My Arsenal friend DT writes a blog called Gillespie Road. It's very good and despite being totally about Arsenal I enjoy reading it. DT suggested we should exchange previews for the forthcoming Arsenal v Fulham match so we have, DT answers my questions below and you will be able to read my responses to DT's questions soon on Gillespie Road.
DT maybe you could start by giving us a brief introduction to yourself and Gillespie Road?
I’ve been a gooner all my life. I honestly can’t remember not supporting them. My Dad is from the West Country, and is a Robin’s fan, but I was drawn into the gooner fold by my best mate. We’ve known each other for about 23 years, and as such I *think* that’s how long I’ve been an Arsenal fan. My Dad was always a big rugby supporter, Bath to be specific (his home town), but never really did the whole football thing with me, so I was left to my own devices on that front and ended up supporting the team my bezzie mate did. Rugby wise I am a Bath fan, so my Dad doesn’t feel like a complete failure. Gillespie Road is my latest project. I started a homepage back in the late 90’s that was a good grounding in basic HTML, but quickly lost interest in it. A few years ago, I discovered the Arsenal blog scene and became an avid reader of various sites. This summer, the whole transfer speculation thing, and the maelstrom of crap that surrounded TH’s departure really got on my wick. I had to do something. Gillespie Road was the answer – chucking my two bits out into the net is a great release. The readership is slowly increasing by the day, so I must be doing something right! I try and put a positive spin on things as well. There’s too much negativity from some ‘fans’ that have been spoilt by the Wenger years. If you think back to the mediocrity of the mid 80’s, we really should give thanks the last ten years have seen such a massive turnaround in the fortunes of the club.
What are your expectations for Arsenal this season and how do you think you'll cope with the loss of Thierry Henry?
Ah. The old Henry angle eh? I knew you’d ask that. Henry was never my favourite Arsenal player. I have massive respect for him as a player and I’m thankful he spent the glory years of his career at Arsenal, but for me, Dennis Bergkamp was always the one. Iceman was truly a genius. He may not have been as prolific in front of goal as the Frenchman, but it was Dennis who was the architect of so many of his goals. Thierry was a great Arsenal player – one who typified the Wenger ideology. But now he’s gone and we have to move on. Last season Thierry spent a lot of time out injured and I’m sure that had a negative impact on the team. Not because he wasn’t scoring the goals, but because the rest of the players weren’t sure what to do without him. The team was built around the way he played the game, and without him running the channels and producing moments of inspiration; the side looked a little lost. Also, when he did play, he was in a permanent grump. I think we’ll benefit from the loss of his negative attitude that pervaded his performances last season. It will allow players like Adebayor and van Persie to kick on to the next level as they will not be subject to “Le Stare” any more. It may mean a slight change in gameplan, but I think the team, on and off the pitch, know exactly how to affect this and we’ll prove a few people wrong – mainly all those that think the Spuds will finish fourth!
Of the new signings made this summer who do you think will make the biggest impact?
A lot of people will be looking at Eduardo da Silva to score a hatful like he did for Zagreb. I’d be surprised if he does. He’ll need time to settle and adapt, but I am expecting him to do well. Don’t get me wrong! For me though, the key player is Bacary Sagna. His interplay with Eboue/Hleb/Theo will provide the platform for many attacks. He has shown that he is capable of solid defence and good attacking play and the threat down the right could be comparable to the days of Pires and C*le. This will allow the likes of Eduardo the freedom to play their natural game and maybe score a load of goals. I’ll be surprised if Fabianski gets more than a handful of appearances, and Nordtveit is just too young and in experienced. I actually have a sneaking suspicion that there might be another signing before the 31st though.
Do you agree Eduardo da Silva looks like a member of 80's Mowtown popsters DeBarge?
I hadn’t actually thought so until you mentioned it, but yes. Oh my god yes!
What are you impressions of the new Emirates Stadium and how much do you miss Highbury?
The stadium is fantastic and it shows the direction the club is heading in. The vastness of it is so imposing for visiting teams, but it lacks some of the intimacy of Highbury. But I’ll warm to it. Sitting in the west stand of Highbury I could nearly touch the players, and I’m pretty sure they could hear me (specifically, above all the others) shouting, and that’s missing from the new ground. But we needed to move. For all the sentimentality Highbury held, it was not the place that was going to help propel the club into the next stage in it’s regeneration under Arsene Wenger. A new home was vital to the revenue generation and general impression the club needed to create. I take my hat off to the board members who listened to Arsene and help get the build done. The repayments are manageable and don’t really effect the boss’s budget for signings (despite what people say) and we can still turn over a profit at the end of the FY. Something the Glazer’s and Abramhovic’s of this world should take note of.
What are your views on selling the naming rights to the stadium, wouldn't you prefer it to have a proper name that would stay with it forever?
It already does. It’s The Grove. No one I know calls it “The Emirates”. I’m thankful for the money they paid to have their name plastered over it, but it’s not their stadium. It’s ours – the fans. We like “The Grove” and that’s what will remain after all the naming rights have been and gone. You know that Highbury was officially called Arsenal Stadium, right? As in the mystery film? Well, it was, but every single person in the world called in Highbury. Don’t be fooled by the media who have to call it by the “official” name, the only official name is what we the fans call it by consensus of opinion.
What is going on with that third strip you're about to release?
Hideous isn’t it? A money making plan and nothing else. Ironically similar to Barcelona’s home strip though isn’t it? Colour-wise that is.
How do you think Fulham will fare this season, and what was your impression of how we played under Coleman?
To be honest, I always though Coleman did a good job. Last season wasn’t anything to do with him, he just lost the players backing and they wouldn’t perform for him. Players will blame anyone but themselves, and a run of poor form will have them blaming the manager in a heartbeat. Once that happens, it’s a downward spiral. I thought Fulham were functional under Coleman – nothing more, nothing less. Sanchez has shaken things up a bit, but it’s always hard for a player to see a new guy come in and bring in his mates (Northern Irelanders in this case), knowing that this will change the team dynamic and create an instant clique within the ranks. However, his record as the N.Irish manager, and his work at the end of last season does stand him in good stead. Ladbrokes are quoting 4/1 for Fulham to finish in the top half, and I reckon that’s worth having a score on.
Who in the Fulham Line up worries you for Sunday?
I like Diop. He’s athletic, strong, has a good eye for a pass and can welly a ball. He’s also 8 foot tall or something. McBride and Kamara will also be a handful. Our centre backs aren’t particularly tall and have lacked positional awareness, so those two could cause problems. I’m afraid to say that a lot of the new Fulham boys are a little untested at that level of league football, so it’s hard to say who really stands out apart from the 3 I’ve already mentioned.
Your prediction for the score?
I think we’ll win it by a goal. It’ll be a cagey game, but a 2-1 or 1-0 is my bet. I’ll say 2-1 and go as far as to say van Persie will get both. He’s on form, and is just a top class player.
Finally, given the choice between selling out to a multi-millionaire owner who guarantees you a Premier League and Champions League double or continuing to play football the way you currently do and winning nothing which would you choose?
That is a tough one. My ideology against my desire for trophies? Hmmmm… I think when all is said and done its titles that matter. People talk about the Dutch side of the 70’s, but what did they actually win? Titles get you remembered. No one talks about the kids from the Carling Cup run now. That’s all swept under the carpet. If they’d won it however, it would go down in league history. Ideally, we’d win and be able to do it with style, à la the double winning sides of ‘98 and ’02, but out of the options you given me, success is more important. That said, Kroenke can sod off! And Ecclestone too. It’s so much sweeter knowing you’ve earned it. Are you listening Ch*ls** fans?