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Everton vs Arsenal: Q&A with The Short Fuse

We're on our second Q&A of the season and answering our questions is Paul DeBruler from SB Nation's Arsenal blog 'The Short Fuse'.

Laurence Griffiths

As an outsider looking in, it appears the Arsenal fans seem to expect to win things, that must create big pressure in itself for Arsene Wenger? Do you feel with the new signings, Arsenal could become the winning team the fans expect?

I have to say I bristle a bit at "become the winning team the fans expect". Arsenal have finished fourth or better every year of Wenger's tenure, completed the only unbeaten season in modern English football history, and are on the verge of their 17th straight season in the Champions League group stages, the last seven years of which have been spent being fairly financially restricted (in comparison with the other top four clubs) thanks to front-loaded sponsorship deals that helped Arsenal pay for a new stadium.

But, in this modern impatient age, trophies are apparently everything, so to answer your question, I believe that yes, this year Arsenal will take a massive step forward; they have new sponsorship deals that are among the most lucrative in England (at the moment), their stadium debt is manageable, and their squad is stable after a few years of big players leaving. It's a good time to be an Arsenal supporter, but there's never really a bad time to be one, now that I mention it!

I think I'm with you on that one, Arsenal achieve success whether people acknowledge it as that or not. So, after saying that what are your overall expectations for the coming season? Do you believe you are realistic title contenders?

I do. I think they'll fall just a bit short, but I do expect a sustained title challenge again this season. People forget that Arsenal were in first place until February last season, when everyone on the Gunner's team sheet broke.  The club has a new fitness director now, and while it's overly simplistic to say he'll just snap his fingers and the players will be fit, Arsenal have had such problems with fitness in the last few years it can't help but help. I still believe Manchester City will probably win, but Arsenal will push them a lot harder than many think they will. I've predicted second place for this year before, and I'll stick with that here.

I expect a hardened push from Arsenal again this season and maybe go one step further than they did last year. Now what about Mikel Arteta, who was a huge part of Everton in his time at Goodison Park? What impact has he had on your Arsenal team since joining?

Besides setting new standards for amazing hair, Arteta has been very, very important to Arsenal over his time in London. He's one of those players I love to watch - he rarely puts a foot wrong.  He's not flashy, he's not the guy your eye is drawn to, but without him in midfield, Arsenal don't work well. He was injured in Tuesday's CL qualifier, and I'm currently dreading the injury report because Arsenal can't afford to be without him for an extended period of time.

That description is certainly how I remembered him at Goodison, a rock in midfield. However, I've also noticed Arteta is your club captain; would he be your choice of captain or would you look to someone else?

I'm very happy that Arteta was named captain; I would have also been happy if Per Mertesacker were captain, but Arteta's a good choice.

Arsenal seem to be the team out of the top sides that consistently grind out results against Everton (barring our 3-0 win at the back end of last season). What are you expecting from Everton on Saturday? I'm expecting Arsenal to be very hard to break down.

I'm actually expecting much the same from Everton, to be honest - "grind out results" is a good way to describe it. Games against Everton are never easy - it's a good squad, and both David Moyes and now Roberto Martinez are managers I rate pretty highly (yes, I still rate Moyes, even after last season).  Martinez has taken what Moyes left him and built on it, and Everton might sneak up on a few people this season.

Hopefully we can go one better than last season. I would say Arsenal should be aiming their sights at 3rd or 4th come the end of the season, but where do you think Everton will finish?

As mentioned, I'm aiming a bit higher for Arsenal this year; I think this season 4th is a realistic target for Everton.

I'd bite your hand off if we were offered fourth place! What do you think this weekend's final score will be between our two sides?

I am notoriously bad at this, but I'll give it a shot.  Arsenal haven't played all that well in their first two matches, thanks to a healthy dose of World Cup fatigue, but all Arsenal's Cup winning Germans will be back for this game, and Mesut Özil will be back after being rested in the CL qualifier, so it should be a stronger team than we've seen thus far this season.  I'll say 2-1 Arsenal but it'll be a nervy 2-1.

If I was in a position to buy one player out of your current team and bring him to Everton it would be Aaron Ramsey, he is strong and technically brilliant and scores some important goals in big games. Who out of Everton's squad would you like at Arsenal? Barkley isn't for sale, haha!

Aaron Ramsey is ours and you can't have him! Looking over the Everton team sheet, if I can't say Ross Barkley, I'd find a spot at Arsenal for Romelu Lukaku, and as an American I have to say I'd also bring in Tim Howard even though Arsenal's GK spot is set at the moment.

Finally, best of luck for the season hopefully you can spare us 3 points on Saturday! One last question, do you think Wenger is lining up anymore signings for Arsenal before the window closes? Or do you think that's business done?

Arsenal have had a staggeringly successful transfer window so far.  The team identified five needs for the squad (two defenders, a midfielder, another striker and a backup keeper) and filled four of them. There is a very vocal portion of the Arsenal fanbase (which does not include me) that believes Giroud is not the man to lead Arsenal to a title, so Arsenal not bringing in a striker doesn't make them happy, and there's another segment that really wants a central defensive midfielder, which also hasn't happened. Otherwise, Arsenal have had a great window.  Arsene has made noises about not being done in the market just yet, though, and he's really good at last minute buying (see: Özil/Mertesacker) so I don't think we've heard the end of Arsenal's transfer ambitions for the summer. But even if we have, I'm thrilled with the new boys and really looking forward to the season.
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Read our responses to the The Short Fuse's questions right here. You can catch full match updates right here at Royal Blue Mersey or find us on Twitter @RBMersey and follow our live text game thread.