William Gallas On The Festive Fixtures
When you played, did you enjoy having the games as quickly as they came during this period? Was it an enjoyable period as a player?
At the beginning it was terrible! In France, we didn’t play so many games over Christmas, so when I joined the Premier League, the first season was not easy. But slowly, I started to adapt to the Premier League, and I began to enjoy playing every three days.
The good thing about football, even if you have a bad game, you don’t have time to be sad, because you have to be focused about the next match – you have the opportunity to show everyone your last game was a mistake.
That’s why I enjoyed it. I know it’s very difficult for the brain and for the body, but this period shows the importance of being professional; how you have to do everything to be fit and to play every three days. I think the most difficult thing is for the players who get older.
When you are young, it’s not a problem, because your body reacts and recovers very quickly, but when you get into your thirties, it can be a problem. Your body doesn’t react like before, and you need more time to recover.
When you used to meet up with France, did some of your teammates think that the winter period in England was crazy? Were they curious about it?
Yeah. We spoke about the Premier League. The players wanted to know how it’s possible to play every three days. The wanted to know why you play on Boxing Day. They wanted to know how it was possible to deal with all the matches.
When you start explaining to them, some of them wanted to join the Premier League. In my opinion, it is one of the things that makes the Premier League magical and the Premier League must keep this tradition.
I know some people want to change the calendar, but I would say, “no, don’t change it.” If players want to play in the best league, then the best league is in England, the players must adapt to the Premier League. If a manager wants to manger in this league, he has to adapt as well. I know some managers are complaining – If you come to England, you know it’s like this; don’t try to change the rules.
Can you share one of your memories about the Christmas fixtures?
I remember the first game I played like this with Chelsea. It was a Boxing Day game – for me, it was new, and I said, “oh, my God, what’s going on here, why do we have to play on the 26th?” I thought this was crazy. But when I went to the stadium and saw all the fans who were there supporting us – it was magic. Just after the Christmas Day; everybody there to enjoy it.
When you go on the pitch, it’s a battle. It’s very cold. You have to fight because you have to win. It was great. For me, it was one of the best moment of my career, to experience playing in that period.
William Gallas On Chelsea
How impressed have you been by Rüdiger this year, William?
Last season he had a great, great season, especially when Tuchel replaced Frank (Lampard). This season, he has shown just how good he is. I like him as a player, because I like his desire to win; to try to win every game.
He’s a warrior. What I was less sure on, that I’ve seen recently is when he has an argument with one his opponents at the end of the game. I don’t like to see that from players – I don’t think it’s necessary, especially if you win the game. Rudiger is a type of player you can put straight in the team because you know he will fight for everything during 90 minutes.
I like his commitment. In the offensive department, he tries to score goals, and that shows that he really wants to win the league this season with Chelsea.
On Saturday he won two of the penalties for Chelsea. He’s always up there. It feels like Tuchel has created a system that allows his defenders to be not only just tight but also quite adventurous.
Yeah, because the football has changed. When you play in that system with three at the back; it’s not like before. Even in my period, or maybe before, for defenders, it was not easy to support the midfielder or the striker.
Our job was just to defend very well and get the ball and give it to the midfield or to the striker. And that’s it. But now, football has a lot of movement, and it means defenders can participate when their team is attacking, and that’s why I like it, because the defender can show he has a good quality.
Rudiger’s contract runs out in six months’ time. Andreas Christensen is in a similar position at Chelsea. Do you think the club should try and sign up both of these guys?
Definitely. You have to re-sign at least one of them. The question is why they didn’t re-sign yet, why maybe Chelsea didn’t offer them the new contract or why an agreement has not been reached. That – I don’t know. But, you have to look to re-sign at the very least one of the defenders.
The Chelsea defence have conceded a few goals recently. They let in a couple against Leeds three against Zenit and three against West Ham. Prior to that, they were very tight. Do you think that this is a blip and Chelsea will start being tighter at the back over the next few games?
I certainly hope they will stop conceding this amount of goals. If you have ambitions of winning the title, you have to be very strong at the back. Against West Ham, they lost 3–2 and that may give other clubs encouragement, because it shows that sides can score against Chelsea.
If you compare Chelsea to Liverpool or Manchester City right now, it looks like they are both defensively stronger right now, which is not good. As a former Chelsea player, I would like to see Chelsea to win the Premier League. Hopefully Tuchel can do what he has done, up until now and continue to make the team stronger. They need to stop conceding silly goals.
Just how difficult will this Chelsea team be to beat when Lukaku is fit and firing?
It will be very hard. Lukaku gives Chelsea a different playing option. Lukaku can help the team play a little bit higher up the pitch. With his body he can keep the ball and occupy the opposition defenders, allowing other players room to go in to space. Unfortunately, Lukaku was injured and now he has to get really fit, come back and score goals. We want him to score as many goals as he can as quickly as possible.
If this Chelsea team has a weakness, what do you think it could be?
