Well, kids, I promised you a little treat in lieu of dinner, and here it is: Ted Harwood of The Short Fuse, the world's foremost Arsenal blog, has dropped in to answer a few questions.
As always, my questions are in bold text, the answers are in regular font. If you're interested, you can click through and check out The Short Fuse yourself - your SB Nation user name will get you access over there (I know some of you guys are already members there, with Arsenal being everyone's 3rd-favorite team). But please don't be rude or abrasive.
(1) I think most football fans are somewhat aware of Arsenal's struggles over the past few years, but could you give us a little insider's insight? Is it all down to selling star players and not getting equivalent replacements, or is there something deeper involved? Lack of expected development from the youngsters? Dare we blame managerial errors?
The main issue is what you cite: the players Arsenal have sold haven't been replaced by players of equal quality. It is, of course, hard to replace Cesc Fabregas, who still represents the biggest loss. Many of the youth players that Wenger hoped would bloom didn't pan out, and there are valid criticisms that one could level at him. However, given that Arsenal spend about the fourth most money in total on transfer fees and wages every year, finishing fourth or third is about what one would expect. That, of course, isn't really satisfactory to most supporters, but it's not as if Wenger is spectacularly failing, either.
(2) Despite some of Arsenal's unfortunate results, you guys still usually control possession very well and play fluid, aggressive football. Yesterday's loss to Blackburn was a case in point: Arsenal dominated possession and repeatedly pushed into the final third, but just couldn't find the right finish. Against Bayern's middies and wings, though, your boys will (no offense) probably struggle to maintain the ball and work the lateral passing game.
Do you think Arsenal will come out and try to battle for the ball in the middle of the field? Or are you guys likely to sit back, wait, and try to hit Bayern on the counter? And how effective might that be - soaking up the pressure and defending isn't really Arsenal's game, but it might be their best bet.
Two years ago, Arsenal did sit back and counter against Barcelona at the Emirates, so it is possible that they might try to do this again. It is not, however, their natural game. Against an opponent with as strong a midfield as Bayern have, should Arsenal choose to press, it might not work very effectively. I suspect we might see a more deep-lying Arsenal than normal on Tuesday, with Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski and Jack Wilshere asked to try to break whenever possible.
(3) According to Who Scored, Cazorla is ranked as Arsenal's best player this season. No surprise - I've seen him play 4 or 5 times, and he's a quick, dangerous player with great touch. Interestingly, though, Mikel Arteta ranks right behind him, and way ahead of Walcott, Jack, or anyone else.
Is Arteta really that good? What is his skill set, and what role does he play for the Gunners? Or is this just ... y'know, a statistical glitch?
Arteta is really that good, yep. I don't always know how whoscored arrives at that player rating, but Mikel Arteta is very effective as a conductor in the back of the midfield, intercepting passes and then finding teammates. His passing is very efficient; however, it's maybe not as adventurous as it once was at Everton. He seldom looks to thread through passes to attackers (this has been left to more advanced midfielders such as Cazorla or Wilshere). But at what he does, he is very effective.
(4) What do you guys think of Poldi? I was never a big fan, but he has a powerful shot.
He has been a good player for us on the left so far, but he can go missing a lot when he stays out on the wing. He's more useful when he can cut inside and combine with other attackers before shooting. 12 goals and 11 assists in 2200 minutes is a good return, though, I think.
(5) I believe Nacho Monreal is cup-tied, so what will Arsenal's back line look like for this one? Mertesacker, Sagna, and who else? Do you think Wenger will bring out some kind of crazy defensive trickery for this one, or is it just man the barricades and hang on for dear life?
The defensive line will be, barring a freak accident, Bacary Sagna, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, and Thomas Vermaelen. The defending will need to be as manful as it was last weekend against Sunderland, most likely. Trickery in defense isn't really Wenger's jam, unless he puts on a third central defender, which he has done, but is very unlikely to do in this match, given that that would be Ignasi Miquel.
(6) Where and how do you usually watch the Champions League matches? I believe you're on Central time, which makes these a 1:45 PM start. Are there good soccer bars in the Chi that are Arsenal-friendly, or do you usually watch at home?
I mainly watch matches at home now to save money on food (haha); unfortunately, I will be watching this match on delay on my DVR, as I have to work. Aidan will be covering it live for everyone. As to your other question--there are a lot of great bars in Chicago at which to watch soccer. I always went to the Globe, which usually has a sizable group of Arsenal fans in attendance, and I expect that Tuesday won't be any different.
(7) If van Persie hadn't been sent off for that bullshit "delay of game" call in the second leg vs. Barca a couple years ago, how different would the situation for your club look right now?
Impossible to know, but yeah...probably better. Maybe not tremendously, though. If silverware hadn't resulted from that, there'd probably be the same criticisms leveled at Wenger as there are right now. Of course, Nicklas Bendtner had a chance to win that tie after that yellow...sigh.
(8) Who wins in a 5 km footrace - Usain Bolt or Theo Walcott? I asked Graham this same question last year and he refused to answer.
I would guess Theo, just because he's more used to running those kinds of distances--although Bolt probably trains with lots of long runs ... are they dribbling a football while doing this?
(9) Your prediction for the first leg?
I think it's going to be very difficult for Arsenal. Bayern is just unbelievable this year. My gut says 0-2 to Bayern. I pray that I'm wrong.
So there you go - even the Arsenal fans think Bayern is the best bet. Check back tomorrow to see what else we're doing, and of course we'll be here all day on Tuesday. Thanks for reading.