As we are facing the Black Cats this weekend it reminded me of past collaborations I have done with Colin from Salut Sunderland before other games between us, so I thought I’d check out to see the “View from the Enemy”. Ahead of this game Colin has run an interview with Andy Sixsmith, who is a sports presenter for Made in Tyne and Wear TV. Andy has spent his life up in the North East, but has always been an Arsenal supporter, so it will be interesting to hear his views on the game..
First of all, let’s hear how Andy became a Gooner….Let’s get one thing out of the way immediately. I’m a North Easterner born and bred, yet an Arsenal fan… Why, I hear you cry?! Well, dad’s a Sunderland fan, mum’s a Newcastle fan – growing up, I always wanted to be different, so plumped for Arsenal. There’s been highs. There’s been lows. Then I think we could be staring relegation in the face each season and thank my lucky stars. Even if it is like watching the footballing equivalent of Tim Henman; there’s never really a dull moment and your heart will general skip 20-30 beats per match.
So here is the interview…..
Salut! Sunderland: The more you look at the top of the Premier, the more anyone but a Leicester fan or out-and-out romantic sees it as a two-horse race between Arsenal and Man City. Your thoughts?
Andy Sixmsith: I hate to say it, as I love what’s been happening at Leicester this season, but the title is a two-horse race. A lot of people you may speak to hate the unpredictability of the Premier League as it stands, but I think it’s tremendous. Who wants to see the same old teams battling it out every year anyway?
Claudio Ranieri has done a magnificent job at the King Power, especially in his first season. Vardy & Mahrez have of course been sensational but N’Golo Kante has been the signing of the season for me. Sadly, they will drop off as the months wear on, but I still see a top six finish for the Foxes, which would be incredible.
As for the title, my heart says Arsenal. My head says City. Pellegrini’s men still have the likes of Kompany, Aguero and Silva to return to full fitness and in my eyes are more likely to string a few results together than a sometimes fragile Arsenal side. The regret for me is, that Arsenal will never have a better chance to win the Premier league and send Arsène Wenger out on a high, but I just can’t realistically see it.
But this is a cup game. You’re the holders but it sometimes seems Arsenal fans – those who feel it is and has been for a while time for a managerial change – disregard the FA Cup as meaningless. Has it lost its value for you?
For me, a trophy is a trophy. I’m the type of person who strongly believes that if you’re in it, you’re in it to win it, especially for a club of Arsenal’s history and pedigree. We have a rich history in the FA Cup, especially under Arsène and it’s a competition I’d love to see us win for a third consecutive time.
Having said that, there are many Arsenal fans that don’t see it the same way and I can partly understand that from the point of view that the FA Cup should be one of four trophies we should be in the mix for, with the squad that’s been assembled. I don’t think they devalue the Cup as such, but see it as the very least we should be winning when Arsène can field the eleven he can most weeks. That, I can understand and agree with, but for me, the FA Cup retains its importance and here’s to another win this season!
“One-nil, two-one, three-one and you still don’t sing”. I still have the Sunderland fans’ mocking chants ringing in my ears. What does it take to make the Emirates feel and sound like a football stadium and not a library?
We’re a strange bunch, Arsenal fans. Our home support is patchy. Our away support is arguably among the best in the league. I think the crowd noise at the Emirates is largely reflective of what we see on the pitch; you rarely see an Arsenal side at home dominate from start to finish, plenty of chances, plenty of goals. Once every now and again, but rarely. The team tend to dip in and out of matches and that feeds into the stands and the subsequent atmosphere.
So team performance is necessary, but as for the other reasons, I’m left scratching my head. I’ve always been brought up to loudly support any side I support, whether it be Arsenal or the Leeds Rhinos in rugby league (I had to get that in somewhere…) whether they win or lose. So to hear the Emirates as quiet as it is sometimes, is pretty disheartening!!
Ozil, Giroud, Sanchez .. thee list of current Arsenal quality is long and impressive but how do they compare with the Invincibles and other great Gunners of the past?
Individually, they’re right up there. The three you mention, particularly Ozil and Sanchez are among the greatest players we’ve seen at Arsenal – Ozil’s footballing brain is up there with some of the best I’ve seen and you can’t help but love Alexis’ work rate and tenacity to mix in with his undoubted talent.
What they lack where the Invincibles didn’t is that backbone, that team ethic that made us such a feared side at the turn of the Millennium. There are signs that it’s starting to manifest itself in this current generation, but whereas once upon a time, you knew that if Henry, Bergkamp, Pires or Vieira didn’t perform, Kanu, Wiltord, Ljungberg or Petit would, the same can’t be said of this group. Having said that, there have been signs over the last 12 months that that same mentality is starting to develop and it can only make for a positive future at the club.
Who, for you, has been particularly important to the side this season and where do weaknesses remain?
