Opposition Q & A

This week West Ham return to the London Stadium where we take on an Arsenal team reeling from their home defeat to Brighton. We will be hoping for our first home win for months. Ahead of the game I spoke to lifelong Arsenal fan Andy Cross from prison charity St Giles Trust to ask him his thoughts on the recent events at The Emirates and the season.
It’s been a dramatic week down at The Emirates: where do you sit on the sacking of Unai Emery?
Sadly like nearly every other Gooner, I was just waiting for the when rather than if. We were playing so badly I was starting to feel sorry for the guy because I am sure he is a better manager than we were playing. I think he was just out of his depth.

Is it a case of be careful what you wish for regarding the sacking of Arsene Wenger, as you would be pushed to say that Arsenal are better now than they were under Wenger? Were you one of those fans who were baying for Arsene’s head? If so what are your thoughts now?
I wasn’t desperate to see Wenger go but I did feel we were on a downward path in his last season so was happy when he went as it promised a new start. We have a talented squad so its frustrating to see us play so poorly. We showed at the beginning of last season what we can do when it all clicks – it just hasn’t clicked very much at all since then!

Who would you like to see take over? Would you countenance having Pochettino in charge, given that he did manage to drag Spurs above Arsenal in the table after years of your dominance, or would that be too much to bear?
Nope, I have no shame on that front. I think Poch would be good for Arsenal. He may not have won much but he knows how to play well in the Premiership. I don’t have a preference, would be happy to see Arteta given a chance but the people in charge have a poor track record for making good, timely decisions.

One of the major criticisms of Arsene Wenger’s time in charge was that he didn’t strengthen the defence and midfield. Did Emery manage to do this to your approval? Which players that have been purchased in the past season or so to you think will still be there in 2 or 3 years time?

Ironically the best bit of business we did in the summer was obtaining Saliba from St Etienne. He will be a massive boost next season and with Rob Holding there is a future centre half pairing we can be happy with. Add Bellerin and Tierney to the mix and our back four looks pretty good. The problem is none of these have played much and our current centre backs are awful. Our midfield is weak too. Guendouzi will be immense next season but only if he is supported by quality alongside him. Wengers last decent midfield purchase was Cazorla and when he got his horrible injury our midfield was never quite as good again and we have still to find someone who can knit the transition from defence to attack the way he was able to. I think we will lose one or both of Auba and Lacazette in the summer, Ceballos wont hang around and I am praying that Xhaka, Ozil, Luiz, Mustafi will all be sent packing sooner rather than later. The other bright spot in our future is Martinelli, if we can hang onto him he will be a massive player for us in the next 2 seasons.

What would constitute a successful season for you given the start you have had? Where do you realistically think Arsenal will finish the season?
It already feels like a long season! Realistically if we can get into a Europa league spot then I think we can be satisfied we have salvaged something but that is a big if at the moment.

What position will West Ham finish the season?
Wow – there is a question. You could go either way to be honest which means I suspect you will sit neatly in mid-table and be looking for a new manager in the summer J

Who is going to win the League this year? And picks for the other three Champions League places?
Liverpool by a country mile. Followed by Man City. Leicester, Chelsea and Man U. will fight for the remaining 2 places.

Who are your favourites for relegation?
I think Watford and Norwich will struggle to escape the bottom three. My bet for the final place is Bournemouth. When they lose they play stinkers and they don’t have a big squad. I just think their luck might run out this season.

Any particular memories of Arsenal v West Ham games of the past?
One of the sadder moments from my younger days was the 1980 cup final and the joy from the previous years victory over Man U. crushed by defeat at the hands of Trevor Brooking. More recently, it’s the memory of Andy Caroll scoring a hat trick after we had been 2-0 up and we just about snatched a draw. Come to think of it I don’t have any happy memories of this fixture!

How will Arsenal line up against West Ham this weekend? Team/Formation please?
Bellerin, Luiz, Sokrates, Tierney
Xhaka, Torreira
Pepe, Auba, Martinelli

Are you confident that your (and for a short while, our) former player Freddie Ljunberg will garner a postive display form your team? Prediction for score?
Given the way it’s going this evening Jeff let’s say 3-2 to West Ham.

Ha-ha, you probably guessed that he replied to that question during their match on Thursday night. Many thanks to Andy for his time. Regardless of his prediction, I’ll go for a 2 – 0 win: all depending on whether we can score first. COYI

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