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Interview with an away fan: Arsenal

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Well here we're again just over 24 hours until a repeat tie against Arsenal at the Emirates. Leeds are clear underdogs and rightly so, but that doesn't mean an upset can't occur. If Leeds were being realistic then an early exit would be better in the long run, allowing us time to concentrate on the league. As long as the team give it a go, then I am sure most fans will be happy come 9.45pm tomorrow night.

Anyhow back to the interview, and Dave from Goonerholic was kind enough to give us an insight into Arsenal ahead of the FA Cup tie. Hope you enjoy reading.

As of today Thierry Henry has just signed on loan until February. The thought of him returning sends a shiver down my spine due to past encounters, but for yourselves and the league it is a breath of fresh air. What are your thoughts on this, and is it a risk or is there no pressure on Henry?

Arsenal supporters realise I think that TH12 will be a different beast from TH14. He has said himself he is only with us to provide cover while Gervinho and Chamakh are away at the African Cup of Nations. I suspect he will be used mainly as a substitute playing just behind Robin van Persie, or out on the left when Arshavin gets tired. What he will do though is lift the crowd every time he warms up, every time he comes on, and every time he touches the ball. The likes of Vieira and Pires received wonderful receptions coming back with other sides, but Henry can expect much more.

When I speak to Arsenal fans their opinions on Wenger differ, in the summer he strengthened and you have looked far better in my opinion. What is your opinion on all the Wenger speculation and can he bring you silverware in the next few years?

It's true there is a vociferous faction that calls for his head with every bad result, but the support for him from most is still strong. People understand that things became harder when Abramovic arrived, and with City now throwing obscene amounts around as well it has become more difficult for us to attract the top players. For a few years things were tight due to the new developments surrounding the ground, but there is now some money available. He is still a great coach, but future success depends not just on him. We need UEFA to actively pursue their Financial Fair Play regulations, and we need to make more from our sponsors and commercial partners.

Two big players left Arsenal in the summer in Fabregas and Nasri. I know this may be a touchy question but what are your feelings on both departures, did they abandon the club or did they go with good wishes?

We knew Cesc was going home one day, and although we had hoped it would be in a year or two there was obviously some agreement reached behind the scenes that the supporters are not party to. The fee was criminally low for a player with four years left on his contract. He will get a good reception when we come up against Barca again. It's a shame that Jack Wilshere, his natural successor, has been injured all season. Nasri is a different kettle of fish altogether. He had three or four great months for us at the start of last season, but went missing in the second-half of the season when we needed the so-called big players to drag us over the finishing line. It says a lot about him that he prefers big bucks for bench-warming duties. We have already let him know what we think of him twice, and look forward to doing so again in the future. In Mikel Arteta we have a much better footballer, although sadly at the wrong end of his career.

A repeat of last years tie sees us visit the Emirates once again. The experience for Leeds fans was fantastic and we came so close to an upset, although you missed a fair few chances. Did you think we deserved to win, and were you happy to be drawn against us once again?

Let's put it this way, we could not have complained if you had won at our place last season. I thought we 'rotated' too many players (nine) and could have paid the penalty. The replay was an absolutely fabulous game and it was a shame one of the sides had to go out. I also made a point of praising Leeds football that night, a far cry from the Leeds sides I was used to seeing in days gone by. As for this year I am just pleased when we get a home tie, against anyone. I just hope we have learned the lesson of last year, and don't change too many. I would like us to give Leeds the respect they earned last year and pick a stronger side.

What side do you expect Wenger to put out on Monday, either way you're clear favourites but do you see him starting with a stronger line-up than last year?

Should have looked ahead before answering the last question! I would like to think he will. Given the injuries we have our 'second choice' eleven would be a massive gamble. We have no full-backs available, and only four central defenders to fill the back four berths, so will need our best offensive players, although I would expect van Persie to be rested. Since hitting five at Stamford Bridge we have only scored nineteen goals in fifteen games, so another close game is possible if we are wasteful with our chances again.

Do you see Wenger spending in the January transfer window?

I think he needs to, but it depends just who is available. He has already spoken of taking a full-back on loan, and we certainly need at least one defender. There is widespread agreement among the fans that we need another goal scorer too, and Henry for six weeks is not that. We need proven cover for van Persie until the end of the season, hence much talk about the likes of Podolski or Matias Suarez. If the money is right I'm sure we will buy.

Obviously your team has plenty of players who can cause us trouble, due to the gap in class and divisions. But is there anyone in particular that Leeds fans should be wary of?

You'll know the main players, but there must be a chance that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will get a start, and there is a belief in the club that he is going to be a big player for us. He has already scored twice in just five starts for us. Well-built and fast with a good shot, he could be a real handful.

When we visited the Emirates as a group of fans we were stunned with the lack of atmosphere within the Emirates. Is it usually like this or was there a reason behind it last year?

I think the main reason for that was simply the home crowd weren't up for it given the side we had out, and without being disrespectful, the opposition. The place still rocks for the big games, but yes, it's fair to say there is a fickle element that makes for a less atmospheric experience against the smaller sides. That isn't just an Arsenal problem though. Go to any big Premiership ground and the same applies. Funnily enough the Arsenal travelling support is probably as good as there is in the top flight.

What formation do you see Wenger using on Monday?

He sticks steadfastly by a 4-3-3 these days, that can revert to 4-5-1 when we are under pressure, but the widemen are not strong defensively. Walcott is a little more studious than Arshavin in that respect, but we will miss Gervinho on the left. Only if we are in danger of going out will you see a second striker put on. I would expect to see Arshavin start on the left and Henry replace him for the last twenty minutes.

You probably wouldn't want to sign a Leeds player. But is there any player in our team you've been impressed with?

Will I sound like the stereotypical Arsenal supporter if I say I haven't seen Leeds this season, as I tend to watch European games when we are not on? Last season it was hard not to be impressed by Howson and Snodgrass, both combative and kept us honest, but also played a bit as well. I understand they are unlikely to be available on Monday. They could be a big miss if that is true.

Big thanks to Dave for the answers, lets hope the lads put in a good performance once again.

Marching on Together.

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