Q&A with Homey!By: Lachlan | August 2nd, 2012
Most of the current writers are quite busy at the moment, so luckily one of the blog legends has agreed to help out and contribute in the form of a Q&A type interview. For those of you who don’t remember Homey, around this time last season, he was one of the four writers, and specifically was the writer who was pushing for Arsene Wenger to be replaced as Arsenal manager. Homey managed to develop a lot of support for his views (those on the Homey train), but unsurprisingly he ended up with a lot of people who ‘politely’ disagreed with his views.
Anyway, on to the interview I guess.
Q: Tell us a bit about how you felt last season went? Especially from when you stopped writing onwards.
A: In the end, it was another season just like what we’ve gotten used to – Champions League qualification, a few exciting moments, but no trophies. We had an amazing run from about February to mid-April, which made us forget a lot of the recent spring collapses. But then there was the shocking spell at the end where we nearly gave away our spot to Spurs, and needed a little help and luck just to stay above them.
Q: Who were your favourite players from last season?
A: It’s a bit harder to type this now after his refusal to sign a contract extension, but of course RvP was my favorite player from last season. I also like what I’m seeing in Song’s game, and I’m excited about the future for AOC. Arteta proved to be very important for our season, and Benayoun was a nice surprise (for me anyway).
Q: Who were the players you didn’t think performed well?
A: I thought Ramsey would make a leap forward, and it’s disappointing that didn’t happen. Chamakh fell off a cliff, and we really had nobody backing up RvP. And I’m still not really sold at left back just yet, but maybe Gibbs can finally stay healthy and improve this year.
Q: I’m not sure how much you follow football other than Arsenal, but what do you think about Chelsea being triumphant in Europe (somehow)?
A: I had mixed feelings about that. I was pulling for them to miraculously get past Barca, which I didn’t do the last time they played. But that’s due to souring on Barca rather than liking Chelsea more. And in the final, I actually pulled for Chelsea a bit over Bayern. I just tried to think about the fans who were there before the money arrived, and the fact that they’ve never won the CL, but Bayern has multiple titles. It was also sweet to see Spurs get sent to the Europa League. Of course, it’s hard to root for Terry, Cole, and Abramovich, but at least Terry didn’t participate in the final, so that made it easier. Also, Chelsea’s success gives more hope to Arsenal. If they can finish below us in the league and still find magic in both the FA Cup and Champions League, then maybe we can find a magical run ourselves.
Q: What do you think of our two signings so far this summer?
A: I like Giroud a little better, but both signings are good value and should help. I only say Giroud because he seems like a more natural center forward if we continue to play the 4-3-3, and if RvP departs. I’m assuming Chamakh, Bendtner, and Arshavin will leave as well, or at least I hope that’s the case. If so, then Podolski and Giroud will both see plenty of playing time.
Q: And what about the Van Persie saga?
A: I can’t say I’m surprised. A lot of people want to label him as greedy, just like fans did with Nasri and many others. But I do genuinely believe him (and Nasri) that titles are important – especially for older players. I can’t really blame RvP for wanting to move on. Now we just need to get our business settled quickly, find any replacements, and move on. I’m quite sure Arsenal won’t enter the new season with RvP having less than a year left on his contract. It’s just bad business, and if management has shown us anything, it’s that they’re business people. So with that said, let’s just get on with it already.
Once I saw that he was headed for the exit, I started looking around and thinking about where he could end up, and what we could get for him. A lot of teams would need to offload a striker if they bought RvP, so I considered who is appealing and possibly available. My first thought would be to try to get Lukaku as a part-exchange from Chelsea, but it seems Chelsea never entered the bidding. I guess I can dream about getting someone like Welbeck back from Man Utd. I think we should at least try to have that conversation. That option excites me more than Dzeko from Man City.
Q: Given the current squad, and once injuries are taken into account, what are the areas of the squad that need some work?
A: This is the frustrating thing for me now. I look at the squad and don’t really see gaping holes anymore (even if RvP leaves), but yet I still don’t see a team good enough to challenge the big boys. That’s because we have a lot of good and really good players, but not a lot of elite players. There are a couple places like left back, backup right back, and central midfield where we could criticize our squad a bit. But my main hope at this point is not really to shore up depth, but to bring in elite-level thumpers at any position.
Q: Are there any players that you would like the club to go after?
A: Is it ok if I’m still hoping for Neymar? And I’m serious about that. If the club really wanted to pool its money together and put forth a serious bid, something like that could happen. But since we have to talk about the real world, I really like the Sahin rumors. Here was a guy who was voted as the best player in the Bundesliga just over a year ago. If we pick him up on a year-long loan, that works too because it gives us another year to see what the future holds for Wilshere, Ramsey, Aneke, and Coquelin. Also, if RvP and Bendtner both depart, then we’ll need another center forward, but I’ll assume Giroud is penciled in as the starter. And Podolski could be the backup at that spot while still playing some on the wing, so we might be ok. I don’t really see any truth to rumors linking us to players like Jovetic or other high-priced players.
Now some predictions for next season:
Q: Will the top four change?
