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The inside track on Arsenal with John Cross of the Daily Mirror

Posted on 4 November 2016  - 12:30

It's that time again, and ahead of the north London derby at the Emirates on Sunday, we turned to a reporter who knows Arsenal inside-out for our 'inside track' feature, John Cross of the Daily Mirror...

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John Cross
Chief Football Writer, Daily Mirror

john_crossUSEYou’ve watched and reported on Arsenal for a long time now John - what do you make of the class of 2016-17?
John:
"I think the class of 2016-17 is very promising, has some top class players and this is definitely Arsenal's best squad - and best chance of title success - since the Invincibles season in 2004. There's a good mix of flair with Ozil and Sanchez and Mustafi has given them steel in defence. I think Wenger feels it's his best squad for some time. They are very good to watch, small technical players with a bit of steel and in Ozil and Sanchez they have genuine world class players."

We’re 10 games into the Premier League, what players have caught the eye? Mustafi seems to have made a difference defensively...
John: "Mustafi has been superb. He's been the defensive signing they've been crying out for. He's formed a good partnership with Koscielny. Coquelin has done well because he's been under pressure since the signing of Xhaka. Walcott has really kicked on this season, showing a great attitude. Ozil has played well but Sanchez is the revelation up front. I didn't think, particularly after some early games, he could play up front. But it's getting the best out of him."

Below: Shkodran Musfati

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When was your first north London derby and how have you seen it change over the years? Would you agree it’s a big as ever?
John: "I can't actually remember the first one I attended! My memory is terrible. I'll always remember watching the Liam Brady curler at White Hart Lane. Tottenham getting revenge with a 5-0 win when I think George Wood had a nightmare in goal for Arsenal. Then I remember going to White Hart Lane in 1985 when Arsenal won 2-0. Charlie Nicholas scored, I think. That always tended to happen in derbies...

"It has changed down the years. But it's always remained intense. I remember the Littlewoods Cup semi-finals in 1987, going to all three games. Arsenal were dead and buried, 2-0 down on aggregate at half-time of the second leg. Then to win it in a replay...but what strikes me is the second leg was on Sunday, the replay was fixed three days later and it just happened. Under Wenger, Arsenal dominated for a decade. Now it's as tight as it's ever been. This one will be just as competitive."

Below: Santi Cazorla

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How do you think Arsenal will approach this one? Any players out? Any selection surprises to come?
John: "I think Arsenal will be desperate for Santi Cazorla to play. He makes them tick. I think Arsenal have a dilemma now with Ramsey and Giroud fit again. But they'll surely go with the players who have been playing lately and in good form."

Final question - and the big one - how do you see this one playing out?
John: "It's just impossible to call these. I watched Tottenham on Wednesday night and no-one should underestimate how good Bayer Leverkusen were but Spurs weren't great. So, the best way to bounce back? In a big game, of course. Tottenham's squad, the home grown element, all of the players, get it. They know the fierceness of this derby. So they'll be up for it. So I'll sit firmly on the fence and go 1-1."