AHEAD of Saturday’s clash with Arsenal at Anfield we spoke to Kevin Whitcher editor of ‘The Gooner’ fanzine to get the latest on the Gunners and, in particular, Arsene Wenger.
Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself and the fanzine
The Gooner started life in 1987, and now has a website. The print version of the fanzine will finish at the end of next season after 30 years. I have been editing it since 2000 — 18 years will be enough!
Arsenal’s form has been patchy of late but they still sit fourth in the league, what have you made of recent performances?
Mixed, but overall, unconvincing. While they are capable of great moments, they never look really solid.
Opposition teams have had plenty of chances against Arsenal’s defence. They do not look convincing at the back. Additionally, they often take too long to get going in matches, only starting to play as they are capable after an hour of the game has been played.
There is always a feeling that they are going to self-implode at any moment. Some players aren’t up to it — they could be, but are not coached properly. And the manager is hopeless at making in-game switches to adapt to the opposition.
One of the biggest talking points at the moment, as it has been for what feels like forever, is Wenger’s future — what is your stance?
I think he should have gone — admittedly with the benefit of hindsight — in 2009. I’ve certainly wanted him to go since 2013. I’m tired of seeing obvious weaknesses never addressed. The club needs a breath of fresh air to make it exciting to go and watch Arsenal again.
A mixture of humiliating defeats demonstrate that he is not able to set his team up properly. When the matches that really matter come around, he rarely wins them. He will get one or two here and there, but there is no consistency and hence no belief. Liverpool beating Arsenal 5-1 two or three years ago comes to mind as one example. Arsenal were right in the mix for the title at that point.
The owners are responsible for continuing with him past his previous contract, but they presumably believed with more financial resources he could do better. The move to the Emirates has proved pointless because the extra money they make as a consequence has not led to success aside from two FA Cups.
The Emirates itself is like a morgue 95 per cent of the time, the passion has been killed by the fact that those that really care about the team and are willing to make a noise no longer attend — many old school supporters simply no longer go.
It would be a nightmare if we had to endure two more years of Wenger, because we all know he is no longer capable of doing anything better than winning the odd domestic cup, fortune in the draw allowing. The fan base is totally split, only a change of manager can bring about unity. The feeling towards Wenger is very negative now, and it won’t improve if he remains beyond this season. Most people want him to go with dignity, but above all, to go. But the majority cannot bring themselves to turn on the man by chanting for his exit.
There has also been some speculation over the futures of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, where do you stand on their futures?
Sanchez is a winner and will move to play for a club that has the same sense of ambition. Ozil enjoys the comfort bubble that exists at Arsenal and will stay. He’s on easy street and the club cannot be seen to lose both stars so they will give Ozil what he wants, money-wise. Sanchez will not sign a new deal and will be sold in the summer, which is a big shame.
Where do you expect Arsenal to finish this season?
Fifth. The difficult run-in will expose the lack of organisation and motivation in the team. The only real question for me is who else out of the top six misses out on the Champions League spots.
How do you think Saturday’s game will pan out?
The game itself is very unpredictable, but my feeling is that Liverpool are due a win and will get it — I’ll go with a 3-1 home win.
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