Ask The Opposition – Arsenal vs Manchester City (w/LTArsenal)


The current holders of the FA Cup Manchester City will go up against Arsenal, the most successful side in the competitions history, in the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday evening.

With the knock-out competitions being the Blues’ only hope of further silverware this season and the FA Cup being Mikel Areta and Arsenal’s best shot at landing European football next year, an awful lot is riding on the game at Wembley for both bosses; who until late December had been working collaboratively to ensure continued City success.

Ahead of what will be City’s umpteenth appearance at Wembley in the last decade and a second FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal while Guardiola has been at the club, we spoke to LTArsenal about Arteta, transfers, the match and much more…

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Firstly thanks very much for joining us. This week, we had confirmation of the summer transfer window dates for Premier League clubs. With there clearly being some work to be done for Mikel Arteta, where do you believe you should strengthen?

I think the midfield has been the biggest concern for Arsenal this season. It isn’t that they are bad players individually, we lack the variety and we do not have specialised profiles. For example at Manchester City, you have Rodri who is able to play alone as the base midfielder. At Arsenal we don’t have a player like that. Additionally, you play with what I’d call two #8/#10 hybrids ahead of the #6. We do not have that profile of player who can create, but also have a defensive intensity about him at the same time. Defence is another area of concern. We need one marquee centre-back, someone who can elevate our level and have a similar effect to what Van Djik and Laporte had. It isn’t easy to get those type of players, but it is what we need. 

To sum it up, AT THE VERY MINIMUM – we need a centre back, a complete base midfielder and a creative midfielder who works hard off the ball so he can also be utilised in a 4-3-3.

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(Photo by PAUL CHILDS / POOL / AFP)

Leading on from the previous question, who are your ideal/most realistic transfer prospects?

There is a lot of uncertainty, so it is hard at this stage for me to say precisely what is realistic and what isn’t. I don’t think Arsenal have much to work with, but what we have are sellable assets. Lacazette, Guendouzi, Maitland Niles and many others. What is realistic/not realistic will come down to how much we can recoup from the sales or whether there is an exchange deal on the cards.

I think the links to Thomas Partey are concrete and personally I believe we will get this one over the line. Upamecano is another to keep a close eye as we’ve had interest in him in the past and should we manage to recoup a good amount from our sales, it might be possible. Willian links definitely have something to it, considering the ties to his agent Kia Joorabchian. I would take Partey and Upamecano for sure. Willian, I have my doubts. I would go for Houssem Aouar as the creative midfielder, a player Guardiola and Arteta have both appreciated in the past.

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(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

We’ve seen John Stones linked with several clubs in the Premier League in recent weeks, but is he a player you would welcome at the Emirates, given his experience with Mikel Arteta and how well the Spaniard knows Stones?

He’s got some good attributes, but he isn’t what Arsenal need despite Arteta having worked with him before. Does he start for us? Possibly. But we don’t need a centre-back that is just an upgrade to what we have, as it doesn’t say much. We need someone who can start for most top clubs in the world. For far too long, our defence has led to our downfall. We need to address this problem once and for all and I for one, don’t think Stones is the right option – he’s had his fair share of injuries and is quite error prone.

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(Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)

One player who has been linked with moves away amid a seemingly uncertain future is Aubameyang. What lies next for the Arsenal frontman?

It is still so uncertain. I think he could end up staying if we give him the right offer, but would Arsenal be able to give him what he wants? It is a big question mark. He is our talisman, so its going to be really interesting to see how this plays out. There is no shortage of interest, with the likes of Barca and Inter among others being linked by the media. Personally, I think he will stay but don’t hold me to it!

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(Photo by SHAUN BOTTERILL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

There have certainly been some encouraging signs from Arteta and this new era for Arsenal, but what are your realistic aims and ambitions for next season?

Our aim should be to get back into the Champions league as soon as possible, whether it is by winning the Europa league (if we qualify) or through top four. Ideally, I prefer the latter – we haven’t finished top four since the 2015/16 season and getting back into it is a statement we need to make. It isn’t going to be easy, with United’s improvement and Chelsea’s squad strengthening coupled with Liverpool and City’s dominance. There are also clubs like Leicester, Wolves and Tottenham that are going to be circling around. But I hope smart recruitment and good coaching can get us there.

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(Photo by Glyn KIRK / POOL / AFP)

Would you prefer to qualify for the Europa League this season or fail to qualify and focus solely on league standing next season, despite the financial benefits of European football?

My heart says, just focus on the league cause I cannot stand the Europa League. My mind says qualify for the Europa league because it can help us recruit that one extra player maybe that can be the difference when it comes to qualifying for the CL. Having said that, the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea didn’t have Europa league football in 2016 – I know it was different circumstances but both the clubs have done well since. It isn’t the end of the world. It makes the squad rebuild more difficult, but at the same time playing only Premier league and the domestic cup competitions means we can have lesser squad depth. All this is only in theory of course. The reality is…

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