Opposition Q&A: Arsenal Part 1- At Home With The Lermans

We’re pleased to present a very special double-header ahead of this Wednesday’s game against Arsenal. First up, Hannah and Mike Lerman, daughter and husband of IndyRs contributor Sandra Lerman (@Sandyhoops), give us their views and explain what it’s like to live in a household split Hoops vs Gooners…

Divided loyalties – The Lerman Family. From left, Sandra, Mike, Amy and Hannah, as illustrated by Jonathan Edwards

Q. Please share with us what the atmosphere / banter is like in the Lerman household before this very special London derby?

Hannah: The atmosphere is hilarious when it comes to derby day, although there is an unspoken underlying air of nerves… For my dad and me there is the worry of losing to a team lower in the league and having to be reminded of that every day at home! For my mum and sister, I assume they do not want to admit they expect to lose and are using the chance before the match to grab as much joy and teasing as possible. Teasing includes general attacks of “we’re better than you,” “one team in London” and so forth, as well as photos of our football mugs next to each other signifying the impending game.

Mike: The banter begins a few weeks ahead of the game when we discuss tickets and arrangements to go to the game together. Nervousness starts to set in about 2 weeks beforehand, but neither of the sides of the household would dare show it! The teasing then begins a few days before the game, this time revolving around who needs the 3 points most! From Hannah and my point of view there is such a desire not to lose (as Arsenal are the “bigger” club), that we sympathise with each other over the impending experience – but again we’d never show our fear to Sandy and Amy!

Q. In spite of the first leg Champions League performance against Monaco, Arsenal are four points off second place in the Premier League and in the FA Cup sixth round. Just how good a season could this end up being?

Hannah: I would naively like to say it is going to be a good season for us but we are playing United AT Old Trafford for the FA Cup. I had a dream we beat them 5-1 but my unconscious is just a little bit biased… Being a realistic Gooner, as long as we get into the Champions League next season, I will be happy, especially considering how close 2nd and 7th places are. Finishing above Tottenham for the 19th time in a row would be lovely!

Mike: Arsenal’s performances in the 2013/14 season left the fans with a sense of excitement at the upcoming campaign; and with the addition of Sanchez and a few others, there was genuine excitement. So Arsenal’s poor start to the 2014/15 season, and lack of consistency, has been a disappointment. That being said, what team (other than the top 2) would complain of being in Arsenal’s position? The problem is always one of expectation. Some Arsenal fans demand success; personally, I take a much more pragmatic view and look at the positives.

Q. What have this season’s new recruits like Alexis Sanchez added to the mix? How far off is this Arsenal team from being a title-winning side?

Hannah: I’ve said to my dad if we had 11 Sanchezes in our team, we would be storming the league. Chelsea would look like a speck to us! He always tracks back, defends as well as attacks, he looks around him and considers the best pass to make. He is an inspirational footballer. I think to be a winning side we need an actual striker. To say we could win the league with Giroud is too amusing!

Mike: Sanchez has been a marvellous addition to the squad. He is clearly a player that would grace any top team. Having seen the likes of Pires, Henry and Bergkamp at Arsenal in the last decade, it is good to see someone of their calibre in the team again, along with others such as Ozil and Cazorla. Other additions are younger or have yet to acclimatise to the Premier League, but still show promise. According to the fans, when we win we are close to being a title-winning side and when we lose we are 3-4 players short!

Q. Arsene Wenger – the professor – divides opinion among Gooners. What’s your view? Stay or go?

Hannah: We finish top 4 regularly and have won a trophy recently. If we were to sack Wenger now who, realistically, would we be able to bring in who could do better? It is easy to say I want him out but it is much harder to answer who I would want in instead. Saying that, recently I have felt that he has been too stubborn, not conforming to the progression of football in the Premier League. However, our performance against Man City earlier this year showed a potential for him to amend the way we play to win as opposed to playing ‘nice football.’ For the first time in a while we won with less than 50% possession. I felt that this suggested that Wenger showed that he can change Arsenal’s tactics so that we can beat the teams who know how to shut us down normally. Long story short, I am not part of the “Wenger out” brigade but I can definitely see why people would want him out.

Mike: Stay! I feel many fans are too interested in rapid success to see the real skills of our manager year in, year out. There is no question he has failed in the last decade to create a team to win a title, despite coming close a few times in recent years. However, I still feel he has that in him and I see no advantage in looking at new management with all the problems of succession and the upheaval it could cause. However, the fan base is becoming more and more restless and I wonder how long he will stay?

