'A Good Going Rover' with Vital Arsenal
With a view to the game tomorrow I took time out to speak to Vital Arsenal's Timothy Stillman ahead of the big clash at the Emirates.
You know the drill VBers - pop the kettle on, watch me grill our rival friend and let the good times roll.
A good one this as well...
1) We are a handful of games into the season, hows it shaping up for the Wenger boys?
I happen to think it's looking quite good for us. We've been going with a 4-3-3 this season which I think has worked very well. It leaves us a bit open at times, but it accentuates our strengths and Wenger has always been the type of manager to focus on the strong points of his players and try and play to them.
Obviously defeats to the two Manchester sides have raised some question marks, but in an attacking sense we played very well in both games and should have taken more goals awayand a couple of points at least. However, the matches perhaps demonstrated we don't quite have the psychological intelligence to win the title. After we equalised at City we looked odds on to score but both our centre halves were in the opposition penalty area with the scores at 1-1 with twenty five minutes still to play. That's the sort of thing I'm talking about.
That said, all of the top four seem to have their weaknesses this season. The season has been anything but dull though with the Eduardo incident, the Adebayor furore, Wenger getting sent off at Old Trafford for kicking a bottle. Never a dull moment!
2) Is there any gaps in the squad that Wenger has failed to address?
I think the area most of us are concerned about is defensive midfield. I like Denilson and Song- particularly as a partnership. But Song will be at the African Nations in January, Denilson is injured now. If both are unavailable, we don't really have another player to step into that role.
A lot of people are worried about centre half too. Nobody quite knows if Senderos is the same player he was in 2006 whilst Silvestre is a bit of a whipping boy around these parts, injuries to Gallas and Vermaelen would leave questions.
3) Which player has impressed you the most from your side?
Vermaelen has settled very well, though there have been a few errors from him- but being the new boy he gets let off at the moment.
Personally, van Persie has impressed me most. He's been playing at the arrowhead of the front three and he's such a gifted player, technically excellent. But he's added a real altruistic streak to his game in the last 12 months where before he was a bit too much of an individual. (You guys of course will be well aware of that as he seems to have saved some of his best goals for Blackburn). He brings others into play and is so hard to shift from the ball. He's created more chances for team mates than any other played in the Premiership this season, which is quite a progression from the wonderfully talented, yet quite selfish played of two years ago. He's the sort of played that can win you a game in an instant and I can't think of a team in the world that wouldn't want him.
4) Anybody not pulling their weight?
Almunia has had a shaky start and the fact that he's been out for four weeks with a heavy cold is a diplomatic way of saying he's been dropped. But all players go through periods of bad form. Nobody has quite worked out Diaby yet, there seems to be a talented played in there somewhere but he's such a hit and miss played.
One minute he'll be swanning around four players as if they're not even there, the next he's heading the ball into his own top corner under no pressure. As ever, the criticism of him has been too harsh at times and with Denilson he'll get a run in the side now which he's never had before- largely because of injury.
Most Gooners have been harsh on Clichy too but the reality is that the 4-3-3 does leave the full backs a little exposed and Gael has Arshavin in front of him who's not exactly the most dilligent at tracking back.
5) Is there any player from Blackburn that you feel could cause you damage?
I've always liked Benni McCarthy. He's the type of played that frustrates the hell out of you and then goes and wins the match with his first kick of the ball. Diouf, despite being a quite unpleasant character, is equally capable of something special.
But from the little I've seen of Blackburn this season, a fit David Dunn is always a player to worry about. He seems to have a new lease of life playing just off a lone striker and if Blackburn produce anything dangerous tomorrow- I'll bet my bottom dollar he'll be heavily involved.
6) Whats your impression of Sam Allardyce?
I think I speak for most Gooners when I say I absolutely detest the man.
Obviously we have some history from his Bolton days where his teams would commit acts of balls out violence against us. That was annoying enough in itself but what was really loathsome was that it worked!
As a character I find him full of his own self importance and a paranoid, whining Machiavel. Not to say I think he's a bad manager though. Although some comments he made a few weeks ago about Rovers not being relegation candidates put undue pressure on you I think.
7) Where is realistic for Arsenal to finish this season?
We want to go for the title, Chelsea will lose a lot of players in January to the African Nations, Liverpool look more porous now they've gone for a more attacking style and the lack of pace in their centre halves is being exposed, United are going to have to replace Ryan Giggs one day.
I still think we're a little short for the title, we don't have enough players with experience of winning trophies like Chelsea and United do. I fancy us for 3rd and a cup. Manchester City I think will begin to fall away in the winter but they will threaten the top four seriously next season.
8) Which sides do you see being relegated this season?
I think Hull will go and I just hope they don't sack Brown before he comes back to the Emirates and we let him know how much we appreciated his Fabregas fabrication. Pompey look like dead men walking and the whole atmosphere of that club screams crisis. The last relegation place I think will be tightly contested between Birmingham, Wolves and Burnley. I fancy Wolves to drop. Blackburn will be comfortable I think.
9) Finally, can I grab a prediction for the weekends game?
Arsenal are on a roll at the moment just in time for the international break to disrupt us again. I see Rovers being stubborn, but with Cesc, van Persie and Arshavin all available, it's difficult to stop us scoring at the moment.
Rovers best chance is to attack the flanks, perhaps tuck Dunn out onto the right and encourage him to wander inwards. With Denilson out and Arshavin likely to be on the left, that will be our most vulnerable area. I'm going with 2-0 to Arsenal, van Persie and Diaby to score.
Let me be the first to say a big thank you to our good man Tim for a sterling shift in the spotlight.
I hope everyone enjoys the game tomorrow.