During previous international breaks ‘That Sums It All Up’ has had the honour of hosting Q&A sessions with some esteemed guests. I’m pleased to say the trend continues as I’m joined today by Carly Adno, a sports journalist at The Daily Telegraph and passionate Gooner, to discuss all things Arsenal.
Carly, before we discuss this season’s events, I’ll start as I always do with our guests by asking when and why it was The Arsenal for you.
Growing up in South Africa, most people either supported Manchester United or Liverpool. I was quite adamant about not supporting either and stumbled on Arsenal. It was around 1998 and a certain Swede had just been signed. The one and only Freddie Ljungberg went on to score on debut against Manchester United with a cheeky chip (he would score many more times against them!) and I was hooked. What a team that was.
It’s often a rollercoaster ride supporting The Arsenal, especially in recent years, but if you had to pick one magic moment and one magic player, what and who would they be and why?
You may have realised I’m a bit of a Freddie fan! That red mohawk, the song Arsenal fans sung for him – ‘We love you Freddie…’ – his quirkiness, that telepathic connection he formed with Dennis Bergkamp during the double season and those cheeky finishes. But the moment that stands out was his solo effort against Chelsea in the 2002 FA Cup final. That right-footed finish from outside the box, soared into the top corner and Lee Dixon nearly lost the plot as he celebrated behind the goals. Goosebumps.
Fantastic memories! Bringing things back to the current day; we head into this international break on the back of a slow start to the season, with 4 draws and 1 defeat from our opening 7 games. What have you made of our league form so far?
It’s been exactly that – slow. We scraped through to get those two wins, the draws were frustrating because we all know we should have won those games against Man City and Spurs, and the defeat to Chelsea was painful. Aside from injuries being our biggest concern at the moment, I’m also worried about Cazorla, Ozil and Sanchez. These are three top players who, when they arrived at Arsenal, were already rated among the world’s best. The Real Madrid players were devastated to lose Ozil, as were Barcelona’s to lose Sanchez. But why haven’t they reached those heights at Arsenal? I fear that the answer to that is they aren’t being managed properly, or they don’t have the right players around them.
The Champions League has provided a little more positivity to date, with qualification for the group stages and our impressive 4-1 victory over Galatasaray. Do you think we’ll progress from our group, and if so, will it be in top spot?
I do think we will progress – somehow we always seem to every year. It’s a record we should be proud of, too. We were excellent against Galatasaray and I think we all hoped that performance would be replicated in the League. Sadly it wasn’t, at least not against Chelsea. I don’t think we’ll go through in top spot – that will be Dortmund.
Focus is currently diverted by international qualification games. We have 5 players in the England squad, Walcott when fit would make it 6, and Ramsey takes our British contingent to 7. Are you pleased to see the return of a British core at The Arsenal?
It’s quite strange, isn’t it? We’re so used to Arsenal being criticised for not having enough English / British players. I think the Ox is going to be excellent, we know how good Ramsey is, and Calum Chambers is one of Arsene’s best signings. Walcott, well, it’s been so long since we last saw him, but he’s been very inconsistent. The last time Arsenal had a British core, those players were in defence. That’s probably what we miss – some hardened, English defenders or defensive midfielders.
As we touched on before, it’s been a tricky start to the league campaign, with Everton, Man City, Sp*rs, and Chelsea already played. It’s left us 9 points behind Chelsea and with both United and Sp*rs above us, so how important is it to go on a good run of form between now and the busy festive period?
It hurts to see Man United above us, given the horrendous start to the season they’ve had. Arsenal don’t usually do well after an international break, but I’m hoping we buck that trend. It’s going to be so important to stay in touch with the leaders between now and Christmas. We’re often near the top of the table around December time, but we’ve got a lot of ground to make up if that’s to be the case again. We’ve got Man United at home and Liverpool away before the new year and we have to back ourselves to get the three points against them.
Such a good run of form will require consistent match winning performances from our big players. Who has impressed you most so far this season and who has left you feeling disappointed?
Ramsey and Giroud were great up until they got injured and, though we haven’t yet seen the best of him, I’ve been impressed with Sanchez’s work ethic and heart. I actually think Cazorla has been doing pretty well too, as has the very impressive Chambers. Unfortunately Ozil has left many of us disappointed, as have Arteta and Flamini.
I’m not a fan of transfer windows and all they entail, but as we head towards year-end speculation will of course ramp up again. But looking back just for a moment, how pleased were you with our summer acquisitions?
For the first time in a long while, the transfer window was shaping up to be one that Arsenal fans would actually enjoy. Wenger was proactive and signed Sanchez early, giving fans and players a massive boost. Chambers and Debuchy were good recruits too and Arsene seemed to be on a roll. We expected more, we were quite sure there would be at least three more – one up front, a holding midfielder and another defender. It was obvious, wasn’t it, that we were still short in those positions? Alas, Wenger abruptly stopped splashing the cash.
And now looking forward again, what left you disappointed during the summer window, which you’d like to see addressed in January?
As mentioned above, Arsenal desperately needed to sign a holding midfielder and another defender. Yes, we have many midfielders (the reason given for not bringing back Cesc), but unfortunately they are all injury prone and our worst fears have come to light. With so many players out injured – too many to mention, even – we have been left short. As much as it’s bad luck, it’s also bad planning. Wenger simply doesn’t have a choice in January – he needs to add some steel to our squad.
Given you’d like to see a few more players bought in January, how vital will those signings be for achieving our goals this season? Or do you think we can compete for trophies without them?
We cannot compete for the title without a holding midfielder. Let’s be honest, we have never looked like competing for it since Vieira left and he wasn’t adequately replaced. Why did Wenger change his strategy? I remember when we had Vieira and Gilberto, even Edu and Parlour – it worked, we won Cups and titles. Now we’ve got attacking midfielders, many of them small and fragile. Chelsea had Makele and Essien, they now have Nemanja Matic (and Cesc), City have Toure – those players win you titles.
And finally Carly, you recently made your debut at The Armoury, the venue where the Arsenal Sydney supporter’s group watch games together, taking part in a Q&A session with Deb Spillane. How impressed were you with Arsenal Sydney and how important is it for us to have such a great Arsenal community here in Sydney?
It feels like we have a support group on hand. And we need it, given Arsenal’s propensity to cause cardiac problems. I was so impressed with the turnout at such a late hour and thoroughly enjoyed my first experience at The Armoury. I’ll be back!
‘That Sums It All Up’ would like to say a big thank you to Carly for taking the time to talk with us. It’s always great to spend time talking with other passionate Gooners, especially when so far from home; that we had the opportunity to talk with someone as passionate and talented as Carly makes it that little more special. If you don’t already do so, I highly recommend following Carly on twitter (@CarlyW226), where you can read more of her views on The Arsenal, as well as the A-League, and all things Australian and South African with regards to cricket and rugby. Thanks again Carly, and up The Arsenal!