Throughout the season I held Q&A sessions with fellow Arsenal bloggers to help the international breaks pass by. The interviews were very well received, so I’ve decided to do more of the same now that the summer months are in full flow and the World Cup is about to begin.
First up, in a two-part special, I’m delighted to welcome the author of ‘So Paddy Got Up – an Arsenal anthology’ and ‘Together: The story of Arsenal’s unbeaten season’, the king of the Arsenal blog jungle, it is of course the fuckin’ excellent Arseblog!
Andrew, I’ll start as I always do with my Q&A guests by asking when and why was it The Arsenal for you?
I don’t remember exactly why but I’m pretty sure it was because I was an Irish kid growing up in England in the 1970s and back then there was a green tinge to our team. Liam Brady, David O’Leary, Frank Stapleton (boo), John Devine, and of course the Northern Irish lads like Pat Jennings, Pat Rice and Sammy Nelson.
We’ve been fortunate to witness many great moments and players supporting The Arsenal. If you had to pick one magic moment and one magic player, what and who would they be and why?
That is such a difficult question. You think of one magic moment and one magic player, then another occurs to you. Sorry to do this, but I don’t think it’s possible to answer this one. There have been too many to just choose one.
Bringing things back to this season. I recently spoke about how, at the start of the season, people wanted a big name signing, a trophy, to be part of the title challenge. Given we ticked all three boxes do you view this season as a success?
I think any season in which you win a trophy has to be a success. Even if the league campaign fizzled out, we still only finished 7 points off the leaders, so I do think there was genuine progress and it’s much easier to see how we can improve ahead of next season.
If you had to pick three highs (perhaps one game, one goal / moment, one player) and three lows for last season, what would they be?
The highs would be winning the FA Cup, the development of Aaron Ramsey, and Ramsey’s goal in the cup final. The lows, the big away defeats, not being more decisive in the transfer market until the last-minute, and the opening day against Villa was just horrible for all kinds of reasons.
It was great to be part of the title challenge this season, but ultimately it ended in disappoint, and of course there was another Champions League ‘Round of 16’ exit, so there is still room for improvement. What would you like to see more of during 2014/15?
More pragmatism in the big games away from home. We showed that in the home games against these sides so I don’t know why we were so different under more difficult circumstances.
The summer will surely play a big part in helping to achieve those objectives. If you were Arsene, with a decent sum of money available (say £75-100m) how would you look to spend it?
Right back, centre-half, central midfield but I think the key signing this summer has to be a striker. I like Giroud and I think he’s got an important role to play, but we need to add some quality to help make the difference against the best opposition.
Whilst recruitment will be key, especially with those goalkeeper and defensive gaps to fill, it’s also important to retain our key players, so it’s nice to have many of them tied down to new long-term contracts?
Yes, agreed. It’s also nice that the squad no longer contains so many divisive figures, or players who simply don’t deserve to be anywhere near the first team. It’s a solid, well constructed squad which is why you can feel confident we could progress again if the recruitment is right.
I guess another essential factor is fitness! For all the signings and long-term contracts in the world you still need to keep players fit, which seems to be something of a talking point once again?
Sure, part of that though is having a squad with enough depth to cope with the aches and strains that are inevitable. No club can avoid injury completely, but if you’ve got a big enough squad with the required quality then, perhaps, you don’t have to play some players.
Coming soon in Part 2… Andrew and I discuss the World Cup,’Together: The story of Arsenal’s unbeaten season’, The Invincibles, whether our FA Cup victory will act as a springboard, the role of club captain, and Arsecast extra… watch this space!