For regular readers of the blog, you’ll know that I go to Arsenal games with super Gooner Bob, and sit next to the big man for every home game of the season… we travelled to South Africa together in June to watch the world cup and whilst I returned in early July, my dear friend Bob has just returned after an extended stay in South Africa and then a cameo of some sorts in Kenya. But now he is back, in time for the start of the season, I thought it would be apt to catch up with him and hear his views on the summer and the forthcoming season…
Bob, first of all, welcome back to London, how were your travels to South Africa.
The world cup was absolutely amazing – the way the South African’s conducted themselves and the organisation of the tournament itself was beyond any expectations. England of course, didn’t do as well as we all wanted – but as a subplot to the tournament, like a lot of people, I had a soft spot for the African teams and was glad to see Ghana go as far as they did – South Africa being unlucky not to progress – it meant a lot to a lot of people.
What do you think of the pre-season so far?
I managed to catch the highlights of the Emirates Cup last weekend and have been keeping tabs on the ongoings within the club and I have to say I have been quite impressed with some of the younger players. Wilshere is always a player to keep an eye out for – and in pre-season he always makes an impression – but Arsene moved him into the middle, and he coped well and impressed, especially in the game against Celtic. Frimpong is a player who looks like he’s surpassed Eastmond in the pecking order and I can see why Arsene is giving him game time this pre-season – he reminds me Alex Song, and looks like he could be part of the first team this season. A few mistakes with his passing I put to one side considering the amount of games he’s played.
What is your take on the Cesc saga?
I have to say that I am quite disappointed in the way that Barcelona and the Spanish players have handle the situation – I find it to be very unprofessional and inappropriate. In terms of the possibility of Cesc going back to Barcelona, he has always stated that eventually he might want to go “home”, but that was always something expressed in the context of his latter years. Let’s hope that the situation isn’t as bad as the media have made out – the media in Spain have really ground every ounce of controversy of out Cesc – the fact he is in Spain is enough for them to play on – the problem is that Cesc falls for a few traps as we’ve seen. I’d like to see him come out in his first programme notes if not before and let us hear his side of the story.
What do you think about the departure of Eduardo?
I have to say that on some levels, I was disappointed, as I think he has a lot more to offer – but after the injury he has sustained and the way we play, it was always going to be difficult for him to perform at this level. A fresh start for him will be a good thing – to a place where he can play week in and week out – so I wish him all the luck in the world.
And what do you think of Eduardo’s replacement, Maroune Chamakh?
I watched a lot of games featuring Maroune in France in Bordeaux and I have always liked the player. The one thing that he has in his locker is the off his ball movement. It’s a tough ask for anyone to be a hit instantly, especially players from a different league, but he will definitely have an impact sooner or later. His off the ball movement is probably one of his best attributes and makes it hard for defenders to track him.
There has been a lot of media speculation regarding the goalkeeping department – what are your thoughts?
Normally I’d say that it’s a fresh start for a fresh season – and to give players like Fabianski and Almunia a new chance to understand their mistakes and build on them and get better. But I think we’ve done for a few seasons in a row and the players are still making the same old mistakes. Almunia is a decent keeper, but I just don’t think he cuts it at the top level. Fabianski is definitely a talent, and has been good in pre-season, but at this level, our number one needs to be a solid one, not one with potential. I do rate the two younger keepers Mannone and Szcznesy, but they are both too young and inexperienced to be promoted from third / fourth to first choice.
So, based on the above and your general overview of the squad, what are your thoughts regarding future transfers?
Well, getting in that solid goalkeeper would make a good start – the two captures so far have basically replaced departing players, and maybe too early to really comment. A 35 year old keeper would be fine for a season, and I think that is why we have been linked to Schwarzer – although I’m not really convinced by him – will he be an improvement on what we have? He has been quite error prone recently.
The main position to buy is definitely the centre back position – we’re down to three and it’s a position where you need four or five. The German back line looked like a good outfit and I think we’re linked with one or two of them and their keeper – I wouldn’t mind seeing one of them being brought in.
My other worry in the striking department, where we have four decent players – Van Persie being the one that stands out – but the big question is whether any of them can be the 25 / 30 goals a season man that we need. There is a lot resting on their shoulders and VP aside, are the other three really world beaters?
Well, Bob, thank you very much for that, you’ve brought up some interesting points there, and let’s see what happens in the next few weeks transfer wise, until then, adios!
No problem, good to be back – keep up the good work down here at WOA, it’s my first read every day!