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What do you think of the job that Mikel Arteta has done at Arsenal so far?
I like the job that Arteta has done at Arsenal so far. What I particularly like as well is little bits that are coming out with how he’s dealing with the discipline. When we talk about players, the amount of money that they earn and how they can control what’s going on, I think Mikel Arteta has the right attitude, he doesn’t care who you are, if he doesn’t think you’re right, you don’t play and you stay out of the squad. I really like that.
Team wise, we’ve talked about a lot more energy, a lot more belief and a lot more organisation, particularly defensively, and I’m talking about the whole team, not just the back four. Also, he’s working with a back four that has been playing without two of its regular fullbacks.
It’s not perfect by a long way and I think he will want to make some significant changes over the next couple of seasons, but at the moment I’m positive.
What would be considered a good finish to Arsenal’s season, and with Manchester City’s predicament, could Arsenal actually sneak into fifth place and get back into the Champions League?
If fifth was available and then that got you into the Champions League, I think Arsenal will have an outside chance. However, there are a lot of teams ahead of them that are going to have to drop points, or Arsenal are going to have to go on an unbelievable run.
Do I see that happening at the moment? I don’t know whether I do, because to do that, Arsenal are going to have to win a significant amount of games, and we’ve already showed that at times we’re a bit vulnerable and we’re more likely to draw.
So, just keep progressing in terms of your form. We want to see some foundations for next season and then look to go a long way in the competitions this season; FA Cup and Europa League. After all, the Europa League gets you back into the Champions League.
So we’ve got to go deep into those competitions and keep taking a step up the league week by week. Let’s see when we get towards the end of the season, if fifth’s open for Champions League, how close are we going to be coming into the last three games or so.
Have Arsenal got a chance of beating Everton this weekend, and where will the game be won or lost for Arsenal?
Arsenal have a chance of beating Everton this weekend but they’re going to have to two things better than they did against Newcastle. Yes, it was a four-nil score line suggests it was a comfortable victory, it wasn’t. Arsenal need to improve the movement of the football forward and the risk. Against Newcastle, it was too static in the first half, playing across, nobody running in behind.
And then again, defensively [they need to improve]. Everton are going to cause them a lot more problems going forward [than Newcastle], they’re going to put Arsenal under more pressure, so the question is how are Arsenal going to react to that and can they cope against a team that is in good form?
Arsenal welcome back this weekend Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi. Did Arsenal release them too early?
No, Arsenal didn’t get rid of Theo Walcott or Alex Iwobi too early. I think it was the right time for Theo to move on. He was in and out the team and people were talking about his consistency, but I think it was the right time. He did some good stuff for Arsenal but it was probably the right time for him to leave.
Alex Iwobi was a player I liked, but he frustrated me quite a lot as well with his end product. He has got end product at times, but he’s not consistent enough. He still needs to develop that side of his game, and it was 30 odd million pounds. I think that’s a good fee.
Ancelotti was linked with Arsenal as well after Emery’s departure. Who would you rather have had at the club, Arteta or Ancelotti?
I’m not a big believer in selecting between managers. Ancelotti’s done it all, so if you were saying on what you’ve achieved, you’re going to go for Ancelotti. But I like to see new managers coming into the league. I like to see them being given their chance.
Arteta’s worked with one of the best, if not the best, so that intrigues me to see what he can do at Arsenal. I’ve always been the same, when the manager comes in, you back the manager, you want to see what he can do, and then you can start to make an opinion from there.
I like what I’ve seen with Arteta so far, but he’s going to need a lot more to appease the Arsenal supporters, but they all feel we’re moving in the right direction slowly.
Do you think Aubameyang will still be an Arsenal player next season?
I hope Aubameyang will be an Arsenal player next season but they have decision to make. Arsenal have never been a big spending club. His contract’s up next season and they’re not going to let someone run down their contract again, although they’ve got little opportunity if he wants to do that.
If the indication is that he’s not going to sign, they may have to take the opportunity and say “right, we’re going to take £40 million or whatever”. I don’t think they’re going to get 70 or 80 that they’re talking about with a year left for a player that’s coming to 31 years of age.
