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Inside Info: views from a Gooner

Southampton got taught a footballing lesson by Manchester City on Sunday. Ronald Koeman's men will be looking to regain their scintillating early-season form when they face Arsenal on Wednesday night.

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

This week, we get the lowdown from Arsenal season ticket holder Andrei Grayson ahead of Saints' trip up to North London to face the Gunners.

St. Mary's Musings: What were your season expectations before it started and have they changed since?
Andrei Grayson: I think all most fans really want is to challenge for the title. Finishing in the top four is absolutely fantastic to achieve year in, year out, but after the FA Cup win everyone expected us to make a real fist of it this season.

A combination of a World Cup hangover, a plethora of injuries and a rampant Chelsea have left that impossible before the turn of the year. Finishing third - thus avoiding the champions league play-off - avoiding Bayern or Real Madrid in the next round of the Champions League, and a real fight to retain our FA Cup is what I'd hope for.

SMM: It's not been the best of starts to the season for Arsenal. Can you pinpoint what the issue has been?
AG: As mentioned before, we really have had some horrendous injuries; particularly at the back, which have cost us points in games we really should win. However, our profligacy in front of goal has been our poor start's major contributing factor. We've seen chance after chance go begging and in this league, you will get punished for being so wasteful.

Clearly, the World Cup impacted most clubs who had various players playing there and we can't really use that as an excuse. But, some of our major players, such as Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, and Theo Walcott have struggled for both form and fitness.

SMM: What did you make of the Capital One Cup game between Saints and Arsenal earlier this season?

It was a frustrating one from our point of view. Strangely, the quality of Saints' first XI against a mix of our first team and back-up players were too strong - we never really looked like scoring that night and it took a wonderful free-kick from Alexis Sanchez for us to put one past Fraser Forster.

Ultimately, a poor piece of play from Tomas Rosicky giving away the penalty - followed by an absolute stunner from range by Clyne - left Saints in control and nothing really changed from that point. I think it was a turning point for the likes of Lukas Podolski, Joel Campbell and Rosicky, who all turned in some really average performances; they have subsequently barely featured since that game and it's not hard to see why.

I do hope Saints go on and make a fist of trying to win the Capital One Cup or at least get the chance to go to Wembley. Not many neutrals want to see Chelsea get anywhere near the cup.

SMM: Wenger, as usual, is under a lot of pressure from some Arsenal fans and the media. What do you think of him? Is it time to move on from the Wenger era?
AG: Touchy subject, especially in the wake of the banner unfurled in the away end on Saturday. It may seem odd to say but I've actually only known Arsenal while they've been managed by Wenger. My first season I really remember was 97/98 which was his first full season.

I've always felt as though he is the right man despite his obvious flaws: not many clubs combine a stadium move along with playing such high quality football, while maintaining our status as a Champions League club. We have been blessed with his work to be perfectly honest. But, as long as he is in charge we won't win the league and we (I've probably cursed us now) won't finish lower than fourth.

We achieve par with Wenger in charge. We have either the third or fourth biggest wage bill in the league and routinely finish third or fourth in the league; it's quite incredible that we have so many fans who complain about that fact!

SMM: If Wenger was to leave Arsenal, who would you want replacing him and why?
AG: Pep Guardiola. At least he brought a Barca style of play.

In all seriousness, Klopp has been touted and, for me, he is a fantastic character. You only have to look at the Bundesliga to see how he is coping with selling his stars and maintaining a competitive squad, despite Borussia Dortmund's struggles at present.

We would be such a big draw for a manager: we're self-sufficient, have a magnificent stadium, and are based in London - something that is often overlooked in terms of its pulling power for players/managers. The man I'd like to see at the helm is Rudi Garcia. He has worked absolute wonders at Roma and did the same at Lille. He's even managed to give Gervinho a new lease of life, for that alone, he deserves a shot!

SMM: Arsenal have a history of buying young Saints players. Why can't you produce your own? (Haha!)
Amazing question. I would hate to accuse you of bitterness! Our academy has come under the spotlight lately and rightfully so; we've invested a great deal into our youth set-up with nothing to show for it.

Jack Wilshere is the only example of a first teamer in the current squad to come through the ranks. Andries Jonkier joined in the summer so hopefully we can start to develop our own talent and only pick the finest Saints have to offer. On this note though, Dan Crowley is making waves in our U21 team and we stole him from Villa so you're not alone!

SMM: Who is your favourite Saints buy and why?

AG: It has to be Theo Walcott. We have missed him so much in recent months. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is coming into his own now, but Theo's pace and finishing prowess have been a missing link for us. In the back end of last season, we became really one dimensional without him. In all honesty, Walcott is our only ‘big game' goal scorer left.

The return of Walcott to full fitness will no doubt boost our form again; his link-up play with Ozil and Ramsey for parts of last season looked really promising.

SMM: How do you rate Calum Chambers? Is he a snip at £16million?

AG: He is already so assured, composed, and solid for such a young player. Despite a couple of indifferent performances, notably away at Swansea, he looks like he could oust Debuchy from being the first-choice right-back and even looks like he could play centre-half just as easily. He will be some player for us in years to come, ultimately he was still a risk and still could be so I think the price was on the money!

SMM: What did you make of Saints' summer? Are you surprised at how well they've done so far this season?

AG: You worried for Saints as a neutral, probably more so as a fan. Who didn't think it would be a struggle for them? Obviously I'm surprised at how well they're doing, but I do think it's maybe a little premature to shoot for the top four. But, I'd love to see it: as long as it's not at the expense of us!

It's still quite fantastic to see Saints in the position they are in. Even if we sneak a win tomorrow, we won't overtake Saints which says quite a lot!

SMM: If you could sell any of Arsenal's regular starting XI, who would it be and why?

AG: This is a toughie. If Szczesny was as good a goalkeeper as he thinks he is, then I wouldn't need to worry. But, he often makes some really infuriating decisions which have cost us vital points. Podolski would be the one to sell, but he hasn't been regular starter for us so I'll go with Mathieu Flamini. He isn't the same player he was for us before he left for AC Milan.  He simply doesn't have the technical ability to play in our team, gets caught out of position far too often, and is really over-played.

SMM: If you could buy any one Saints player, who would it be and why?

AG: Morgan Schneiderlin. I didn't really have to think about that one. Nathaniel Clyne has been excellent and would be a welcome addition to any club, but a dynamic holding midfielder is exactly what we need right now. Schneiderlin is composed in possession and a real battler in midfield - I'm amazed he didn't move on. The evidence of his impact on Saints was there for all to see against City last time out after the team fell apart once he'd been substituted with an injury. He is some midfielder.

I hope you can hang on to him for now, we're all still delighted he was prevented from going to Tottenham!

SMM: Important question here, so think carefully. Who is better looking: Olivier Giroud or Graziano Pelle? Why?

AG: What a toughie. Pelle has the better hair and being from an Italian background myself, I can only admire the look. On the flip side, Giroud has been in an advert spraying himself, proclaiming "I'm gorgeous", so this really is difficult to decide.

I'll go with Giroud because I am biased.

SMM: Finally, how do you think the game will go? Prediction?
AG: It will be tight, both teams to score but hoping we can continue our improved form. 2-1 Gunners.