The international break is now upon us and, as mentioned last time out, I’m going to do something a little different to pass the time. The ‘something different’ comes in the form of two Q&A sessions, with two gentlemen who are top Gooners, fantastic writers, and I’m proud to say good friends.
1. Mr ‘Holic, I guess the best place to start is at the beginning; so when and why was it The Arsenal for you?
A gentle introduction and an easy answer. The parents lived in Cannonbury when I was born in 1957 and as a baby I was Dad’s responsibility on Saturdays. I grew up going to The Arsenal every fortnight. I was brought up the right way!
2. So you’ve been following The Arsenal for quite some years then! If you had to pick one magic moment and one magic player, what and who would they be and why?
Your first is always memorable, right? So first trophy, I was in the Clock End when we beat Anderlecht to lift the Fairs Cup in 1970. On that basis my first idol was Joe Baker, a fast striker, lethal finisher, and temperamental showman in the sixties.
3. I guess they can’t have been easy decisions, with so many great memories to choose from?
Exactly that. Titles won at Anfield, Old Trafford and two at the Lane were special. The Cup Winners Cup in Copenhagen in 1994 was a special week. So many great players too; Dennis Bergkamp was the best technically, a right foot ahead of Liam Brady.
4. I know you’re a big fan of everything Arsene Wenger has done for our great club, is he the best manager you’ve seen?
He has to be when you consider what he won in the first half of his reign and where the club have remained after the upheaval of the move to Ashburton Grove. He is not beyond criticism, particularly in the last couple of years, but deserves the opportunity to use the greater resources now available.
5. How does Arsene’s current squad of players compare to those of years gone by, both those he created himself and those of other Arsenal managers?
The basics remain the same. Grow your own talent and graft quality on there. Bertie did it with Billy Wright’s boys. George did it with those he inherited. Arsene has done it with four different generations. The current midfield looks amazing, and could become the best.
6. So, there’s currently no real football taking place as it’s the international break. Whilst we have this moment to catch our breath, how would you assess the season so far?
A qualified success. Our toughest games remain but the midfield looks as good as there is in the top flight. Defensively we look generally solid. Crucially, Olivier Giroud remains fit as we speak; he is vital to the way we are playing right now. Reserved optimism here.
7. How big a part has Mesut Özil played in our good start to the season? And with others, such as Ramsey, playing an impressive role too, has Özil’s impact been felt as much off the pitch as on it?
I think that is so. Özil’s arrival has coincided with a string of impressive performances by others, and he doesn’t appear to be at full throttle yet, but what a footballer. I can’t wait to see how we shape up with both he and Santi Cazorla in the side. We could yet get even better.
8. Do you think this squad can challenge for the title this season and perhaps win our first trophy of the Emirates era?
The easy answer is we may be a year and a couple of players short yet. The naysayers have a 19/1 chance of being right. As I hinted earlier a lot depends on Giroud staying fit (at least until the January transfer window). At the moment we are top of the league and the longer we are in the mix the chance of a decent shot at the title remains alive. With some fortune a shot at the FA Cup may be the most realistic target.
9. Finally ‘Holic, mention of the “Emirates era” does of course bring back wonderful memories of Highbury. The Arsenal recently celebrated 100 years in Islington, what does the area mean to you and just how much do you miss our beautiful old home?
Islington will always be my home, and of course Highbury is imprinted on those of us who grew up experiencing so much there. I don’t mind admitting the last game in 2006 was a very emotional day for so many, me included. I hope the Grove inspires similar affection from the current generation and those to come.
I’d like to say a big thank you to ‘Holic for taking the time to get involved in the first ever Q&A session on ‘That Sums It All Up’. If you don’t already read his always wise words on Goonerholic.com then you really should, so get yourselves over there. You can also follow ‘Holic on twitter, its @TheGoonerholic.
The second ‘That Sums It All Up’ Q&A session will follow a little later in this international break, so watch this space! Until then, Up The Arse.