Two names stand out for me this season. Petr Cech was lauded as a potential title winning signing and we’re starting to see that now. He’s added stability and reassurance to a back four lacking just that in recent seasons and his performances between the posts never need any questioning. For me, still one of the best in the league and a major reason why we’re at the top of the tree heading into 2016.
Undoubtedly the other is Mesut Ozil; the lad’s taken a fair bit of flak at times for his lackadaisical style and apparent lack of work rate. But i think people are starting to see this season just what an impressive footballer he is. Arsène’s not a man to splash out £42 million on just anyone and Ozil is quickly repaying that. His eye for a pass is outstanding, his unselfishness unrivalled and we’ve seen a more determined player this season now too. All ingredients to make him a strong contender for player of the season.
Weaknesses? I still think we lack a world class forward. Olivier Giroud does a superb job, but he misses more than he scores. When you have a player in the side like Ozil who creates on average five chances a game, a world class striker unlike Theo or Olivier would be netting 30 a season.
There also remains a question mark over mentality. We look stronger, but recent results against the likes of Southampton and Olympiacos in the Champions League show we’re not there yet and are still as likely to throw in a terrible display as we are a good one. Infuriatingly inconsistent and it may still cost us this campaign.
And give us your honest assessment of Monsieur Wenger (much admired by some of the Salut! Sunderland team, M Salut included, but often derided by Gooners?
What can you say about the man that hasn’t already been said? He’s transformed Arsenal and transformed the way many of us look at English football since arriving in 95. Yes, he has his flaws; his stubbornness has at times earned him the ire and frustration of fans, both in team selection and signings or lack of, but the positives vastly outweigh the negatives.
His longevity, his one-way views of playing football the right way and his ability to spot talent in a player that many have missed are all admirable qualities, but it’s the way he’s steered the club both on and off the pitch through such an important time in moving stadiums makes him the greatest manager this club has seen and one of the finest English football has ever witnessed. To consistently produce top 4 finishes with a limited budget and pressure on him from the stands is an incredible and often ignored feat.
A wonderfully genial man, an Arsenal icon. He’s still the main man for me.
What have been your own highs and lows as an Arsenal supporter?
Easy one this. High – the Invincible season. I’ve never seen a side like that and probably never will again. To go through 38 games unbeaten in a league as competitive as ours is a feat that won’t be repeated.
Lows – there’s a couple! Losing to Chelsea in the Champions League quarter final in 2004 to a late Wayne Bridge strike still sticks out. That for me, was our best chance of finally winning that competition with the strongest side I’ve seen at Arsenal. Losing to Barcelona in the 2006 final was pretty awful too, especially in the manner we did. Every time we lost to a Mourinho led Chelsea was like a knife in the stomach too.
And the best players – and worst – you’ve seen in Arsenal colours?
Best? When I was young, Tony Adams was just starting to get over his off-field problems; one of the finest leaders I’ve seen on a sports field. Robert Pires was always a firm favourite of mine; a wonderfully gifted player, often overshadowed by one of the greatest players ever to play for the club in Thierry Henry. He was a joy to watch, goals, assists, power, pace, threat; he had absolutely everything and more importantly, adored the club. Of the current crop, I’m a big fan of Laurent Koscielny and Alexis Sanchez – both integral to the side and as committed as they are talented.
Worst? Again, a few… Pascal Cygan was so bad he became a cult hero. Igor Stepanovs looked like he’d been signed straight out of the Sunday Leagues. And that’s probably being disrespectful to the Sunday Leagues. Silvestre was one of the most odd signings I’ve seen Wenger make. I could go on with this one, so I’ll stop there.
With all your North-eastern connections, you must have thoughts on the region’s football, past and present. Share them
How long have you got?! I think the two are interconnected. The fact that we’ve established ourselves as one of the most passionate footballing regions means we’ve created a rod for our own back somewhat!
We’ve never really had huge success; Sunderland 1973 and the odd promotion season and Cup final aside, but what we lack in silverware, we more than make up for in commitment and support.
These days, sadly, I don’t see that in the Premier League. I see players giving up, looking disinterested, unsure of what a privilege it is to play for such a well supported club in the modern day game. It’s pretty sickening to watch in truth when all the fans want is commitment, is desire, is heart. The lack of that on the pitch right now, is why both Sunderland and Newcastle are struggling in the way they are.
Now, concentrating on SAFC, what do you make of the club, the fans, the city, Big Sam?
I’ve grown up around the club with both my dad and uncle fans. One thing I’ll say straightaway is that they shouldn’t be where they are. The stadium, the fans, the base that they’ve got makes it a shock that every single season, it’s the same old story.
I don’t think they’ve got the right man in the past decade for the job. Big Sam is the right one for the short-term present. He’s the only one available who has the slightest chance of saving the club from relegation and as such, I’m interested to see what business he can get done in January; that will be pivotal to the club’s chances of survival.