A: Last year I predicted the top four to be Man City, Chelsea, Man Utd, and Arsenal, although I don’t recall the order of my two and three spots. I missed it a little bit, but at least got the champion correct. I think Chelsea could make a run at it again with the players they’ve added. But I’ll go ahead and pick my top four as I picked it last year.
Q: Who will win the league?
A: Oops, I just answered that one. Now that City has proved they can win the big ones when they need to, they should be a little more confident entering this season. I’ll stick with them until the money dries up.
Q: Who will be Arsenal’s top scorer? What about the league?
A: Since I see Giroud as our starting center forward, I’ll pick him. And I still like Aguero a lot, so I’ll pick him for the league. The only problem there might be that there’s so much depth, he might not be an automatic starter the way RvP was for us last year.
Q: Are there any players you expect to have a real breakout season?
A: I was surprised that AOC didn’t get more playing time at the end of last season, after he showed a lot of quality in the time he had. I think he’ll earn a regular spot and be one of the top players this year. It would be ideal if Ramsey and Walcott took their games to another level. Ramsey in particular, because I’m not sure when Wilshere will get back to full speed. I also look for Coquelin to be a steady contributer in the future, especially due to his ability to play multiple positions.
Q: Will this finally be the year that Arsenal break the trophy drought?
A: I don’t see why this year will be any different, especially since we appear to be losing our best player from last year. I expect us to start the year on more solid footing than last year’s debacle, but I still don’t think we’re good enough to win a trophy. The Carling Cup would be our best hope in theory, but with a youth-first mindset there, that one becomes unlikely too.
Q: Do you think we will tinker with the formation at all this season?
A: I saw a fan blog a while back suggest a 3-5-2. I did some thinking on that and decided that wouldn’t really suit us either way. One way to do it would be a really compact back line, with the midfield wingers taking up more defensive roles. In that case, Vermaelen could be the left back, Kos could be in the middle, and Sagna on the right. The problem there is that our wingers aren’t really defensive stalwarts, and we’d have trouble dealing with opposing wingers. The other way to do it would be to spread out the back line, use Gibbs/Santos and Sagna, but then leave two of our main three central defenders on the bench. This formation would probably require the addition of someone like M’Vila to really shore up the defensive middle. Again, I don’t see this happening because it sits a couple of good players on the bench.
So turning to something more realistic, the 4-4-2 has been discussed. I think we’ll see some of it. Our personnel fits it a little better, with a good group of wingers and two solid options up front. It also might make more sense if Wilshere struggles to come back from injury, leaving us short in the central midfield. Then it could just be a Song-Arteta pairing as our preferred central midfielders.
Q: What we all most want to know (well I do at least), is do you still think Wenger should be replaced?
A: Sure I do. I don’t know why my opinion should change in the last year. Last season, we were incredibly unprepared for the start of the season, relied on the amazing form (and unexpected health) of one player, got a little luck from Spurs at the end, and still finished the year without a trophy. This summer has been slightly more promising, but I can already see where things are headed in terms of transfers going down to the final week of the window and losing our best player.
I have great respect for what Wenger has done in the past, and we could certainly do worse. However, our club is the tenth most valuable sports franchise in the world, according to a recent Forbes report. And it’s the fourth most valuable soccer club. Despite the fact that a few smaller clubs have sugar daddy owners, I still believe we should aim a little higher. Does any fan realistically think we’ll compete for a major title this year? Or next?
A lot of fans want to point to the budget and say that we’re doing it right, and the rest of the world is wrong. Perhaps so. But here is a list of things that Wenger could do in the transfer window while still “doing it right”:
1) Stop keeping “powder dry” every single year. It’s one thing to have a sustainable business plan. It’s another thing to hoard money every year. All reliable sources, including members of the Arsenal board, have consistently told us that there’s a pile of extra money available. Now I don’t advocate blowing money just to blow money, but there’s no sense in not being as ambitious as possible with the money available.
2) Stop leaving transfer business until the final weeks of the window, after the season has already begun. Some people will tell me that these things are so complicated and shrouded in mystery. And that we can’t just snap our fingers and make things happen. However, when pushed against the wall last August, we made multiple deals happen within the last two days of the window. I wish we had some self-imposed urgency that said all major deals need to be completed at least ten days before the start of the season.
3) Stop keeping an unwritten rule that says we’ll never spend more than about £15 million on any one player. Wenger certainly doesn’t mind selling players for a lot more than that, but yet we never buy anyone for more than that. And yes, I understand that sometimes cheaper players end up great, like half of Newcastle’s squad last year. And sometimes expensive players flop, like half of Liverpool’s players last year. But still, as a rule, expensive players are better players than cheaper ones. I know, I know, that’s a shock. It wouldn’t hurt to occasionally go out and really invest in someone of elite quality for a high price. I would happily give up a little depth in the squad and play some of the younger players if we could have a couple more world-class options on the field. I think it would also do wonders for players like Nasri and RvP to see major additions coming in, and I think it would cut down on the number of transfer requests we’re seeing on a yearly basis.
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