Sunday, April 01, 2012

"We don't need many new players, just some reshuffling." - Jamie Sanderson

Interview with Mr. Jamie Sanderson from the Young Guns Blog. He's also football writer for The Independent and associated newspapers.
Find him on Twitter: @YoungGunsBlog

Q. Arsenal has a pretty decent squad of young lads but do you think it's the lack of experience that has stopped Arsenal from winning the title for last 7 years?

     "The lack of success is all relative. Arsenal have been punching above their weight for a club operating with the sort of budgets that they have been, but in terms of trophy success, the lack of experience has ultimately been a key factor.
     Experience is all about knowing what to do in crunch situations, and when things have been tough, uncertain or new, Arsenal have not known what to do. You can see now that with Per Mertesacker and Mikel Arteta, while not exceptional players, they can control difficult situations with their experience: knowing where to stand, when to pass and when to hold it. The youngsters look good, but finding the balance has been a big problem for Arsenal."

Q. Earlier this season, former Arsenal manager George Graham said that if Arsenal finish in the top four, it'll be Arsene Wenger's greatest ever achievement. Do you agree?

     "All achievements are judged in different ways. Arsène Wenger has spent a lot of money and the wage bill has grown, despite the sale of big players, so it is not as if he has not had money or not spent it.
     The club did a lot of business in the summer, brought in some good players, and as a side who speculate to accumulate, they need the top four, and the manager knew it. It would be remarkable given the fact we were in 17th at one point this season, but Wenger should have signed players to get us into the top four anyway. As an achievement, you can't look beyond The Invincibles sides, that was special."

With our current squad, do you think we should be satisfied with a top four finish? Is the current squad on par with that of Man Utd and Man City?

     "In a way, because the squad has been overhauled and is in transition, so results will always be sketchy. But in terms of talent within the squad, we have enough promise, potential, experience et al, to be pushing for the title.
     It is all about avoiding injuries, some luck and good tactics and managerial decisions, but I believe when this side settles down, we will be right up there."

Now talking about Arsene Wenger, do you think he has been successful at Arsenal, taking into consideration the period after the 2005 FA Cup final. Do you believe any other manager would have done a better job?

     "Arsène Wenger has done a superb job at Arsenal. Remember that before him, Arsenal were in a lull. They were a shadow of the slick, beautiful and well run outfit we are now, and for that, he must take full credit.
     With regards to after 2005, a different manager would have done things a different way, but it is hard for me to believe the club would be in a better state. The club operate on a self sustainable budget, and understanding the roots and philosophy of Arsenal is key in managing the expectations and getting the decisions right, and I doubt few are better equipped than Wenger.
     We have a new stadium, world class training facilities and still compete at the top, while not over stretching ourselves financially. That is not just the work of a brilliant football manager, but also economist and more."

If you're given £100m to spend in the summer transfer window, who would you sign and who would you consider selling?

     "Arsenal are caught between two generations of players at the moment. There is the crop of players who have failed at the club, and are in the process of being cleared out, like Manuel Almunia, Carlos Vela, Nicklas Bendtner, Denílson, and a new wave of players - the newly signed or batch of prospects.
     All of those players listed need to go, on top of those clearly not good enough: Marouane Chamakh, Sébastien Squillaci and Łukasz Fabiański. I believe we have some excellent reserves coming through, like Ryo Miyaichi, Emi Martínez and Benik Afobe, and I would like to see them promoted to the first-team.
     On top of that, another forward who can play wide - I'm happy with Lukas Podolski, but also a central striker, who can be a live wire in the box and offer a more natural option. Perhaps Olivier Giroud of Montpellier, or Kevin Gamiero of PSG.
     Elsewhere, an experience fringe goalkeeper, like Bolton's Jussi Jääskeläinen, and an aggressive defensive midfielder, Yann M'Vila springs to mind. We don't need many new players, just some reshuffling."

Comparing the Invincibles with the current Arsenal squad, what do you feel is missing?

     "It is always hard comparing teams of different generations, because the situations are different. Most clubs in the world lack the type of qualities that side had.
     The main points the Invincibles had that this current side don't, is experience and depth. They both have/had strong team spirits, but the 2004 side had experience of winning together, and depth in the squad. Arsenal now have a good first XI, a decent bench, but beyond that, when we get injuries there is not a lot in reserve. We have too many fringe players who are not good enough, paid too much and short of confidence.
     The key to this current side gaining those qualities is another summer clear out, good age players with already some experience coming in, and then keeping the squad tied down to long contracts, so they continue to learn and develop together. That's harder said than done, though."

Q. An Arsenal player's name which comes to your mind when you hear these words :-

"Thierry Henry"
"Dennis Bergkamp"
"Tony Adams"
"Thomas Vermaelen"
"Laurent Koscielny"
"Sébastien Squillaci"
Bench warmer:
"Marouane Chamakh"
"Alex Song"

More thoughts:

1. Teams you think would finish in top 4 this season.
   "1. Manchester United 2. Manchester City 3. Chelsea 4. Arsenal is what I went for at the start of the season: 2011-12 Premier League predictions: What the bloggers say
I now think this is more accurate though: 
1. Manchester United 2. Manchester City 3. Arsenal 4. Tottenham"

2. The most memorable match you've been to.
   "Only been to one match where we won a trophy - Emirates Cup last summer. I was a VIP, invited by Arsenal and watched in a private box."

3. Your favourite stadium in England, apart from the Emirates.

4. The team you enjoying watching play this season other than the Arsenal.
   "Athletic Bilbao"

5. Goal of the season so far.
   "Van Persie v Everton. Class."

6. Match of the season.
  "Arsenal 3-0 Milan. I believed we could do it."

7. One word for Szczesny.

8. One word for Arshavin.

9. One word for Abou Diaby.

10. One word for Tottenham.


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