With the big teams – Sunderland and Arsenal – kept apart for the quarterfinals, the road is still clear for them to meet again in the FA Cup semis or final. This weekend’s dress rehearsal is on their territory, the sedate setting of the Emirates, as Sunderland warm up for all that cup glory to come. Wembley three times this season or just the once and survival? Better still, of course, would be three trips and 17th bottom or higher. Brad Smith* is our Arsenal volunteer – or was he volunteered? – in the “Who are You?” hot seat. Brad is the creator of the active and up-to-date forum of the less active Arsenalview.com blog. He sees us in dire danger but rates Gus Poyet. Let’s hope his prediction is right score, wrong way round …
Salut! Sunderland: All season, Arsenal supporters have had to endure the “they can’t keep it up all season” mantra, despite being top for most of it, but don’t results like the ones at the Etihad and Anfield have even you worrying?
Yes for sure. The performance at the Eithad was way ahead of the shambles at Anfield. The team played ok vs City and the scoreline could have been different with some slightly more efficient officiating. The game vs Liverpool was not great though. They simply blew us away in the first 20 minutes, and the worry is the mental effect that this will have had on the squad. The game vs Bayern Munich is the perfect opportunity to quickly banish any hangover.
The thing is, the level of attacking on the league is so high that these batterings are happening far more frequently than before. All of the top teams have taken a hiding over the last 3 years. I will say this though, you technically don’t need to beat the top 4′ we are so good vs the bottom 14 sides, that it still might be enough.
Arsene Wenger has been a terrific manager, attracting admiration – as well as a fair amount of derision – among neutrals. What would he have to do to change the club from being probable top four to probable champions?
Not much if I’m honest. We are very close. Perhaps a world class striker in the summer. Don’t rule out Arsenal being champions this season though.
How do you feel about Arsenal becoming as much a brand as a proper football club? Does it bother you that so many around the world profess allegiance to a club a lot of them would struggle to locate on the map?
Not particularly no. It’s the world we live in now. Not just football. The world is far, far smaller than it was even 10 years ago, mainly due to the internet. The fact our league is so widely supported is something to be proud of, and all of our teams have support that we wouldn’t have had maybe 15 years ago. Of course though, I wish we still played at Highbury….
What have been your own highs and lows as a supporter?
Highs – last minute title win in 1989, Cup double in 1993, Wenger’s first double in 98. Winning the league at Old Trafford in 2002. And of course the invincibles and clinching the title at WHL that season. I feel blessed as a supporter to have had so many highs.
Lows – Losing to Luton in the 1988 LC final. Losing to Wrexham in the FA Cup. The FA Cup semi final loss to United in 1999. We would have won the double again that year if Dennis scores that last minute penalty. Losing to Chelsea in the CL in 2004. We were easily the best team in Europe and would have won the CL had Wayne Bridge not scored that late winner. As a result, Mourinho possibly would not have gone to Chelsea. Ha, quite a few lows as well!!!
And who are the greatest players you’ve seen – or wish you’d seen – in Arsenal colours?
Dennis Bergkamp for me. My favourite. And changed the entire out look of the club. Brady I saw a couple of times. Merse, Rocky and Tony Adams were also big favourites. Henry, Vieira and Pires also massive players.
Who should have been allowed nowhere near Highbury or the Emirates?
Haha where do I start? Steve Morrow was the first player I truly didn’t rate at all. Eddie McGoldrick, dire. Of recent times, Francis Jeffers and Richard Wright proved no where near good enough. And in the last couple of season, Andre Santos was an absolute disgrace apart from maybe two games.
The shirt swapping with RvP at OT was his final act in an Arsenal shirt pretty much. Almunia was never good enough. And probably the worst of all, Mikhael Sylvestre. Terrible player.
Talking of Highbury, how much do you miss it?
THIS MUCH. Seriously. We all loved the place. The Library thing was a misnomer. On Euro nights the old place would rock. Some of my greatest football memories happened at Highbury. Ian Wright breaking the record, Adams goal in the league win vs Everton to win the league. So many. But we had to move on. The new place needs a trophy though.
Hillsborough 1973; Bergkamp’s goal in a Roker Park cup match; the bizarre game at Highbury when Paul Danson reffed like a Gooner and the 11 v 9 game was played almost exclusively in our half; the returning Thierry Henry’s winner. Which past clashes with Sunderland, home or away, stick out in the memory?
The first game of the season when Vieira was wrongly sent off, don’t remember the season. 2002 maybe (2000 – ed)? Think we lost 1-0.
And what is your honest opinion of Bendtner?
Nowhere near as good as he thinks he is, far better than everyone else thinks he is.
What was your own minimum expectation for this season and what will you end up with?
Top 4, and a cup run. I think we will finish top 3. I think if we beat Liverpool on Saturday, looking at the teams left, that we can win the FA Cup. But at the start, top 4 was minimum. Poor Man United 🙂
Give me the finishing top four in order. And the bottom three – no need to spare our feelings.
Top: 1 Man City 2 Arsenal 3 Chelsea 4 Spurs
Down: Cardiff, WBA, Stoke. It’s very tough though. You definitely could go down. But Poyet has done a good job. But Pulis, who I thought you should have taken, has worked a miracle at Palace. Cardiff are gone. But really it’s two from eight for the other two spots.
What inspires you about the modern game and what truly appals?
Nothing really inspires me. Maybe the sheer athleticisim of the players? Appals – pretty much everything. Money. Greed. The way supporters are treated. But we are to blame. We could all cancel Sky and not pay to go and it would die within weeks. Will never happen though.
Brazil: excited about it too much of a club man to care a great deal?
I don’t care about international football. I enjoy the World CVup though. Argentina will beat Spain in the final.
Will you be at our game and what will be the score?
No, it’s my daughter’s 4th birthday party. 3-0.
* Brad Smith on himself: you’ll find loads about him – he supports or takes an interest in four teams, for heaven’s sake (AFC a long way ahead but then Bournemouth, Brighton and Everton – at this Everton site: http://efcfeelinblue.com/the-view-from-the-gunners/
Interview: Colin Randall