The supporters (and I’m not just saying this) are superb. Like I said before, we’re renowned up here for our passionate support of sport and Sunderland fans are the very epitome of that, through thick and mostly thin. They’re a credit to the region. Just a shame the club can’t reward that on the pitch, but we live in hope, don’t we?!
Name the best Premier ref and the worst
Best: Mark Clattenburg – of course, he’s a North Easterner.
Worst: Mike Dean – the man’s a Spurs fan.
The big one: what will this season’s top four be?
And, sparing no Sunderland feelings if necessary, the bottom three?
The FA Cup and CL winners?
FA Cup – Arsenal (We have to win something…!)
Champions League – Barcelona – there’s no finer side in Europe right now. So of course we had to draw them.
Will you be at this game and what will be the score?
I’m not down in London for this one, but I can only see it going one way. I think Sunderland may be strangely tight at the start, but get worn down across the 90. 3-0 Arsenal, with Alexis being the scourge of Sunderland again (he wasn’t there at the league game. Andy and guess who the Man of the Match was….Cech – Ed!)
Well that was different! And a bit longer than our usual posts. But what did you think of Andy’s assessment of the game and our season?
A front 3 of Walcott, Sanchez and Aubameyang, that will be just insane.
Hahaha………so according to Latest reports, Auba says he ain’t coming to Arsenal?
If this is true, then its too bad he squashed d rumor so early in the window, he could have keptthe rumour mill spinning until the Final days like Benzema and vidal did……. Now we won’t have fun anymore *breaks a tear*
but wait a sec, could £60mil do the trick?…..could it be the difference?
have you guys noticed something bout how we roll?
When we need a player badly(be it a reported target or speculative rumored target), and he becomes unavailable in the closest window….we get pissed off and frustrated….we go to war….. And after the dust settles……we return to our lives
when the next window opens, we never make the previous Target a Number 1 target again (e.g benzema, vidal, cavani etc) and it just might happen to Auba if he doesn’t sign for Arsenal NOW!! L()L
Yeap that’s how we roll.
Each transfer season we have at least 3 targets as funs – The big star (Benzema, Suarez, Vidal, Gonzalo, Lewa, Reus, Cavani, Di Maria and now Auba), and then the 2nd group (Wayama, Sneiderlin, Goetz, Felleini, Dyabala, Jackson Martinez, Aurier, etc.), we also have the third group (Reid, Begovic, Benteke, Baloteli, etc).
The fourth but invisible to the funs is the Wenger group (Monereal, Gabriel, Kos, Mert, Ozil, Sanchez, Girould, Santos, Kim K, Elnemy, Cech, and the many players we end up signing minus heavy rumors).
Don’t worry, next transfer windows new players in all 3 groups will still pop up but the unknown group 4 will always win as long as Wenger is around.
If we sign a top striker, I think we can win the league.
If we don’t sign a striker, I don’t think we would win the league.
We have a top striker coming
to strengthen our ranks
I’m afraid Sanchez has caught The Danny Setbeck virus ?
I have the same feeling Twig. I feel the wheels will come off eventually and we will end up coming short again. I fear we might end up even third.
My reasons are City has a better and bigger squad, once the likes of Kun, Sterling, Debryne, Silva start kicking and once Kompany is back they can be unstoppable. Our injuries are not doing us any favors either, we have been hearing of these set backs since the begging of the season from injured players. Wenger as always is trying to gamble on players coming back but already look what that sh!t has got us with Welbz, Wilshere, Arteta, Rosicky and now Sanchez. Is there a guarantee Coq and Carzola wont suffer the game and who knows when the others will come back and settle.
An injure to Giroud and or Theo and there goes everything. The best Theo and OG can take us is 3rd place and maybe an FA cup. Hope I am wrong but the signs are there.
didn’t finish reading the article got tired somewhere in the middle. Can arsenal.com confirm elneny already? This transfer window is turning out to be as usual frustrating to arsenal fans
Wenger said that there is complications but it should be done within 3 days ?
Rabiot is probably the reason ?
I’m guessing that Wenger is wishing he didn’t rush into trying to sign Elneny, now that Rabiot’s mums in town. ?
So he is giving Chelsea etc etc 3 days days to jump in and snatch Elneny from under our noses! ?
* Just kidding. Com ??
Nice post, I agree with pretty much everything he said, except for one thing. I do think we’re going to win the EPL.
Why do guys derail from the posts mostly? I quite agree with most of his views.
Pundits keep saying city are favorites but I completely disagree. Even with their first 11 on display, they’ll still loose matches. It’s not like we’ll play city every week and with our team, we should win any team any day. Let’s just back our darling Arsenal and pray things goes our way. COYG