Arsenal ‘Who are You?’: out with Wenger, fond of SAFC, don’t care about Spurs

Jake has ways of making them talk
Jake has ways of making them talk

Quaking in their boots in expectation of a heroic bounceback from 8-0 – or breezily confident, after coming from behind to beat Anderlecht on Arsène Wenger’s 65th birthday, of adding to our woes? We’ll soon enough find out which Sunderland and which Arsenal turns out. Nigel Payne*, our Arsenal ‘Who are You?’ interviewee, is a sports marketing consultant and well-known figure in horse racing (co-owner of the 1998 Grand National winner Earth Summit, chairman of the Professional Jockeys Association and a former communications chief at Aintree). Expect strident views on Wenger, warm thoughts on Sunderland and Poyet … and an eccentric score prediction …

Salut! Sunderland: We’re all smarting from the hammering at Southampton. Any thought of how this may affect Saturday’s game?

Nigel Payne: There is absolutely nothing worse that meeting a team off the back of a good beating. On Saturday the Black Cats will be playing for their lives and I now believe a Sunderland victory is almost inevitable to be honest.

Arsene Wenger? I admire him but not all Arsenal fans do. How do you assess his reign and is it now time for change?

Sadly I have lost all respect for Wenger. He is tactically naive and his transfer dealings are very questionable. His arrogance and hubris is beyond belief. Sure he did a good job indeed a superb job but he is now well past his sell buy date

Arsene1Photo: Tim Boyd

We turned Danny Welbeck into a decent player and he is already doing the business for you? Good buy?

He was number three or four choice and I am not convinced Wenger really wanted him but I do think he could be the real deal given time. One thing for sure , I prefer him to Giroud

Is your period of underachievement in terms of trophies coming to an end or does it depend on who is in charge?

No, sadly not. The FA Cup win was great but Wenger’s tactical failures nearly cost us both the Semi-Final and Final. We will win nothing more with Wenger.

Could you envisage supporting a club that didn’t expect to win most games?

Easily. If you support a club that is it in my book. Arsenal were pretty poor in 60s.

Your honest thoughts on Tottenham?

Could not care less. I am not a hater and I find that side of football tribalism quite distasteful to be honest.

Jake expects 1-0 in that order, or better, on Saturday
Jake expects 1-0 in that order, or better, on Saturday

* See also: Sunderland vs Arsenal Guess the Score – win two SAFC or Arsenal mugs PLUS a commemoratve box of After Eight mints

What have been the highs and lows of following your team?

In the late 1990s and early 2000s with the great players we had , our football was a joy to watch. Pires was my favourite but Henry, Bergkamp, Lundberg and of course our Invincible season was magical.

And who, from a long list, are the greatest players you’ve seen or wish you’d seen in Arsenal colours?

Henry, Bergkamp , Pires, Adams, Vieira, Petit, Seaman – I loved those guys.

Again from a potentially long list, who should have been allowed nowhere near the colours?

This is a long list too. Jeffers, Bendtner, Stefanos (probably spelt wrong). We have had a host of rubbish defenders to be honest, and present day Sonogo ( who I call Ha Ha not Ya Ya )

Where are you currently strong and which positions still need attention?

Plenty of good midfielders but they are easily bullied. We are hopelessly light at the back and are in desperate need of a holding midfielder. Wenger let us down badly in the last window.

Were you surprised at how awful we were at your place last season and/ or by the astonishing escape act we managed?

Yes I expected better from you . I think avoiding the drop was astonishing but let’s be honest. Sunderland belong in the top flight, as do the other North East outfits, Newcastle and Boro, but I guess you guys don’t want to hear that from me.

Any thoughts on Sunderland – the club, fans, city, region, Poyet?

Always had a soft spot for your team to be honest. One of the great clubs with history (unlike Chelsea!). I like Poyet a lot and admired him at Brighton. Often thought he might end up at The Emirates. I love his passion.

Jake: 'let's hope we can still trust in Gus'
Jake: ‘let’s hope we can still trust in Gus’

And do any past encounters stick in the mind?

Not really to be honest

What will be this season’s top four and the bottom three?

