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Know your opponent: Chatting with Arsenal blog The Short Fuse

These guys are pretty nice, actually.

Michael Regan

You probably know them. You might love them. You might strongly dislike them. In any event, the folks who run Arsenal blog The Short Fuse are always pretty darn nice to us. Managing editor Thomas Watchel took some time out of his day to answer our questions ahead of the North London Derby.

Cartilage Free Captain: So, it's that time of the year again. Feels like it gets earlier and earlier every season. Before we get into dissecting the match itself, how are you feeling about Arsenal's offseason? Obviously, the fact that Wenger hasn't yet spent any money on new players has been a cause for concern amongst Emirates-goers in recent months, but do you personally feel like the squad is in dire need of additions to compete? If so, should these be upgrades or depth signings?

Thomas Watchel: Yeah, I'm not going to disagree that there hasn't been enough movement so far to make a real title challenge. I think this team as it stands now could finish in the Champions League places, but would have a harder time of it than last year. We'd have to get really lucky with health, and so far we've been...literally the opposite of that. Additions would help a lot there. I'd prefer Big Names, of course, because who wouldn't? But honestly the most likely (and useful) thing is numbers. So we'll see if that happens.

CFC: If Arsenal were to set out to make some late transfer signings in this window, who would you in an ideal world most like to see brought in?

TW: An ideal world? I'll try to stick to names that have actually been linked so far, but this isn't a realistic haul. I think Angel Di Maria would be a great signing, as it would allow us to move Santi Cazorla centrally and have the two exchange as they wish. I'd be fine with Yohan Cabaye, as he'd shore up the midfield, and he's a good player. I really would have liked Karim Benzema, though that also seems unlikely at this point. The rumored £40 million target is evidently Julian Draxler; I'd prefer someone like Thomas Muller, but that's more of a dream. But again, I just think we need several players.

CFC: How about Wenger's leadership of the team? Are you confident he can use the core of the team carried over from last season to kick on to bigger and better things this season, and how would you feel about the possibility of him receiving a contract extension next season?

TW: I'm firmly in the Arsene Wenger camp; I'd be happy to see him stay at Arsenal until he retires. I'm not thrilled with how this summer has gone, but for me to think he should be fired I think he'd have to set fire to the stadium or stab Aaron Ramsey, or something like that.

CFC: Bringing it back to the NLD, favourite memory from this tie in the past?

TW: Honestly, it's Tomas Rosicky's goal two years ago. I've always liked him, and his reaction to scoring was great. Very close second is Thierry Henry's goal in 2002. It's the most Thierry Henry thing I can think of at the moment.

CFC:. And on to the game itself. Arsenal are obviously going in to this match a little short-handed after injuries to players such as Podolski and Arteta. How would you set the remaining XI up to give Spurs a fair fight this Sunday?

TW: Goalkeeper is Wojciech Szczesny. Left-to-right across the back: Kieran Gibbs, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, and Bacary Sagna. The midfield triad is Mathieu Flamini (yeah, he starts in his first game back), Aaron Ramsey, and Tomas Rosicky. On the wings I have Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott, and at striker is Olivier Giroud. Jack Wilshere might start in place of Rosicky, but if I had to bet, this is the lineup I'd guess starts.

CFC: Where do you see the key battles taking place?

TW: The key to the game for Arsenal is whether or not Spurs can contain Cazorla. If he plays like he did last weekend against Fulham, Arsenal stand a good chance of controlling the midfield and creating chances. If he's taken out of the game, it'll be a tough task. I doubt this task will fall to one player, just because of Cazorla's mobility.

CFC: With Gareth Bale departing us for Real Madrid, who would you identify as our new dangerman, or dangermen, and how would you set out to counter their threat?

TW: Honestly I'm not sure there is one - and I don't mean that as an insult. I think Andre Villas-Boas has done a good job of spreading the money across the field, and Spurs look like a pretty evenly good team to me. If I have to pick one, I'll say Emmanuel Adebayor, just because it amuses me.

CFC: What will it take for Arsenal to ensure a comfortable home victory on the day?

TW: The midfield needs to play like it did against Fulham. I don't expect them to be as prolific, as Spurs are certainly a better team than Fulham. I'll single out Aaron Ramsey in particular - he actually had a down day last weekend, but that's only relative as he's been really good lately. If the midfield is on point creating chances, it should be a good day for Arsenal.

CFC:. Looking past this game, what are you hoping for realistically from the rest of the season? Which placing would be acceptable in the League, how far should this team be getting in the CL, and is winning silverware essential this time out?

TW: It depends on the next few days, and what players (if any) come in. "Acceptable" is Champions League places. With the draw we got, honestly I can't gauge this year's European campaign, but I'll be happy if we make it through to the knockout stages and, if we do that, I'd say we ought to make it at least to the quarterfinals. From there, we'll see. In terms of trophies, I'd definitely like one, but I'm not about to riot if we don't win anything. I could get down with a deep FA Cup run or something, though.

CFC: Finally, could I trouble you for a score prediction?

TW: I guess I'm an optimist. 3-1 to the Arsenal. No scoreline would surprise me, though. Either team could win this.

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