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Keep Your Enemies Closer: Question Trade with a Gunner

We got together with Ted from The Short Fuse for "Keep Your Enemies Closer" this week. You can see our half over here. Make the jump and see what an Arsenal FC fan has to say about this weekend's match.

CHN: It looks like Lukas Fabianski could be out for the season, and we thought Wojciech Szczesny looked a capable fill in in the Carling Cup match we played you in. How do you feel about rolling with him as the #1 guy as you chase the title though?


TSF: I feel good.  Really good, actually.  Losing Fabianski was a blow.  Szczesny is only 20, it's true, but he's been playing like a much older keeper.  He needs to work on his distribution a bit, but he's in good form otherwise right now.


CHN:  Arsenal decimated Newcastle in the Carling Cup only to see the Magpies bounce back and steal a Premiership win at Emirates two weeks later. Coming to St James' is there a chip on the shoulder? Should we expect the side to be a bit more fired up that normal for a mid season match with NUFC?

TSF: Maybe so, yeah.  It's hard to gauge the mental state of a team, but Arsenal are playing well lately, and I think the return of Robin van Persie is really pulling together the attack from the front.  The main problem for the attack lately has been finishing chances, and once Arsenal start doing that, they could beat any side in the world.  It's impossible to say how the latest media broadside against Cesc Fabregas will affect the team, but maybe it could pull them together in an us-against-them fashion.

CHN:  We feel like our "bend but don't break" defensive style matches up pretty well against the typical Arsenal attack, as proved in the November match. Will the Gunners be looking to change anything up on the offensive side of the ball, or can we expect the same style with perhaps a better tuned effort?

TSF: The same style, but hopefully executed better.  Arsenal don't deviate from their plan very much, and although they have occasionally tried "route one" football this year, it generally only works against disorganized defending and a high line.  Generally Wenger sends his team out there to play their style in the hopes that, if properly executed and finished well, it will eventually prevail.  Losing Samir Nasri is a big blow, as the other options on the left, Andrei Arshavin and Tomas Rosicky, don't offer quite the two-way play that he does, and losing Alex Song is also a bit of a blow, as he has struck a really good balance between holding and incisive driving play lately.

CHN:  Cesc Fabregas seems to be a lightning rod for controversy lately. Does this stuff ever distract the team? How do they usually respond to these types of controversies?   

TSF: It's a bit hard to say, since when this type of thing has arisen before with this particular iteration of Arsenal, other things (injuries, the mercurial mental state of youth) have worked in combination with the controversy to maybe distract more than pull together.  From all accounts, the spirit in the dressing room this year is better than it has been in some time, and hopefully the team can stay focused on the job at hand and continue to work together well.

CHN: Give me a starting 11 and a prediction for the match. Does Newcastle have any chance in St. James' park on Saturday?


TSF: I think it will be Szczesny-Sagna-Djourou-Koscielny-Clichy-Wilshere-Rosicky-Fabregas-Walcott-van Persie-Arshavin, and I think Newcastle's lack of front men will hurt them a bit.  Arsenal have been doing well defending in the Premier League lately, but it is St. James'...I'll go 1-0 Arsenal in a tight one, and hope that Newcastle don't manage to score first instead...