Q. How do you think Wenger will set up under the lights at Loftus Road on Wednesday night? Who is the Gunners player to watch and why?

Hannah: Our defence recently has been quite shaky, especially against Monaco, so I would say Charlie Austin is the one we have to watch out for.

I do not see us making many changes from the weekend. Each game right now is so vital as the fight for 3rd and 4th place is so close. Sanchez may be rested as he has seemed quite tired since he came back from his injury. I also would not be surprised to see Walcott start to run past your defenders.

Mike: Wenger usually puts a team out to play the way he wants to play: with expression and freedom. He rarely seems to change the system for the opposition. Our win at the Etihad this year was a rare example of Wenger proving me wrong on that score. I suspect he will play an attacking side. Cazorla is the man in form. It took him a few months to find that form, but given space he is, at the moment, almost untouchable.

Q. Which current QPR player/s do you rate or admire, if any? What about QPR players of the past?

Hannah: I admire Barton for his dedication for getting so many cards in a row…! The name that stays with me from the past is Kevin Gallen. It is rare nowadays for a player to be dedicated to a club, and as a youngster I always felt that his heart was at QPR.

Mike: My association with the Rs goes back to when I met my wife, Sandy, in 1977. Her enthusiasm for Rangers, matching mine for Arsenal, meant that we would follow each other’s teams regularly. I have fond memories of watching Gerry Francis, Dave Clement, Garry Bannister, Simon Stainrod and Les Ferdinand over the years. I particularly enjoyed watching Roy Wegerle in his time at Loftus Road. Of the current crop, Vargas and Isla, the Chilean players, are a delight to watch and the amazing rise to the top level of Charlie Austin is a story straight out of Roy of the Rovers.

Q. What do you make of QPR’s decision to stick with Chris Ramsey for the rest of the season? How do you read recent events in Shepherds Bush?

Hannah: I am not surprised that QPR decided to stick with Ramsey for similar reasons to sticking with Wenger. Who is available right now who would realistically do better for you and can keep you out of relegation? I don’t really have a chance to read up about what happens at QPR but that’s not a problem. If you know my mother (@SandyHoops) at all then you’ll know she’ll talk non-stop about her team. And she does!

Mike: The management scene at Loftus Road has unfortunately mirrored the team’s ups and down in recent years. As the supporter of a club that has had the same manager for close to 20 years, it is clear that chopping and changing the “gaffer” rarely brings long-term stability. Having said that, sticking with someone who has “lost the dressing room”, to use a well-worn phrase, is also not sensible. Giving Ramsey the job shows loyalty and more importantly consistency within the club structure. Look back at Liverpool in the 70s and 80s and how they always promoted from within that brought such success and a continuation of the “Liverpool way”.

Q. QPR is seeking to create a new stadium at Old Oak Common, not without some difficulty. How do you like the atmosphere and the facilities at the Emirates? Do Arsenal fans ever pine for Highbury?

Hannah: Arsenal fans ALWAYS pine for Highbury. My goodness! It is probably the most common reason for our lack of trophies since 2005! I vaguely remember Highbury but they left when I was 13. The main thing I remember is sitting close to the away fans and jeering at them (dad was so proud). Or the board that would sometimes say “come on you Arsenal!” over and over again and I’d chant with it. The Emirates isn’t too bad. Dad and I moved from the top tier to the middle tier, definitely a worthy choice. We’re more in the middle of the chanting even though I would say I was the loudest and rowdiest in my area!

Mike: Most Arsenal fans look back on Highbury fondly, but mostly because of many years of success. It was rather cramped, let’s be honest, and fans were usually complaining about the turnstiles and poor facilities when they were there! Change is always something fans are loathe to accept quickly but, in time, when a generation will only have known the Emirates stadium (or whatever it will be called in years to come!), Highbury will become a distant memory. Rangers Stadium has been improved in recent years, but a new stadium will bring new opportunities for the club and possibly a fresh attitude.

Q. Which three teams do you tip for relegation this season?

Hannah: Leicester, Aston Villa, (Tottenham), and Burnley.

Mike: Anyone but QPR (I value my health)!

Score and prediction for Wednesday night?

Hannah: 6-1 to Arsenal: Alexis brace, Cazorla, Theo, Ozil and Austin own goal, then Austin scores for you too to make up for his own goal.

Mike: This is where years of seeing Arsenal come a “cropper” at Loftus Road comes to mind. I’d be happy with a 1-0 win for Arsenal!

Thank you so much to the whole Lerman family for giving us such an entertaining read!