For me, it’s more important whether the player wants to stay, who comes calling in the summer, and do Arsenal take the risk or can they convince him to sign a new contract? At the moment, it’s so difficult to call.
Given what people have said about Mesut Ozil and some of the performances over the last few years, has he done enough under Arteta to perhaps prove that he should have another year, or do you think this should be his last season?
I don’t think there is a case where Mesut Ozil will leave in the summer. I think Mesut Ozil has said “I’m staying, I’m seeing out my contract”. And Arsenal offered him the deal. He’s not going to be forced out the door if the club don’t want him.
Ozil’s performances have improved. There’s no doubt about that. But again, if you want to see a 90 minutes performance from Ozil, you’re going to be disappointed. He’s not that type of player. He’s in the game for 10 minutes, he might then disappear for a bit, but then he comes back into the game.
But if you give him enough of the ball and he will create something for you. But is that enough for the current manager, and can he do a bit more defensively? You’re never going to get Ozil tackling, but can he get into positions to slow the opposition down or go and press properly when the manager wants you to press?
I think that’s the questions that will be asked from Arteta to Ozil, to suggest whether he plays more regularly and what involvement he will have next season, which for me is more intriguing.
Has Granit Xhaka done enough to get back on-side with the Arsenal fans?
Granit Xhaka seems to have worked his way back into Arsenal’s fans favour. I didn’t like what happened and also I can see both sides of it, having one or two spats myself before as well, so I can see both sides.
I think supporters forgive if they see a player giving everything for their club, and since Xhaka’s come back into the team, whether you like him or you don’t like him, I don’t think anybody can argue that he’s got his head back on and he’s trying to produce performances that will take Arsenal forward.
In the youth ranks, Arsenal have got the likes of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson, Rob Holding, Eddie Nketiah, Saka, Joe Willock. Is this the most impressive group of youngsters you’ve seen coming through the Arsenal ranks for some time?
The current crop of youngsters look to be the most impressive at Arsenal in some time but what we want to know is how many of them are going to be regular players in three years’ time? If you’re talking about a golden crop, it’s no good if one’s playing and the others are in the squad occasionally and playing the odd game. To me, a golden crop is where maybe three of those players come through and are the catalyst for the team going forward.
I like a lot of the young Arsenal players but I think they’re going to need to step up. We can’t keep saying “oh they’re young so they’ve got time”. Yes, we all know that. But if you’re good enough, it don’t matter about your age. Get in there and show us what you can do.
So, I think the next year and a half will tell us whether all those players are going to come through. I have my doubts whether they’ll all come through.
How impressed have you been by Ancelotti since he joined Everton?
I’ve been very impressed with Carlo Ancelotti. Obviously, he’s got all the experience in the world, but to go to a team who were languishing near the bottom of the league, and to continue the great work Duncan Ferguson done, is impressive. They’re now pushing up the league and are looking a lot more solid, a lot more physical, and they’re winning games, which is what matters. So, I’m very impressed with how he’s handled his life on Merseyside.
Do Everton have a chance of finishing in a European place this season?
Everton have a good chance of finishing in a European place. They’re seventh right now. There’s a possibility fifth place gets you into the Champions League. So from seventh to fifth, they should be fancying themselves.
Everton have a quality squad. They’ve got some good young players coming through as well, and their tails are up. So sometimes you have to ride momentum, and that’s what Everton have to look to do. Coming to the Emirates is going to be a very difficult game, but you expect a difficult game at the Emirates.
Have they got the weapons to hurt Arsenal? I think they have. I think playing against a front two is going to be difficult for Arsenal. Arsenal struggled against Burnley, who played two up top, and I could see more of the same. I think Everton’s front two are more mobile than Burnley’s front two. Both players can head it, both players can run in behind. So, I think they’re going to ask Arsenal’s back for a lot of questions.
With the new stadium in three years’ time and new investment coming into the club, do you expect to see Champions League football coming to Everton to match the grand designs that they’re going to put on the front of the docks?
With the new money that’s coming in, new investment’s coming in, Everton really have to be in and around European football. Whether it’s Champions League or Europa, you have to be in and around it, moving into the new stadium in three years’ time.
