As we get ready for our trip to North London on sunday we asked Arsenal fan Hendrik Kleinsmiede to give us his thoughts…
- How do you think Arsenal’s pre-season has gone?
Usual Arsenal pre-season: a bit of everything! Victory, mediocrity and frustration in equal measure! Pre-season started off meaninglessly, with two victories against Sydney teams Down Under. Then some sterner opposition in the form of perennial foe Bayern Munich (in Shanghai), who usually stuff us into oblivion (cf. two Champions League humiliations last season). But this time we achieved a respectable draw after a 93rd minute equaliser by Alex Iwobi! Things took a turn for worse in Beijing a few days later when we went down 0-3 to Chelski with us Gooners all fearing a hint of the season to come. Next came the annual Emirates Cup (now in its ninth year), which was also a mixed bag. A breath-taking, scintillating 5-2 victory against Benfica on 29 July was followed the next day with a 1-2 defeat against Savilla (mitigated only slightly – somewhat bizarrely ! – by still winning the actual tournament itself!). We saved the best ‘til last, however, by revenging our pre-season defeat against Chelski by beating them on penalties in the Charity Shield curtain-raiser. Second time in four months we took silverware off them. Result! So, a mixed pre-season that finished on a “high”. If I had to plot our pre-season on a graph, it would be an upward curve, however (always the optimist!).
- Any new signing we should keep an eye on, or someone from your youth team coming through?
Yes, Alexandre Lacazette. His stats say it all. Signed from his hometown Lyon, he was the most prolific striker in France over the previous four seasons with 91 league goals. He scored 28 times in just 30 games in the 2016/17 season and averaged close to a goal every two games for Lyon, scoring 100 times in 203 league matches. Here’s hoping he can reproduce some of that form in the EPL…
- Arsene is still there….how do you feel about that? What do you think he needs to do next?
How do I feel about Wenger? Mixed feelings. On the one hand, I am grateful for the way he has revolutionised the club; delivering three Premier League titles (including two “Doubles”) and six FA Cups, as well as a magnificent new stadium. On the other hand, his Arsenal teams over the last 10-11 years have been predictable and have woefully underperformed. “Same old Arsenal” indeed! Even our inconsistency is predictable! I fear that in the age of new, proven, younger managers – like Comte; Guardiola and your very own Klopp – Wenger is a bit of an anachronism. (As is Mourinho at Man. Utd!). Part of me would like to see Wenger replaced by proven pedigree. But another part of me is also fearful of what tends to happen when longstanding managers go. Usually, a period of mediocrity and instability ensues (cf. Man. Utd. When Alex Ferguson left). But on balance, I think it is probably time to say “thank you, but goodbye!”.
- Arsenal vs Liverpool – what do you expect from the game?
It’s always a funny fixture…often with unpredictable results. At times you have been our bogey team. We have had periods of routine and justified beatings. At other times, we have achieved remarkable victories at Anfield, most famously, of course, winning the league there on 26 May, 1989 with Michael Thomas scoring in 91st minute! But this time, I think I’ll settle for a draw: 1-1.
- Finally, where do you expect Arsenal to finish in the league this season? And what about Liverpool?
Neither team has won the League for aeons! The last time we (Arsenal) won it was 2003-04 season and I believe Liverpool has never won it. If memory serves me well, 1990 was the last time you won the League (and that was before it rebranded as the “Premier League”)…some 27 years ago, when I was still at Uni! In all honesty – and all partisanship aside – I fear neither team is good enough to win the Premier league. Both sides lack depth and quality. Both of our sides face uncertainty over star players – Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) and Phillippe Coutinho (Liverpool) respectively. Virgil van Dijk will be a good (if expensive!) signing for Liverpool, but not enough to help the ‘Pool go the whole way. At least not yet. I believe Arsenal and Liverpool will battle it out for third and fourth place respectively – either could occupy either place. Sadly, I think the two Manchester teams will finish above us both. L But at least we’ll beat Chelski and Spurs into 5th and 6th position respectively!