Fan Focus: Adrian Clarke Provides Arsenal Enlightenment

Per Mertesacker is all smiles now, but Stephane Sessegnon is coming to town, and Adrian Clarke is fearful for the German.

Fan Focus time everyone, where we speak to fans of the opposition and get their views on the game ahead. After missing a week due to them pesky international matches, we have come back with a bang, and a top notch subject for Fan Focus.

This week we have the views of Adrian Clarke. Not just an Arsenal fan, but a former Arsenal, Southend and England youth team star. Nowadays Adrian, a housewives favourite, is host of the exceptional "Red, White & Blue Podcast" plus providing insight and analysis to Life's A Pitch and Arsenal.com

We're delighted to have him, so we'll waste no more of your time and hand you over to Adrian...

This season, although it feels like you can't read the word ‘Arsenal' in the paper without it quickly being followed by ‘crisis'... Give us the low down on what's really happening with the club...

Adrian: "What we're seeing at the moment is an Arsenal side that's lacking in belief, character and for the first time in a long while, genuine quality too. Selling the rebellious Fabregas and Nasri made sense commercially but only as long as the money was reinvested in top class replacements and beefing up the weaker areas of the side such as the central defence and holding midfield positions. That didn't happen and now, on the back of some morale-sapping defeats the team is as short of confidence as I have seen them for many, many years."

By the same token, you can't hear a radio phone in without someone calling for Wenger's head. To me this seems ridiculous. Do people really want him gone, and what's your take on the situation?

Adrian: "It seems unthinkable but I do understand why so many people are looking for a change. The fans want to see lessons being learned and right now there isn't too much evidence of that and the Gunners are slipping further and further behind their rivals. Arsene Wenger has been the greatest manager in the history of the club and will always be a legend but one day the time will come for him to move on or take on a new role at Arsenal. Personally I'd like to see him given the chance to revitalise the team this season but nothing lasts forever."

Many fans were desperate for Arsene to spend some money, and on Deadline Day he went a bit mental and actually did. How are the new boys settling in?

Adrian: "He went for it on deadline day but did he pick out the right players? I'm unconvinced that Per Mertesacker is the answer to Arsenal's defensive problems although I do believe he will improve once he adjusts to the pace of English football. Mikel Arteta has settled in well, he's a classy midfielder, but is he in the same league as Fabregas? I'm afraid not. Andre Santos is in need of fitness work and Park Chu-Young will be a useful back-up but it's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain that's impressed me most. He is top quality and will soon be challenging the likes of Theo Walcott for a regular place. This boy is destined for the top."

Or course, Arsenal have a sterling reputation for developing youth too. Who are the potential stars in the next wave of talent coming through?

Adrian: "Aside from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain there are a few other starlets to look out for. I've been impressed by Francis Coquelin's all-round play in midfield and I have heard great things about another teenager Chuks Aneke. He's a big, powerful central midfielder in the Yaya Toure mould and if he continues at the rate of improvement he's shown lately it won't be long before Aneke is a name on everybody's lips. The third choice goalkeeper Damien Martinez is also highly rated. It may not be too long before he emerges as a challenger to Wojiech Szczesny."

Nicklas Bendtner is doing pretty well up here, even if his goals-to-games ratio suggests otherwise. Can we keep him please?

Adrian: "I think Nicklas should stay at Sunderland too! I rate him but I don't think he'll get any more opportunities with Arsenal. He's in the right place at the moment and if he doesn't enjoy a very good campaign I'll be surprised. Hopefully his ego will shrink a little and his hunger will grow. If that happens and he learns the art of finishing I think you'll have a decent striker on your hands."

On to the game against us, what have you made of Sunderland this season?

Adrian: "Sunderland are a team that's in development. You've got a whole bunch of new players and it's unrealistic to think it will all click straight away. The departure of Asamoah Gyan was a blow as you're now light up front but if the team continues to believe in themselves they will be fine. Arsenal are short on self-belief so the Black Cats do have their best chance of beating them at the Emirates for a long time but they will still need to play very, very well to do so.  Arsenal can't afford to lose yet another match, so I expect them to raise their game."

One area where I like our chances on Sunday is Stephane Sessegnon versus Per Mertesacker. What match-ups do you think will be key to the game's outcome?

Adrian: "Sessegnon is a player that could give Mertesacker plenty of headaches but will Sunderland be able to supply him with enough of the ball? Arsenal will have lots of possession on Sunday, even if they aren't the force they once were. I'm looking forward to seeing Aaron Ramsey against Lee Cattermole. If the Welshman can spring forward in space he will hurt you so Cattermole's role will be important. I also think Kieran Richardson will have his hands full keeping either Theo Walcott or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at bay."

Where do you see our two clubs finishing this season?

Adrian: "I see Arsenal finishing in 6th place this season. Liverpool and Spurs look stronger and are likely to be more consistent. It pains me to say it but from what I've seen so far I have to be honest! As for Sunderland, I think they'd be crazy to sack Steve Bruce. He can guide the team to anywhere between 7th and 10th, challenging the likes of Everton, Stoke City, Aston Villa and Newcastle United."

And lastly, what's your prediction for the game itself on Sunday...

Adrian: "Arsenal will focus hard on this game so I fancy them to prevail. If Sunderland had a shade more flair or unpredictability I'd be worried but I think the Gunners will be able to handle them. I can't see a thrashing on the cards, so will plump for a 2-1 win for Arsenal."

Many thanks to Adrian for his time, some top notch work here I'm sure you'll agree. Now, the least you can do is give Clarkey a follow on Twitter - @SMS_Adrian and check out the Red, White & Blue Podcast on iTunes. Make sure you do that. Have you done it yet? Yes? Good.

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