Ahead of the first London derby of the season, I asked my good friend – and Arsenal fan – Rob Taylor to give us his views on Saturday night’s game, Arsenal’s prospects for the season and Fulham.
HammyEnd.com: Thanks for doing this Rob. First of all, what did you think of Arsenal’s summer transfer dealings?
Rob: I think we did pretty well in the transfer market, all things considered. There was a bit of a scramble for Aaron Ramsey towards the end of last season and, although he’s nowhere near the finished article yet, he’s a welcome addition to our midfield. Perhaps the biggest plus was the signing of Samir Nasri, a real talent, who proved his worth with a lovely goal against West Brom. If the Silvestre deal goes through then that will improve our defensive options – because the prospect of Senderos in central defence causes plenty of furrowed brows.
The Adebayor saga perhaps wasn’t as high profile as the Ronaldo one, but it did split the fans. I’m of the opinion that you shouldn’t keep players who want to leave the club – and it did seem that he was angling for a move. He’s signed a new contract now and in the fickle world of football that makes everything alright it seems. He’ll have to prove himself again to a section of our support and, to my mind, that’s only right.
HammyEnd: There seems to be a bit of pressure on Arsene Wenger at the moment. Surely you wouldn’t be calling for his head?
Rob: No, of course, not. He’s one of the most successful managers we’ve had and Arsenal would be mad to get rid of him. Yes, it has been a while without any silverware but the margins are so fine at the top level now. Had it not been for some horrific injuries at the end of last season, we might have gone further in the Champions’ League and won the Premier League. He’s intent on forming a side that plays to his style and it’s great to watch. It would be nice for us to win something this year, but the kind of Arsenal fans moaning on 606 now aren’t those who had to endure some of the turgid stuff we watched before Arsene came along.
HammyEnd: What are your realistic ambitions for this season?
Rob: It goes without saying that we’ll want to be back in the top four again, although a little closer to the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea this time round. I’m wary of predicting us to win the league because I’m sure if the squad is strong enough but we’d want to be challenging for the title. Success in Europe has always seemed to elude us of late so it would be nice to have a real tilt at the Champions’ League as well. I think the likes of Nasri will help provide a little bit more creativity and the prospect of him alongside Fabregas is really mouthwatering.
HammyEnd: What do you think of Fulham? Who will you be wary of ahead of the game?
Rob: I think Fulham are a good side, who struggled last year largely because of poor manager. Even with Sanchez in charge – and I know from our conversations that he’s not exactly popular with the Fulham fans – you came very close to winning at our place last season and I have to admit we were very fortunate to win that one. I like Roy Hodgson, too. He strikes me as a genuine man and a good manager.
He’s made some good signings too. Bringing in Andy Johnson was a real statement of intent – and we will obviously have to watch him if he plays on Saturday. I liked the look of Andranik when I saw him at Bolton, but Bullard is obviously the spark in central midfield. This might be treachery for a Gooner, but I thought Simon Davies had a great season last year and he could be a threat down the right.
I’m not sure Fulham will be comfortably mid-table but the end of the season but if Hodgson gets it right then I think you’ll be safe sooner than last season that’s for sure.
HammyEnd: So, what are your thoughts for the game? Can we trouble you for a prediction?
Rob: A lot depends on how we start the game. If we play the kind of stuff we’re capable of then it should be a reasonably comfortable win. But it’s never easy in a London derby and I remember Fulham winning a good game at the Cottage a couple of years ago so you can’t take anything for granted. With our injury list (it looks like Fabregas might miss out again), a point might be a decent result but I’m going to go for a 2-1 win.
HammyEnd: OK, thanks a lot, Rob. Enjoy the game.
Rob: No problem. You too – and all the best for the rest of the season to all your readers out there.