If they can get European football this year, then I’m sure Carlo Ancelotti will be looking to really strengthen that squad next season to have an assault on the Champions League, because Everton are a huge club, and they need to be challenging. With a manager like that, he’s going to have the ambition to do it.
I’m sure the Board are going to have to match his ambition in the transfer market to bolster that squad to make them really competitive going into that new stadium.
What areas do you think they need to strengthen in Everton? For Everton to try and lock down a Champions League spot, what do they need to address?
Everton have suffered since Gomes got injured, and I still think Everton need a winger to take them forward. Theo’s now probably 30, 31, so maybe they need somebody out wide, someone who can beat somebody. I think that will make a massive difference.
I like Calvert-Lewin up top. I still think another centre-half and a centre midfielder, more a box to box type midfielder, a midfielder who gets beyond the front two. I think that could give Everton another dimension. Like a Tim Cahill, somebody who can get in the box late, or run in behind the two strikers as they split to go between.
Jack Grealish is a player that is being coveted by many teams. Obviously, he’s a Villa boy, but you know, when the big money comes on the table it’s going to be difficult for Aston Villa to turn it down. But I think Jack Grealish could enhance many premiership teams, so it will be difficult for Everton to sign him.
How big of a statement would an Everton win be this weekend against Arsenal?
I would be a huge statement if Everton were to win against Arsenal this weekend. It will prove that Everton could go away from home at the big clubs and win, and you don’t usually see Everton going away from home and winning at the so called big boys, but a win will give them massive confidence if they could get across the line.
Should Jordan Pickford still be considered as England’s number one?
Jordon Pickford should 100% remain England’s number one. Possession is nine tenths of the law. He hasn’t really put anything wrong with England. He’s made a few mistakes for Everton, but a lot of people look at the mistakes but they don’t look at the performances and some of the saves he’s made, or the saves he’s had to make to keep Everton in some of these games.
I don’t think he’s deteriorated in any way, shape or form. Yeah, he does have a mistake in him at times, but I still think he’s good enough to be the number one of England.
If a bid of £85 to 1£00 million comes in for Richarlison, should Everton sell him or should they keep him at all costs?
I don’t think it’s feasible that Everton actually look at a bid for Richarlison of that fee. It’s great that a number like that comes up - £85 to 1£00 million is great considering Everton bought him for £40 million.
He is a player that has proven himself. He’s a bargain at £40 million right now. So to get £85 million to £100 million bid just goes to show, he’s developing at Everton. He’s not the finished article, that’s for sure. But he’s proven that he can be a match winner and he’s a difference maker. So Everton shouldn’t look at the bid, Everton will build him more.
What do you think of Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s performances this season and are you disappointed with Moise Kean from since his arrival at the club?
Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s been in and around it now for a good few years, and he’s starting to understand how to play centre forward now I believe. Duncan Ferguson becoming manager really helped him, because what was happening before, he was playing up there on his own, and it is so hard when you’re inexperienced to play upfront on your own. He used to work so hard, he’d be challenging in the air, he’d be running in behind, and when the ball was going in the box, he went in the box.
Now, he’s got Richarlison up there with him, and at times Moise Kean, where they play as a front two, and when you’re playing with a partner, it makes life so much easier to get in the box. Your mate can go and do the link play and when the cross comes in, you’re in there, or when you link the play your mate’s in there. So you take it in turns and it’s really enhanced him and worked for him.
Am I disappointed in Moise Kean? I am not disappointed in Moise Kean. He’s come from a different country. He’s come with a good price tag. He’s a talented boy but it’s taken him a bit of time to adjust. If it takes Nicola Pepe, who cost 72 million, time to adjust, and we’ve seen other players who have come from abroad actually not cut it in the Premier League at all, I think we’ve got to be a little bit more lenient and give him a bit more time.
How important will the return of Andre Gomes be for Everton?
The return of Andre Gomes will be key for Everton. They really miss him. He’s got everything. His passing ability is good. His through balls are good. His shooting is good and he gets up and down that pitch as kind of box to box type of midfielder. He can control the tempo of a game, which is what Everton lack, so I think him coming back will be a massive plus for them.
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