Welcome back to the first Q&A session of this summer on That Sums It All Up, where I’ve been chatting to the fuckin’ excellent Arseblog…
This summer includes the distraction of a World Cup. Is it one form of interlull you enjoy? Do you get behind any particular teams or just focus on how well the Arsenal players are performing? Or do you have little interest and instead just enjoy the warm summer days with barbecues and beers?
I’m kinda looking forward to this one because it doesn’t really make any difference to me what happens. I like to see Arsenal players do well when they’re playing because it’s good for them and ultimately good for us.
As well as barbecues and beers there is also another b-word for you at the moment…books! Along with co-author Andrew Allen, you recently launched your book ‘Together: The story of Arsenal’s unbeaten season’. The title is a pretty big clue, but can you tell us a little about it?
Well, it’s a look back at the 2003-04 season from the summer of ’03 right the way through to the last game of the season when we achieved what many people thought impossible. The book itself is limited edition hardback, in full colour, with some exclusive pictures and illustrations. We’ve got a match report for every game that season and it’s all done in ‘Arseblog‘ style, which I hope people will enjoy.
With hindsight it’s fun to look back and realise that what we were seeing was extra-special. Maybe it didn’t feel as good at the time because we were used to seeing Arsenal challenge for and win titles, but when you look back on it, it’s amazing to think they pulled that off.
The book is available here – http://shop.arseblog.com/featured/together-hardback.html – and the digital version is on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play and Kobo.
The Invincibles were a formidable side, a joy to watch. Having analysed the season in such great detail for the book, are there any particular games, players, or stories that really stand out for you?
I think the Liverpool game when Henry scored that hat-trick really does stand out. The previous weekend we went out of the FA Cup to Man United and the midweek Champions League exit to Chelsea was heartbreaking. The team were knackered and demoralised, so to turn around that 2-1 half-time scoreline and win 4-2 was an illustration of their brilliance and the incredible strength of character they had. It really was a once in a lifetime team.
Returning to our current squad. To emulate the achievement of going a season unbeaten is of course an unfair request, but winning the title is certainly more reasonable. Will our FA Cup victory be a pivotal moment for this group of players, much like the George Graham generation who reference the 1987 League Cup as a turning point?
It’s certainly not going to hurt, and I do think there was a lot of associated pressure on everyone because we hadn’t won something in so long. I’m convinced the performances against Wigan and Hull at Wembley – teams you would expect Arsenal to beat more comfortably – were a consequence of that, so with that gone maybe we’ll have a bit more freedom to play and perform.
Most of that George Graham side went on to famously win the title at Anfield in 89 and again in 1991 whilst losing only one game. Both title winning sides were captained by ‘Mr Arsenal’, Tony Adams. How important do you view the role of captain, and with Vermaelen often a substitute is a change needed?
I’m with Arsene Wenger on this one, teams need leaders all over the pitch and not reliant on one man to gee them up. Taking nothing away from Tony Adams, but I think the concept of that kind of captain is a bit antiquated. If that kind of man emerges, then great, but you shouldn’t be searching for him. They’re professionals who should be able to do their job without having to be told. Then again, Per Mertesacker seems like a good modern option to me if Vermaelen does leave this summer.
Finally Andrew, for anyone wanting to keep track of your views on how this summer is progressing they can of course tune in to the weekly Arsecast Extra which you host with James from Gunnerblog. And they can get involved too with questions via Twitter, whether it be about summer signings or which of Mourinho, Terry, and van Persie you’d like to see bitten by a rabies infected vampire?
Yes, the Arsecast Extra should be going all summer. Hopefully we’ll have plenty to talk about. And why make a choice between those three? The answer is: all of the above.
A massive thank you to Andrew for taking part in the first Q&A of the summer. I’m sure you’re all followers of Arseblog, but if not get yourself over there everyday, get following on Twitter (@arseblog), get listening to the Arsecast (and Arsecast Extra), and make sure you buy a copy of both ‘So Paddy Got Up – an Arsenal anthology’ and ‘Together: The story of Arsenal’s unbeaten season’.