Opposition view – Arsenal

We chat to Warren Ratcliffe of The Gooner Ramble ahead of the Swans trip to the Emirates this weekend…

How’s your season been so far?

I think I’d say frustratingly inconsistent, Summed up really in the 90 minutes on the first Friday of the season with the rollercoaster performance against Leicester City.

Real good performances away at Chelsea & Everton along with a convincing home
Win over a poor Bournemouth side have been matched by awful ones away at Stoke, Liverpool & most recently Watford, with a couple of underwhelming victories in the mix.

It’s a real mystery as to which of our alter ego’s turns up on the day.

The will he won’t he saga eventually ended with Arsene Wenger signing a new deal. We’re you happy with this news?

Honestly? No.

On a personal level I have so much to thank Arsene Wenger for; taught me so much about football introduced a swashbuckling style of play at the arsenal & made us formidable, he took us on levels as a club and for me his biggest achievement of all was overseeing the transition to the emirates stadium whilst keeping us a “competitive” club.

After creeping out of the “austerity” stage we completed the £42m signing of Mesut Ozil, followed the next summer by Alexis Sanchez. The summer of 15/16 we were the only club in Europe’s top 5 leagues not to sign an outfield player, subsequently missing out as Leicester City won the title & seemingly every other title challenging club were in transition. That season was the nail in the coffin for me.

Arsene helped to develop English football to new levels with his fresh ideas & supreme intelligence but younger fresher managers are proving that 21 years on unfortunately football has moved on again.

What did you make of your transfer business over the summer?

With the contract situations of many players aside the actual additions were pleasing.

Bundesliga left back of the season Sead Kolasinac was a steal on a free transfer & we are already reaping the rewards of his powerful, aggressive & direct style. Alex Lacazette is settling in nicely & will only improve, I was slightly sceptical at the time but he’s impressing more & more every time I see him, especially when paired with Alexis & Ozil.

A little disappointed with the sale of Gabriel although it’s pleasing that Callum Chambers will be given the chance to play at the club. It could have been a better summer but also could have been a lot worse.

Who have been your standout performers and who needs to up their game?

There’s only one place to start & that’s with Mr. Consistent himself Nacho Monreal. The guy has been a revelation & is such a likeable character, always a left back he is revealing in a more central role in the 3-4-2-1 formation & his aggression & front footed style of play has been a pleasure to watch this season.

Unfortunately we’ve seen players chopped & changed playing out of position creating a real lack of consistency within the side. As a result I think it’s fair to suggest Granit Xhaka has struggled, he has a wonderful passing range to match a highly intelligent footballing brain from that deep lying role but sometimes gets caught napping & is a little slow in possession (although I feel he will have a cracker on Saturday spraying the long balls to Bellerin & Kolasinac).

Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are both out of contract in the summer. Do you think both will move on and how concerning is that?

As an Arsenal fan you always want to hold onto that glimmer of hope that we can retain their services but it seems a far fetched dream at the moment. When you see the way the side played at Everton & both of these players showing the true qualities they possess it’s almost heartbreaking to think into the future without them.

It’s extremely concerning because I don’t trust the club to replace them or even attempt to with similar quality, it’s all for me an indication of the “failure” of the last 4 years (sounds strange as we’ve won 3 of the last 4 FA Cups) with regards to Arsene Wengers project to build a squad around these 2 world class footballers.

What do you make of Swansea?

Full of admiration for the way the club have cemented themselves as a Premier-League regular. Came up done things your way, played with style & very quickly made the premier league home. On a personal level I absolutely love the trips to the Liberty with the Arsenal always a cracking away day. (A little different to the Vetch to say the least)

You’ve been somewhat of a “bogey” side for us down the years & we always seem to make hard work of the games against you. Crazy to think that you’ve won as many games at the Emirates in our meetings as us!

Predict the score and where both teams will finish…

I hate to say this but if Kolasinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Bellerin, Ozil, Alexis & Lacazette start as they did at Goodison Park, I feel it could be a long afternoon for the Swans. It’ll be key to attempt to stifle Ozil but the attacking movement when on song is so difficult to stop, especially the runs from Aaron Ramsey. It’ll be a huge game for the Swansea midfield (who often perform against us) & it’ll be interesting to see if you match us with the 3 at the back. I’m predicting a 3-0 victory for The Arsenal, Ramsey Alexis & Lacazette.

I’d love to convince myself we can challenge for the title, the only way I see that possible is if we avoid injuries to key players, we do have depth with Welbeck Giroud Walcott Mustafi Cazorla Wilshere Iwobi Chambers Holding Per. It’s just if Arsene can get the team selection correct which is unlikely; I’d suggest we will push for 3rd/4th.

I think Swansea will have enough to stay up & I’m hoping that Sanches & Bony can help project you into mid table. Great to see young exciting talent like Tammy Abraham get football too, all the best for the rest of the season and I look forward to my midweek trip in January.