Ask the Opposition

Ask the Opposition 63: Arsenal (with Andrew Allen of Arseblog)

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22:  Fans walk outside the stadium prior to the Premier League match between Arsenal and Burnley at the Emirates Stadium on January 22, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

This weekend sees two top four hopefuls go head-to-head at the Emirates stadium. A loss for either Manchester City or Arsenal will be seen as a serious blow in the fight for the Champions League places as we enter the final quarter of the season.

Arsenal have had an all too familiar season so far and the issue of Wenger’s future is creating a huge distraction for the club off the pitch. The Gunners may currently sit in sixth position in the league but they have two games in hand on most of the teams above them and a win against City could provide the morale boost they need to see them to the finish line.

We spoke to Arsenal fan Andrew Allen from Arseblog to get his opinion on the upcoming fixture.

Hi Andrew thanks for speaking to us. Arsenal currently sit sixth in the Premier League (with two games in hand on fourth place Liverpool). Has this season gone as expected for you so far? Where do you think you will finish the season?

If by expected, you mean…did Arsenal give fans a glimmer of hope by teasing them with a possible title challenge and then collapse courtesy of damaging defeats on the road to big rivals. Then yes, it’s gone exactly as expected!

Usually, I’d be pretty confident of a top four finish. As everyone knows, that’s kinda our ‘thing’. It’s going to be pretty tough this year, we really need to get ourselves out of our current funk quickly. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up sixth this season.

Arséne Wenger’s future has seemed to cause a big rift between Arsenal fans at the moment with both sides voicing their opinions for the world to see. In your opinion is he the right man to lead you next season? Do you think he will stay?

I think Arsene will stay for two more years. He doesn’t want to leave, the board want him to stay, a two-year contract is on the table and it appears we’ve not put the necessary foundations in place for a post-Wenger era. Do I think the club’s most successful manager is the right man to lead us next season? It hurts to say it, but probably not. I say that as a fan who wants Arsenal to win the title and has come to terms with the notion that change isn’t something to be scared of. If you’re owner Stan Kroenke – who is more worried about protecting his investment than winning titles – Wenger represents a very safe pair of hands.

A bigger concern perhaps is that a large number of first team players are out of contract in the summer of 2018, including Özil and Sanchez. Do you believe the club will make sure to tie them down with new deals?

Talks with both players, which started well over a year ago, are now on hold until the summer. Wenger wants the players to focus on the pitch and not their bank balance. I think Alexis Sanchez will leave. He’s a fantastic player but he also has a history of moving every few years. He’s not done himself any favours with the tantrums either and there’s a host of very rich clubs willing to pay him what he’s after. Ozil seems to love London life and has nothing but good things to say about the club…I also think he’s maybe less fussed about hitting the £250K per week that both men are reportedly chasing. He could stick around. That said, if they go, they go. We’ve been through this with Fabregas, Nasri, Adebayor, Van Persie etc…the club goes on.

Like City, it seems that Arsenal are planning quite the overhaul in the summer. Are there any players, or particular positions, that you consider a must-buy for the Gunners when the transfer window opens?

I think we have something like 12 players out of contract in July 2018. If they aren’t going to be offered new deals you’d imagine the sensible thing would be to sell them this summer, take the cash and rebuild. I suspect we’ll offer Wilshere a contract but he may not sign, likewise Chamberlain. A long-term replacement for Santi Cazorla is an absolute must and if Alexis goes we’ll need a striker. We could even do with a goalkeeper given Cech will be 35, Ospina wants out and Roma have an option to buy Szczesny. Wenger has already revealed that he tried (and failed) to sign Monaco’s Mbappe last summer. He looks a brilliant prospect, so if you were offering me a striker I’d consider him an option!

Who would you expect to be key players for Arsenal when the two teams meet this weekend?

It’s hard to look past Alexis. He’s been involved in so many goals this season that his mere presence will be a boost. It looks as though he’s come through the internationals with Chile unscathed which is a bonus. We also need a big showing from Koscielny and Mustafi at the back. The latter started the season well but has a tendency to make rash decisions and goes to ground too easily. We can’t afford to give away cheap chances to the likes of Aguero!

Finally, please could we have your predicted starting line-up and what you think the final score will be?

David Ospina, Nacho Monreal, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Hector Bellerin, Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck

Prediction: 2-2

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