Earlier in the season we had the pleasure of chatting with the SB Nation Arsenal blog The Short Fuse, and we caught up with Ted again ahead of Everton's game on Tuesday at the Emirates. Click here to read our responses to their questions.
RBM - Looks like it'll come down to the wire with who finishes where in the Premier League. What are your thoughts on where Arsenal end up?
TSF - Based purely on form right now and the fact that Tottenham and Chelsea still have to square off against each other and some tough teams, I feel that Arsenal will finish third. I am not a superstitious person, so nobody can hold me to account if they do not...right? Right? Right...? Seriously, though, Arsenal are rounding into a hot patch at just the right time, and they are now in control of their own fate concerning finishing in the top four, so it will be very exciting to see how things turn out. Tomorrow's match against Everton is a huge step towards that goal.
RBM - It's going to be another season without silverware for Arsene Wenger. Is the pressure mounting, or will a good finish buy him more time?
TSF - The pressure from certain groups of fans is mounting, but internally, the only pressure Wenger feels is self-imposed. People should not mistake his lack of trophies for a lack of desire, despite some out-of-context quotes and different strategic directions over the past few years. Once his current contract runs out, then it will be time to speculate, but until then, I would be utterly amazed if he doesn't leave on his own terms.
RBM - There is no shame in getting eliminated from the Champions League by the current Bayern Munich side. What did the Gunners learn?
TSF - I think being the only side this year to go to Munich and win showed this club precisely what they can do if they stay organized and stout defensively, and I think it's behind their current run. Granted, Bayern were expecting to go through comfortably that day, and I'm also a bit loathe to speculate too much about mental states and the like, but if anything could be learned in that tie and carried into the Premier League, it's that. Psychology certainly exists; it's just hard to discern from television pictures.
RBM - What are the weaknesses in the current Arsenal side? Are Arsenal going to be big players in the offseason in an attempt to address these?
TSF - The two main weaknesses currently are 1) defending set pieces, especially without Per Mertesacker, and 2) a tendency to rely too much on slow-tempo possession at times and a related lack of fluidity and creativity (see the first half from Saturday against Norwich, for instance) and 3) [there are THREE main weaknesses] a proven goalscoring CF to spell Olivier Giroud, and 4) [there are FOUR main weaknesses] a defensive midfielder, as Mikel Arteta is not getting any younger. How this will play out during the summer will be interesting; Wenger is being his usual guarded self about the club's needs, but the current rumor mill suggests some departures from the defensive ranks and possible newcomers in the strike force. Whatever ends up happening will probably be unexpected and not in the £30m range, but life is full of surprises. I would expect at the very least another summer in the £40m total range, but without a big-name departure to offset costs, it might be less.
RBM - Santi Cazorla has certainly rejuvenated a flagging team. Who else will be in contention for Arsenal's Player of the Season award?
TSF - None of Arsenal's players have been faultless this year, but Cazorla is certainly at or near the top for contention. I think Arteta, whose role is so underappreciated by many, should be in the discussion this year as well. There will also always be shouts for Jack Wilshere, although he's been up and down much of the year and hasn't really played enough. Theo Walcott probably would be the third name in any race for the prize, although he's quieted down lately after a pretty furious middle period this year.
RBM - Everton haven't won at Arsenal in living memory. How about a score prediction for tomorrow's game? Who are you expecting to shine?
TSF - I think it will be 2-1 to Arsenal, with Cazorla to have a good game. I think Marouane Fellaini will be a big burden for Aaron Ramsey and Arteta to handle, and if Bacary Sagna's not on top of his game, Steven Pienaar could have a good time as well. Also Kevin Mirallas seems to be in good form right now, so it could get pretty wild.