So, Marion, when did you first start supporting Arsenal ?
I can’t even remember exactly, but it must have been nearly 50 years ago. The first players I remember where Frank McLintock, George Graham and that particular crowd - back in Bertie Mee’s era.
I was about 18 when I first went, but I did have a few years of disinterest in football shortly after, as I had other things on my mind. You can imagine what they were - boys, dancing, fun times - and then for a few years after I married I was supporting but rarely went to games.
Later, though, my daughter and I used to go down to Highbury and queue up every other Saturday, even to friendlies and testimonials, and then have a drink in the pub afterwards.
But since they’ve moved to the new stadium we haven’t been as much, and I just can’t afford to now with the prices going sky high.
I don’t think our supporters are what they used to be either, honestly. We’re just nasty. Not in a violent way, but it’s just stuff like the constant booing of players that gets to me. I think the only one they haven’t so far has been Lukasz Fabianski, and that’s probably because he barely played.
Looking back over the years, who have been some of your favourite players and sides ?
For players, I would have to say Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and the late David ‘Rocky’ Rocastle.
I've never really had a favourite team or era, but I’ve had favourite moments. The absolute favourite of my Arsenal-supporting life would have to be that night at Anfield [when Arsenal won the 1988-89 First Division title on goal difference with a 2-0 win over Liverpool], with Michael Thomas scoring in injury time. That was the most glorious moment football has given me in my life. I don’t remember ever being so happy.
It was just so amazing. I don’t think the team thought they would do it and most of the fans, including me, didn’t either to be honest. It was just magical - even more so than the Invincibles season I think.
And that was under George Graham, of course. Where would you rate him among past Arsenal managers ?
He is probably my favourite, actually. I know he left us rather under a cloud, but I think he was probably my favourite, because he really believed in defence - and so do I.
And you’re not too keen on the current manager anymore ?
Not anymore, no. I know Arsene Wenger was a great manager in his time, and did wonderful things for the team, but I think his time has passed now. There needs to be change in the way we play, and it’s never going to happen while he keeps scraping Arsenal into the top-four. While he's there I just can't follow them.
So have you completely stopped following them ?
For the time being, yes. I just can’t cope with all the stress of it all anymore. I get so angry with them. My daughter stopped a while ago for the same reason.
So what was the final straw for you ?
I think what did it for me was when he didn’t buy back Cesc Fabregas this summer. That was the biggest mistake he’s ever made and he will live to regret that.
We were all so excited when the rumours started that he was moving back to England. Fabregas had the buy-back clause and everyone was thinking it was going to happen, and then all of a sudden he goes to Chelsea. And now Wenger says we didn’t need him – like hell you didn’t need him.
He’s been absolutely amazing for Chelsea and he’s playing better now than he ever has. His passing is immaculate. He’s just brilliant. Wenger can say we didn’t need him but that just shows his lack of intelligence.
But your discontent with Wenger started some time before that ?
Well, yes. I was probably one of the first ones on the ‘Wenger Out’ campaign with Piers Morgan. A couple of years ago I could see that he’s only got one way of playing. They go out and attack, and leave wide open spaces in defence. You’re constantly on the edge when the opposing teams are going forward. It’s just so stressful to be quite honest.
Then the Fabregas thing happened, and now with the way he’s treating Lukas Podolski. Podolski’s now 29 years old and he’s sat on the bench all season while lesser players than him are in the side. Wenger seems to hate him - and I suspect it’s because he doesn’t like the fact that he’s always in the media. He puts him on for 10 minutes at the end occasionally just so he can have a little kick about, but he’s never going to be able to do anything in that time. Then, when he did score two goals not so long ago, the next game he goes onto the bench again.
He’s ruining his career. People are going to forget who he is soon. He’s an international player in nowhere land, who nobody seems to want to buy. I think the last bid which came in for him in the summer was something like £3 million, which Wenger would never let him go for, so he’s just going to have to sit on the bench until his contract expires .
