Monsieur Salut writes: I decided against tempting fate by headlining one brilliant response from our French Gooner, Francis Peyrat*, because – as you shall see – it refers disparagingly to our charming, horse-whispering neighbours. So Qui est Francis? He’s lived in Arsenal territory for 20 years, loves his local club as much as any norf London Gooner but keeps an eye out for Rennes (and Bournemouth! Does that make him a glory seeker?). Francis is also president – the French are keen on that, but really it just means chairman – of Arsenal France, a stalwart band of French Gooners, naturally inspired by Arsenal’s French connections of recent times. Several of them get to games. Francis says it’s up to us to prove we are worthy of a point or more. What he thinks about the Mags should not intrude unduly on this focused but nervy edition of Who are You? …
Salut! Sunderland: Arsenal have, by most standards, had a fairly good season, strong in the league, in the FA Cup final and had a reasonable run in the Champions League. But is that good enough for Arsenal’s standards?
Francis Peyrat: It is not enough for a large number of Gooners although I reckon we had a pretty good run if we take into account that we had to deal with the building of the new stadium, the departures of some of our best players and the limited budget allocated to the coach.
Regarding the future and especially the next season, expectations are high now that we have put all these problems behind us. We had the possibility of being champions if we had been more consistent at the beginning of the season and it is something we can and should improve on next season.
Supporters of Sunderland usually have some connection with the city or the North East of England. How do you explain the existence of Arsenal France – just the Wenger factor or something deeper than that?
The Wenger factor is one key to our supporters club’s existence but we can’t leave aside the “Henry” factor. Most of our members are in their late twenties and grew up idolising Thierry Henry so they “naturally” became Arsenal fans. Most of the Arsenal games are shown on French TV so it also helps building a fanbase.
People in France do sometimes say Arsenal is the Premier Club’s French team. Is that how you see it, too.
I don’t think it is still the case nowadays. It was at the time when the likes of Henry, Pires, Vieira, Petit, Wiltord were at the club but it has changed a bit. French media like to put forward the “French” factor but I don’t think it is still relevant.
How many members do you have, are they mostly French or a mixture and how active is it in terms of attending matches or meeting up to watch televised games together?
We had 500 members for the 2014/15 season, a total of nearly 2,500 since our club was officially affiliated to Arsenal in 2007. We have a mixture of French speaking members: Belgian, Moroccan, Swiss but the majority of our members are French.
We organise a few events during the season so our members can meet to watch televised games although it is sometimes a bit complicated as they are from all over France. An average of 15-20 people attends each game at the Emirates.
But do you have a Ligue 1 (or 2!) team that you also support or is it purely Les Gunners?
Speaking for myself, I have been “following” Bournemouth and Rennes for a number of years.
Regarding our members, I would say most of them are Gunners only but are keeping an eye on PSG, Marseille or Lyon.
Whatever your view of his achievements, is Wenger past his use-by date or would you try to keep him to complete 20 years as manager (Sept 2016)?
Some want him out, some want him to stay. He will leave one day that is for sure but who is there to replace him? I personally would like him to stay as long as possible.
What stands between Arsenal and reclaiming the Premier League title? Is the league more important to you that the Champions League or less?
The missing key is consistency and not winning big away games. From my point of view, winning the league is more important that the Champions League. For our members, winning the Champions League is probably more important so Arsenal can finally get a “big team” stamp on their CV.
Who are the Arsenal players who have given you most pleasure?
Pires, Bergkamp, Adams, Henry to name just a few. Sanchez and Bellerin more recently.
And who should not have been allowed to wear the Arsenal shirt?
If you listen to Arsenal fans (especially French), not one of the players should have been allowed to wear the shirt!
Your best moment as an Arsenal supporter?
Being at the Islington town hall for the 1998 celebrations (double winners), the Invicibles season and winning the FA cup last year
I can’t remember any 😉
What do you know about Sunderland – the club, the city, the players, Dick Advocaat?
Having following the Premier League for a long time, I know the history of the club, the Tyne Wear derby, the promotion and the Premier League survival.
A club with such potential should not be fighting with relegation, there is a good mix of experienced and young players, the manager is well experienced. I hope the team will stay in the Premier League and that Advocaat will be given some time to be able to bring some consistency.
Have we flirted with relegation once too often or would the Premier League be a poorer place without us?
The league would be a better place without Newcastle 😉
What is you opinion of the Premier League vs Ligue 1, English referees vs French ones?
I am afraid I can’t really answer that question as I rarely watch Ligue 1 games but from what I hear from our French members is that the Ligue 1 is pretty boring to watch and that the referees are all crap. Not surprisingly, they say the same thing about the Premier League referees!
Do the English get too worked up about diving and feigning injury?
I don’t think so.
Check out the prize Guess the Score at https://safc.blog/2015/05/arsenal-vs-sunderland-guess-the-score-clean-sheets-and-clean-sweeps/
Assuming you will not be at the Emirates for this game, how will you watch or follow it? What will be the score?
A few our members will be at the stadium, other members will watch the game on TV as it is shown live. It could be quite an interesting game as both teams have something to fight for so the good news is that it won’t be a 0-0 draw but I’d go for a 2-1 win for the Arsenal.
* Francis Peyrat on himself: I am 47 and have been living in north London for 20 years. I used to work in the music industry, as a consultant for top restaurants and bars in London, but I am into a change of career, something involving photography. If only I could get paid for the work I do as the Arsenal France’s chairman!! Back in the 70s, my dad and I used to watch a sport show every Sunday on French TV called “Stade 2”. Five minutes were dedicated to the English championship! That’s how I discovered Arsenal, Liverpool and the other teams.
As a youngster, I liked Liverpool FC because of Keegan and Ray Clemence but quickly started to hate them when they beat St Etienne, my favourite team at the time, in the European cup. From then, I followed Arsenal and 20 years later I moved to Islington! I followed a girl who is now my wife. But mark my words, I changed the time of the wedding so as not to miss a match (we were playing Everton) – I also took care to have wedding drinks in a bar showing the match again.
Interview: Colin Randall