emirates?

Yes. There was a point over the summer when I really thought he was off, but I think he’ll still be with us next season. He had his return to the Camp Nou on Wednesday night and it didn’t go to plan at all. He was injured within twenty minutes, slipped up to give Barca a goal and was booed off by their fans. I think most of the buzz is created by their players. I could see where he was coming from last season.

To get injured and then see your team-mates bugger up the rest of the season, while seeing your former team-mates go and win La Liga must have been difficult. No doubt he loves the club and the city, but he’s a professional and I don’t see how going there would enhance his career at this point. Would he start every match? Probably not. Would he be captain? Not a chance. Going to Barcelona and winning trophies would be easy, but I think it’s a bigger target of Cesc’s to win them with Arsenal. And I have a truckload of stories in which Cesc’s love of this club is shown, so anyone who questions his commitment to us gets an earful from me.

Many people in the media, reckon Arsenal are maybe 2 or 3 players away from being unbeatable- maybe a goalkeeper & centreback. Do you get frustrated with Wenger’s reluctance to spend in the transfer market?

On transfer deadline day last August, we were all tearing our hair out. Our goalkeeping ‘crisis’ toward the end of the season meant it was unthinkable we wouldn’t be looking to bring someone in… then somehow on deadline day it was “very unlikely” we’d be getting Mark Schwarzer. To Lukasz Fabianski’s credit, he came back into the team and did brilliantly. Then, as is the Arsenal way, he got injured and sidelined for the season. So up stepped Wojciech Szczesny who has also done brilliantly and is believed to be our next Jens Lehmann. But now he’s injured too, which is unbelievable yet very typical at the same time. I tend to think that people who talk about ‘Arsenal’s goalkeeping troubles’ just don’t know much about Arsenal. Last season, it was an issue.

As for a central defender, we could probably do with reinforcing there but Laurent Koscielny and Johan Djourou have proven to be an excellent team since they started playing together. People also forget we have Thomas Vermaelen waiting in the wings when he eventually comes back from injury (are you sensing a theme here?). I interviewed Nigel Winterburn last month and he made the point that if Wenger had bought someone in January, there would be five players vying for two positions and that that can’t be good for a team because someone’s nose is always going to be put out of joint. Plus, who were we going to buy?

Overall, it can be a pain that Wenger can be so tight, but he really believes in the players he has, and nine and a half times out of ten, that belief has been proven to have paid off.

Is Jack Wilshere really as good as everyone says, It seems only a few months ago was the second coming?

Jack Wilshere is as good as everyone says, if not better. Watch his performances against Barcelona both home and away. He was incredible, totally unfazed by his opposition and he’s still 19. He’s put a couple of our older players to shame on occasion. My blog this year has had one sentiment running consistently through it and that’s “How good was Jack today?” He’s a huge prospect for the future for both Arsenal and England.

And is the player on the team about whom everyone goes “Samir would have scored that” whenever a shot from someone else goes flying. In fact, in answer to your earlier question, if Samir plays, he’s one to watch.

If you could have one player at Arsenal who would it be and why?

If we didn’t have Thomas Vermaelen, who is my favourite Arsenal player along with Bacary Sagna, I certainly would not say no to Nemanja Vidic. Why? Because he’s brilliant. And scary.
Finally, your predictions for the game?

All depends on the team that decides to show up but I reckon 1-2 Arsenal.

Sian Ranscombe, http://ibelieveinarsenal.arseblog.com

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