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Five questions for an Arsenal fan ahead of the match with Manchester United

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We spoke to Paul DeBruler of The Short Fuse, SB Nation's Arsenal blog, about what they made of Arsenal, ahead of the match between Manchester United and the North London self-celebrators. And yes, there is mention of the calendar year.

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Do you think Arsenal are significantly better than they were last year?


For the first time in years, I can answer this question easily: Yes. There are two problems, however: first, Arsenal were so ravaged by injury between August and December that they were close to holding open tryouts for first team places, and second, the rest of the elite tier of teams is also significantly better than it was.
Given all that, though, I'm very happy with how Arsenal are built, how they play together, and where they are now in relation to last year and the two or three years prior to that.
What have you made of Danny Welbeck?


A mess? I honestly don't know. When he arrived, I publicly predicted he'd be a 20 goal scorer. That, to be charitable, hasn't happened. He's decent, I like him a lot, and he seems to have loads of potential; I thought a change of scenery would revitalize him, but early in the season he took a while to settle, and now that Arsenal are healthy, he struggles to get games.


I'm glad he's here and I don't want to see him leave, but I don't think he's going to advance his game as dramatically as I did in August.


What score do you expect on Sunday?


I'm notoriously bad at predictions - see my Welbeck prediction above - but Arsenal are playing very well right now, last weekend's blip at Swansea aside, and having broken their "We can't win at big teams" hoodoo in the FA Cup at Old Trafford earlier in the year, I don't think Arsenal will play with a lot of fear on Sunday. I could see Arsenal sneaking away with a 2-1 win, but I could also see a nervy 0-0 draw.


Are you not tired of Arsene Wenger yet?

The short, snarky answer to that is "Were you tired of Sir Alex in his 19th year in charge?" The longer, more thoughtful answer is "It depends on how you feel about trophies". There is a very stark divide in Arsenal supporter circles as regards Arsene Wenger. There are those - and as a supporter of this club for 25 years now, I am one - who feel that Arsene Wenger has earned the right to manage Arsenal as long as he wants to, and to leave on his own terms - and not a moment before he's ready to do so.


First, he reinvented how English teams train and play; that phase of his tenure reached its pinnacle with the 2003-04 Invincibles. Then, when Arsenal decided to build a stadium with their own money (for the most part), he steered the club through some (comparatively) lean years while still qualifying for the overflowing pig trough of money that is the Champions League, and while annually losing at least one of his best players.


In his entire career as Arsenal manager, Wenger has never finished lower than fourth - which is a feat no one, even Sir Alex, can claim. In three years, if all goes well, Arsene will surpass Sir Alex' record of 22 straight top four finishes. Arsene also has the distinction of leading his team into the Champions League for 18 straight seasons, which is a record, breaking Sir Alex' record of 17 with this year's qualification for next year's tournament.


Then there are those who only see the lack of silverware, the lack of spending, and the perceived "lack of ambition", who want Wenger to go. Thing is, they also have a point - the goal of sports is to win things, after all, and Arsenal, in the last 10 years, haven't won much. So if trophies are the most important thing, sure, there's a case for Wenger to go. But to your question "are you not tired of Arsene Wenger yet?", the answer for me is no. Not by a long shot.


Do you think Arsenal will be superior to United again next year?


I honestly think that calendar year 2015 Arsenal are closer to what Arsenal are and will be than August-December 2014 Arsenal were. Early in the season, Arsenal were simultaneously missing Giroud, Ozil, Walcott, Ramsey, and most of its first choice defense; no team can survive that and mount a serious title challenge. Even given that, Arsenal have a chance at finishing second this season.


Why? Because since January 1, when players started coming back from the training room, Arsenal have dropped only nine points in the league, and for the first time in years, Wenger has fielded an unchanged starting XI for four consecutive weeks now. What that tells me is that as long as they stay healthy, Arsenal are heading into 2015/16 as actual, serious title challengers. Depending on what United do this summer, of course, I think Arsenal will finish higher than Manchester United. I also think, for the first time in a while, that Arsenal will finish higher than the other 18 teams not named Manchester United.