It’s the first midweek Premier League game of the season and we play host to a team that has quietly crept its way in to the top half. Arsenal have been in such a good run that it would be criminal not to expect anything other than three points against Hull City.
Hull come to town on the back of a convincing win over Liverpool at home but what does come to our advantage is that we’ve got an extra day to rest and Arsene Wenger has the freedom to bring in some fresh legs. Hull worked their socks off on Sunday so I suspect they’ll feel the aftermath of that effort as the game progresses and Arsenal start playing the ball around at pace.
I got in touch with Andy Dalton, editor of Amber Nectar and a lifelong Hull City fan. I’ve been reading Amber Nectar quite a lot this season and if you are a football geek like I am, this is a blog you might enjoy.
Amber Nectar have an illustrious history with the term ‘Tiger Nation’ first featuring in their inaugural issue and since going on to be the collective noun for all Hull City supporters. Amber Nectar were also responsible for minor changes to Hull City’s home kit in 2005-06 and were the brains behind the 1998 tennis ball protest against David Lloyd’s ownership in a cup game against Bolton so it was a pleasure talking to Andy ahead of the game.
It is only when you look at someone like Assem Allam that you realise how good an owner we’ve got in Silent Stan. And to all those maniacs who still keep harping about our lack of trophies; just feel lucky to be supporting a club like Arsenal. We don’t have the trophies but our stability as one of the big clubs is the only reason we are immune to the idiosyncrasies of such pathetic owners. Imagine the furore that would’ve happened had Stan Kroenke tried to change our name?
Anyway, I give my shout out to Hull City’s historic name remaining intact. Read below for a look at Andy’s views on a range of issues including ‘City Till We Die’, the Ballon d’Or and Arsenal’s record summer signing, Mesut Ozil.
1. Please introduce yourself and your blog for our readers.
Our website is Amber Nectar – it originally began life in 1998 as a paper fanzine, before taking the easy way out in 2003 and becoming website only.
2. Before going into the game, there has been a lot of focus on the owner wanting to change the club’s name and his angry outburst against the fans. Could you shed some light on the situation?
It’s becoming an increasingly fractious issue. It’s been rumbling on for months, since the first sly attempts at introducing a rebrand began to be noticed. Despite repeated denials that anything was going on, ongoing discontent eventually forced a public admission from City. That prompted the formation of City Till We Die, a campaign group aimed at retaining our 109 year old name of Hull City AFC, with which Amber Nectar is very closely involved.
It’s all become a little heated lately, and while you may expect that to be angry football fans kicking off, it’s actually been the other way around, with CTWD trying to retain a dignified approach while the club’s owner becomes increasing randy.
3. How brave was Steve Bruce to come out and speak for the fans after the win against Liverpool?
Extremely. His predecessor, local hero Nick Barmby, was sacked for much milder public criticisms of Assem Allam. However, coming hours after we cuffed Liverpool, his stock couldn’t be higher, which presumably allowed him the freedom to speak out.
4. As I mentioned Liverpool, it must have been great to beat one of the best teams in the league so far. Your assessment of the game?
Sometimes when newly promoted clubs beat one of the big lads, it’s a case of them nicking one on the break and soaking up tonnes of pressure – so to have so convincingly outplayed them is a remarkable achievement. There’s little doubt they had a real off-day, but City took full advantage. After a couple of dodgy outings in recent weeks it was a delight to see us play so well.
5. What’s the fan’s opinion on the season so far? Personally, I feel Hull have done well to be in the top 10 right now.
We’re thrilled. Obviously the aim is to stay up, and that’s looking more likely than not at the moment. It’s hard to see us finishing in the top 10, but if we can stay up with a bit to spare, then the difference between scraping 17th and (say) 13th will make it easier to attract quality players next summer, with the aim being to perhaps target the top 10 next season. It’s a long shot, but hey, we’re in the Premier League, when we were being hammered by the likes of Rochdale and Macclesfield in Division Four all of this seemed a long shot…
6. Is the lack of goals- 12 from 13 games- a worry going into a busy December schedule?
Yes, it’s a major worry. It was last season too – we were promoted with a decidedly paltry return. That’s not to say we’re dour to watch and focussed solely on being grimly organised, as outsiders sometimes expect from a Steve Bruce side, we’re genuinely good to watch (I should know, I’ve seen us be terrible to watch enough times). But we don’t score enough, and if the worst happens, we can already identify the reason behind it.
7. Which player has impressed the most?
Curtis Davies. No, really! Once upon a time he was an accident waiting to happen, and his signing was rather underwhelming. However he’s been absolutely rock solid this season, and he’ll be seriously missed tomorrow.
8. Your view on Arsenal as a club.
I don’t think Arsenal quite get the credit they deserve for – shock horror – trying to run themselves in a responsible manner. The trophies thing does need sorting, of course – but I’m sure Arsenal fans know that fans of most clubs are unlikely to be overburdened with sympathy, as we’ve spent 109 years successfully avoiding silverware. However, I’ve been extremely impressed with Arsenal this season.
9. Question marks still remain over Arsenal’s title credentials despite a commanding four-point lead at the top. Do you think the persisting doubts are justified?
I think those doubts exist just because it’s been a while. On their day Arsenal look eminently capable of winning the title. I think the title will be heading towards Manchester this season, but that’s hardly a foregone conclusion. The longer Arsenal remain firmly in contention, the more likely it is those doubts will melt away.
10. Who has impressed you the most at Arsenal?
That Ozil lad is a bit good isn’t he?
11. Your opinion on Arsenal’s record signing Mesut Ozil so far.
I’ll be honest, it struck me as a panic buy. Fair to say I didn’t get that quite right. He’s a genuinely world-class talent who can take any side apart.
13. Wenger recently took a shot at the Ballon d’Or arguing that it puts individualism ahead of team play. What’s your opinion given that the likes of Wesley Sneijder, Iker Casillas and Andres Iniesta have failed to win it despite hugely successful seasons?
What a very good question! Unfortunately, whatever the purist may think, football needs its individual stars. As a starry-eyed kid, I’d shout either “Lineker!” or “Payton!” (ex-City…) when I scored in the playground. As a grown-up, sort of, I think there’s room for appreciating both fine teams and fine individuals, it isn’t an either/or choice.
14. Where do you think the game could be won or lost on Wednesday?
In Arsenal’s attitude. Home game, “little old Hull”, if Arsenal take their eye off the ball on Wednesday then we are, on our day, good enough to provide a bloody nose. But if Arsenal turn up and play to their potential, there’s probably not an awful lot we can do about it.
15. What are Hull’s targets for this season? And where do you think Arsenal will end up in May?
Let’s aim for something like 14th. Safety with a bit to spare. Arsenal… hmmm third. But still in contention in March.
16. Predictions for the game.
2-1 Arsenal. I don’t think we’ll make it easy, but Sunday’s win took a lot out of the City players and it’s a bit much to think we can get two stellar results in half a week.
Thanks for reading,