Well Insiders, it’s the day we’ve been looking forward to since May. The new season starts officially for Arsenal tonight with our Champions League encounter with Dutch side FC Twente. So to get you all in the mood today here’s a Q & A with Erwin, a season ticket holder at FC Twente for the last 20 years.
PGL – When it comes to the Eredivisie most of us in England know a about PSV and Ajax. Tell us a little about FC Twente?
Erwin – FC Twente is a club founded in 1965, as a merger of two clubs Sportclub Enschede and the Enschedese Boys so we’re relatively young. Since the 70’s we are unofficialy known as the 4th club in Dutch history. After our Dutch Cup success in 2001, things went ugly in 2003. We were declared bankrupt, which almost led to the end of our existence. After that we slowly started building again. In 2006/2007 we were totally back again, finishing 4th in the Dutch League with ultra-attacking football. Our Chairman Joop Munsterman is an ambitious man; he wants to make Twente the 4th club of the Netherlands again. Unfortunately we lost Orlando Engelaar (who you’ve all seen in Euro ’08) to Schalke. That’s a big loss for us.
PGL – It’s FC Twente’s first time in the Champions League. What was the reaction like when you were drawn against Arsenal?
Erwin – At first I thought: Oh no! This can’t be happening. We all wanted a smaller opponent of course. After a while when things sunk in, most of us were excited that our club will play a competitive match against a club as big as yours, in the city of London. Ajax lost in the 3rd preliminary round of the Champions League to minnows a few years in a row (FC Copenhagen and Slavia Prague) and the main opinion here is that if we don’t make it into the Group Stages, it’s better to lose against Arsenal than against the sides that beat Ajax.
PGL – Arsenal are the firm favourites to go through over the two legs, do you feel your team is capable of causing an upset?
Erwin – Realistically… no. When I look at the players you have.. there is no chance we’ll go through, but who knows. A couple of years ago, nobody thought PSV would bet Arsenal in the CL, yet they did. But this is not a 50/50 situation. I’d call it 10/90.
PGL – Which FC Twente players do you think could cause Arsenal problems?
Erwin – One of our most exciting players is left winger Eljero Elia. He’s fast, tricky and his work rate is extremely good. His eye for goal could be better, but overall he’s a good player. Also Marko Arnautovic, he’s only 19, but deemed the next Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He’s a striker and will replace our top goalscorer Blaise Kufo, who’s suspended for three European Matches after being sent off against Getafe last season. I don’t really think he will cause a lot of problems, seen as you’ve got Kolo Toure who will make life miserable for him. We also have a Brazilian, named Douglas, at the back. He’s only been playing competitive football for about 5 years now and his progress is great. For example, Klaas Jan Huntelaar didn’t stand a chance against him.
PGL – How has Steve McClaren’s arrival been greeted at your club?
Erwin – Positive. Most of the fans were happy he signed for us. First impressions are good. I must say, at first I didn’t like it at all that he was linked to Twente, I hated it and I hoped it wasn’t true. But now he’s here and we have to give him a chance. I’m prepared to do so, but I’m not convinced he is the right man for the job.
PGL – Do you think McClaren’s knowledge of the English game will give you an advantage?
Erwin – I don’t really think it will make much of a difference. Everybody in Holland knows the English game. We all watch MOTD on Saturday night and we’ve all seen Arsenal play many matches in the Champions League the last couple of seasons. The only advantage may be that we are a relatively unknown side to the English public and people don’t know what to expect from us.
PGL – Arsenal play a style of football that is often compared to the great Dutch teams of the 70’s. What type of football can we expect to see from FC Twente?
Erwin – We usually play a fast passing game too. Last few years our midfield was the best in the Netherlands according to the pundits. But the main two players from that midfield have left so we have two, very different types of midfielders. We normally play a 4-2-3-1 system with fast players on the wings. In possession are attackers and when we’ve lost the ball are midfielders. This also goes for the central attacking midfielder. In the last friendly match before the Arsenal-game, the attacking midfielder was sacrificed for a more controlling one. So I can’t really say what kind of game we will play. If we play Brama it’s controlling, if we play with Huysegems it’s attacking.
PGL – Robin Van Persie will be eager to impress against a club from his homeland. How do you think your defenders will cope with him and the Arsenal attack?
Erwin – Well, we know Van Persie obviously, we know his game, we know how he plays. I think Wielaert will probably keep him as far from the goal as possible. And our defensive midfielder Tioté will probably try to prevent Van Persie to get te ball by cutting out passes towards him. Our best defender Douglas will man-mark Adebayor I think. And I think he will do a good job.
PGL – What kind of atmosphere can our traveling fans expect at the Gelredome, Arnhem. Stadium? (FC Twente’s Grolsch Veste stadium is currently being modified to increase capacity)
Erwin – The atmosphere will be absolutely electric. Our fans, and especially the fanatical section behind the goal will sing, shout, do everything to help Twente get through. Not just because it’s a big match. We aim to do this every match and I can honestly say; Vak P (Name of the fanatics) are one of the, if not THE loudest, fans you’ll see in the Netherlands. However, don’t expect that it will be exactly like Holland-matches. We won’t go wandering around with lumps of cheese on our heads or with wooden shoes or anything like that. It will be a real football-atmosphere. People here are very proud of the Twente-region, and the football club is a way of life for most of them.
PGL – I believe your fans sing the Liverpool anthem “You’ll never walk alone” before each game, when and why did this begin?
Erwin – Well, it’s not because we like Liverpool or anything. It started in the early 90s. What the exact reason is, I can’t tell you
PGL – And finally Erwin give us your prediction for the tie?
Erwin – For our home match, I think it will be a close one. Maybe a draw.. So I’ll go for 1-1. And it breaks my heart to say so, but in the 2nd leg Arsenal will win. About 3-0 or something like that. No one expects us to go through, I don’t either. I’m afraid it will be a one-sided affair at the Emirates.
So Insiders there you go, some inside knowledge for Erwin. My predictions for the games are pretty much the same maybe 1-2 tonight then 2-0 at home. 4-1 to the Arsenal over the two games would do nicely. If our concentration and effort are at 100% I can’t see us being troubled.