Five Questions With Ted Harwood of The Short Fuse

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 21: Mark Albrighton of Aston Villa scores the equaliser past Wojciech Szczesny of Arsenal during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Arsenal at Villa Park on December 21, 2011 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Ted Harwood, manager of SB Nation's Arsenal blog the Short Fuse, was kind enough to answer a few questions I had for him ahead of Sunday's FA Cup 4th Round clash with Arsenal at the Emirates. In addition to being one of my favorite writers on the network and running what is easily my favorite Arsenal blog, Ted has excellent taste in music and is a better dresser than I am, which makes me hate him just a little bit. But don't tell him.

If you'd like to read my responses to the questions Ted had for me, head on over to this post at the Short Fuse.


As you are probably aware, things aren't going especially well right now. From an outside perspective, it seems like a combination of things; lots of injuries, unexpectedly poor performances from a few key players and a lack of the depth necessary to counteract those first two. If you could point to any one single thing-within the team's control-that they could do in order to right the ship, what would it be?

I don't normally clamor for new signings that much, but I think the biggest single thing over which Arsenal have control right now is finding anyone who can play a creative role in the midfield. Since players like that are few and far between, they could turn to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. I know he's only 18, and there's no need to put undue pressure on him, so it would take some patience and understanding of dips in form from the supporters, but he seems the most likely option to make an impact at this point.

I've given up on our defending improving until injuries stop happening, by the way, so scoring more and finishing chances is necessary.

With Arsenal's performance in the league making qualification for the Champions League look far from a certainty, how seriously do you think they'll be taking the FA Cup? Clearly the fans are hungry for a trophy, but I'm going to guess they'd rather not be playing in the Europa League next season.

I don't think they'll take the FA Cup much more seriously than they have in the past, becuase Wenger makes it clear time and time again that a good performance in the league is of paramount importance. The difference, this time, though, is that the squad is thin enough right now, and the fixture list kind enough, that Arsenal are both required and able to start a lot of their best XI. I should hope, though, that fans are hungry for the FA Cup, because I love it. The bummer about people saying it doesn't matter much anymore is that if Arsenal actually win the darned thing, they're all going to look silly when they celebrate it like the second coming.

If Arsenal have to play in the Europa League next year, I'll personally be okay with it. I don't think it's inherently a bad thing from a fans' perspective, but financially it would hurt a bit.

Robin van Persie is really good, and he probably could be a One Man Team if he had to. Clearly though, Arsenal have other really good players. Who, amongst those that may not be household names, should we keep a closer eye on?

In terms of popularity-to-quality ratio, probably Laurent Koscielny. He's emerging as a really good central defender the more time he has in England. He's never going to be the best center half in the air, and his positioning is sometimes a bit weird (but improving), but his pace and ability on the ground allows him to cover over a lot of his wildness. Alex Song has had a bit of a drop in form lately and doesn't play the sexiest position, but he's still a strong holding midfielder when he has a passer working with him--not having Mikel Arteta healthy lately has hurt a lot.

What do you expect the fullback situation to look like in this game?

I think Thomas Vermaelen will start on the left, and the newly-returned Francis Coquelin will start on the right. I could see Nico Yennaris, who played well against Manchester United in the second half last weekend, on the right as well, especially if Wenger decides to use Coquelin as a holding or central midfielder, which he may.

Prediction?

As the match is at the Emirates, I think Arsenal will come out slightly on top. I think it'll be 2-1 to Arsenal.

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