Mesut Ozil’s another one. He should never have bought him. Jose Mourinho knows him better than anyone from his time at Real Madrid and said he didn’t buy him because he knows he’s not suited to Premier League football, and Wenger doesn’t know how to play him.
Ozil’s maybe not a player for 90 minutes in every game, as was the case at Real, because he’s a touch player. But at Arsenal you come here and play every week until you get injured and that’s it, you’re out for six months. Now that’s what’s happened to him. Wenger plays him out of position out wide, where he obviously can’t play and subsequently got a toasting in the press, but Wenger kept playing him there. He’s not meant to be a winger and it’s absolutely crazy. I just don’t get Wenger.
But are you not worried that things might not necessarily be greener on the other side ?
No, I just think Wenger’s lost the plot at this point.
So if you’re thinking about potential replacements at this point, who would you want taking over ?
I really don’t know to be honest.
Not Jurgen Klopp then ?
Yeah, I do think he’d do a good job actually. Even though they’re going through struggles at Borussia Dortmund at the moment, he’s had no money there for years but he’s still managed to do every well. He’s had Bayern Munich stealing most of his best players. With Klopp's enthusiasm for the game and openness, he must be the absolute polar opposite of Wenger. He takes care of his players. I do think he would be a good replacement.
I actually quite like Roberto Mancini, too, and he’s even said he wants to manage Arsenal. I know people have said he caused problems at Manchester City, but he’s still won the league and a lot of his troubles were down to his relationship with Mario Balotelli.
It looks like Wenger will be sticking around for the moment, though, so how would you look to improve things in the meantime ?
Well, you’d have to improve the defence. Kieran Gibbs isn’t a bad player, but Per Mertesacker’s so slow. He’s good on set pieces, but he gets torn to pieces by a quick forward. I’m not keen on Mathieu Debuchy either, partly because I loved Bacary Sagna so much, but then we haven’t seen him much because he’s been injured for so long. That’s another thing; he brought in this new fitness coach [Shad Forsythe] and he’s had more injuries than ever.
Then Wenger’s got this problem with Calum Chambers. When he brought him he said he was a 19-year-old kid for the future, but he’s now starting every single game with all our injuries, and he’s been doing it in about three different positions, too. He was completely and utterly humiliated when they were playing against Swansea City last month [a 2-1 defeat]. Jefferson Montero made him look like an absolute idiot, the poor boy. Wenger sat there on that sideline, watching him get torn to pieces, and did absolutely nothing. People were all over social media afterwards slating Chambers, when really they should have been taking it out on the man in charge.
Chambers has picked up a booking virtually every game I think, too, but that’s not because he’s a dirty player. It’s because he’s not experienced enough, but Wenger’s had to play him because he bought so badly in the summer.
The young Hector Bellerin seems promising, but he’s still got a lot to learn. Really he should never have let Carl Jenkinson go, or sold Thomas Vermaelen, but there you go. He could have helped things out with a new holding midfielder, but he didn’t want to do that for some reason.
But in terms of other summer business, you must be pleased with the impact both Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck have made ?
I’m very pleased with Sanchez, obviously, but I’m not a lover of Welbeck, to be honest. Maybe it’s his Manchester United connection, but I just can’t warm to him. He’s a decent player, but he’d still have to do a lot more to win me over.
So where do you think Arsenal will ultimately finish this season?
Knowing Wenger, they’ll probably get in the top-four somehow. It’s the only reason they keep him there, after all. If he buys well in January then they’ll probably get it and the board will keep him. They’re happy as long as they’re getting their Champions League money and couldn’t care less otherwise.
Maybe [Alisher] Usmanov does, but for the likes of [Stan] Kroenke it’s just a business. Arsenal have become a balance sheet, just like United under the Glazers. You don’t see them showing any excitement at games, or even turning up most of the time. While Chelsea have Roman Abramovich there virtually every game, the people at Arsenal are virtually invisible. I wouldn’t know what half of them look like.
Thanks very much for your time, Marion, and hopefully there are better times ahead at the Emirates.
No problem, you’re welcome. I do hope so, too.