Chelsea, Man City, Man U and possibly Arsenal but I am not confident. Burnley who don’t have the resources, and QPR who are in a financial hole are certainties and Palace would be my likely third for the drop .

If not already mentioned, where will our two clubs finish?

We will be 4th 5th or 6th and you will be midtable in my view – something to build on for you.

Which single step could your club or the football authorities take to improve the matchday experience?

Reduce catering prices. And for a new stadium, toilets (at The Emirates) are very poor. Will clubs never learn?

Have diving and other forms of cheating become so commonplace that we may as well give up and write them into the coaching manuals? If not, how do we stamp it out?

It is easy to stamp out and like time wasting. If referees had more bottle and issued more red cards that would end both – they are both cheating.

Brazil 2014. Good memories or already forgotten?

We were never going to qualify in my book. The whole tournament was very, very disappointing and the winners were worthy but hardly exceptional. It was probably the worst Brazil team in history. The highlight was the Yanks doing better than us!!

Will you be at our game and what will be the score?

Good question as I had two tickets but have some late family commitments. Today I have sent my tickets back to the Box Office. Shame. The way Arsenal played on Saturday (2-2 at home to Hull City) you will have no worries – no defence whatsoever. We looked much more like a bottom four club than top four. Wenger, who is entirely to blame for this critical situation, will of course blame our trip to Belgium on Wednesday after you have won 2-1, my revised score prediction (Nigel was writing before Arsenal’s win and had previously opted for another 2-2 – Ed).

Nigel Payne, by Nigel Dan Abraham,
Nigel Payne, by Nigel Dan Abraham,

* Nigel Payne on himself: I have supported Arsenal all my life. My first match was 1953 and I am a long time season ticket holder. As a family we have four (my two sons have one each). I live on Bodmin Moor and travel to all home games and a lot of away including Europe. The club costs me a small fortune but, as all real fans know, the price is never too high. Sadly clubs know this too!I am a self employed sports marketing consultant specialising in horse racing. I often yearned to handle the communications for Arsenal which can be sadly lacking but this was not to be.

Interview: Colin Randall

Jake invites support
Jake invites support


Still time to vote for Salut! Sunderland in the Football Blogging Awards: see details

5 thoughts on “Arsenal ‘Who are You?’: out with Wenger, fond of SAFC, don’t care about Spurs”

  1. I used to like going to Highbury William. It was very similar to Roker Park in many ways of course. That was probably part of the appeal.

    I would go up there during the time I lived in London if it wasn’t practical to get to watch the lads play. Arsenal have always been a good club and have had their fair share of exceptional players over the years too (unlike us).

    I do find it a bit rich that some of their fans are grumbling about the manager when the bloke has had them quality for European football for the last 17 successive seasons.

    I wonder how long he’d last if the Gunners fans had endured two successive Saturdays of self destruction and humiliation?

    Ten goals conceded, none scored and ‘nil points’.

  2. Nigel sounds like a nice guy. I totally agree with his distaste for football tribalism, which seems to have got worse in recent years, and, IMO , is utter stupidity.

    Diving – another horrible fairly recent phenomenon – can be better stamped out by managers than referees. Brian Clough would not have tolerated it.

    I like Arsenal, and I have always admired Arsene Wenger, but I do rather agree that a change of manager might be in the Gunners interest. I think that his [ AW’s ] philosophy doesn’t place enough value on midfield players who can win the ball back, or on defenders who can defend set pieces.

    There also seems to be a lack of leadership in the squad – much like Sunderland.

    My memorable Gunners go back a bit, compared to Nigel’s. I rated Frank McLintock, George Armstrong,Frank Stapleton, and Alan Ball in his Arsenal days, but I do agree that his list were great players.

  3. Stefanos? So poor in fact that you couldn’t remember his name.

    Igor Stepanovs, is the player I am sure you are referring to.

  4. A well put and honest appraisal form a dedicated supporter. The Wenger question certainly does seem to split the fans. However all success is relative and I would probably settle for half of their failures right now and see it as a success.

    We still have long way to go, if we ever make it, but it’s the hope I can’t stand, for without it what’s the point. We have to believe that one day we will be back from the wilderness.

    Keep the faith. FTM

    Ha’way me bonnie lads!!

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