Unfortunately, the last few games have shown, they can concede goals. They have brilliant players, I think they have to understand how good they are and not make silly mistakes that have crept in.
I remember when I was playing with Mourinho as a coach; we were very strong at the back. Every club we faced knew it will be very difficult to beat us. We were very strong in defence, midfield and attack. We were a very strong team across the pitch.
You’ve mentioned Mourinho. Do you see any similarities between Mourinho and Thomas Tuchel?
Yes, I do. Even though I don’t know Tuchel, he looks like he’s very tough. He reminds me of Mourinho. You can see when he’s on the bench, he’s shouting at his players. He looks like a perfectionist and demands perfection from his team. He seems very similar to Mourinho in that respect, and I’m sure the players like to play for him.
Chelsea are the best team in London at the moment. How far do you think Arsenal and Tottenham are behind them at this moment in time?
What players remember is the feeling of lifting a trophy. Over the last few years, Chelsea have lifted trophies. Tottenham haven’t won anything for a long time. So at the moment, Chelsea look very, very strong. Tottenham and Arsenal have a lot of work to do – especially Arsenal, having been used to success in the 1990s and early 2000s. The last time they won the Premier League was in 2004, that’s 17 years ago, a long time for a club the size of Arsenal.
It’s a long time for a club that used to win that the Premier League. A lot of people said, “Oh, yeah, they are rebuilding the club,” well, it’s a long time now they are rebuilding the club. For the fans, I’m sure it must be very difficult to understand why they are still behind Chelsea.
I feel the owners (Stan and Josh Kroenke) of Arsenal must take the right decisions going forward; sign the right players, build a competitive team and sooner rather than later look to try to compete against Chelsea, against Liverpool, against City.
Mason Mount must be the first name on the team sheet for many at the moment for Chelsea. How important do you think he in this Chelsea team?
First of all, he’s a Chelsea boy. He used to play for the youth team and has stepped up to become a regular first team player. He has worked incredibly hard and it isn’t easy to break into this Chelsea team.
Why? Because there are so many world-class players to compete with who are mostly signed for big money. Mount is maybe the main playmaker. A few months ago, I said, he reminded me of Frank Lampard; how he plays and tries to score goals.
Technically, he’s really good, and he’s a boy who wants to improve all the time. I think for Chelsea he’s a very important player for the team to play well.
William Gallas On Spurs
Did you think Nuno was given enough time?
To be honest, no. That is football now. As a manager, you’ve got so much pressure on your shoulders – you don’t have really time to show what you can do. For me, when a club appoints a manager, we need to give him time.
Especially for that type of club that wants to qualify for the Champions League. It’s very difficult.
What do you think Antonio Conte should be looking to achieve in the Premier League this year?
I’m sure he would want to qualify for the Champions League next season. What I like about the appointment is that he brings a winner’s mentality. He was very passionate as a player and when you see him on the managers bench, he’s very passionate.
In matches, when the opponent starts to push, you see him turn and start motivating the fans to make a lot of noise and support the team, which make it harder for the opposition team. That is very good because sometimes players need to feel the support of the fans.
Conte will bring that passion and that winning mentality and we’re starting to see the results of that. Spurs have won their last three games and are in a good position at the moment. They look stronger.
They are tighter at the back, which is very important at the beginning (of a manager’s tenure). If you are strong at the back, if you are strong as a team, you know at any time you can score, because you’ve got good strikers. The team looks completely different now.
You mentioned that Tottenham have tightened their defence up over the last few games. Why do you think that this group of players are starting to keep clean sheets? How has Conte done that, do you think? Is it just a different voice in the room, different tactics?
It’s everything. Different tactics, a different voice. He will have explained to the players how to defend when they don’t have the ball. Don’t forget, Conte is Italian so he knows this style better than anyone. Serie A was one of the best leagues because the defenders were very strong – it was really difficult to score against Italian clubs, for the teams I played in. If we talk about tactics, they’re practicing every week on how they have to defend as a team. I’m sure Antonio Conte brought his tactics, and I feel that is important as to why Tottenham look better.
What do you think of the defensive options that Spurs have at the moment? When we spoke in the past, you thought they lacked a bit of quality back there. Do you think that’s still the case?
I feel it is still the case, in my opinion they lack world class defenders. However, as I said, they look better and have improved under Conte and are heading in a better direction. If you want to win something, if you want to compete with the best teams, you need to buy world-class players, whatever the position.
Antonio Conte is obviously a winner; a really ambitious guy. What would you consider to be a successful period for him? Does he have to win something while he’s there?
For his first season, if he gets the opportunity to qualify for the Champions League, he would have done a great job. And then, next season, I’m sure he will do everything to win a trophy.
Antonio Conte is a type of coach who wants to lift a trophy. When you start winning titles, you just want to do it every year. He won the league last year with Inter Milan. He hasn’t coached for a few months and now he is back in the Premier League with Tottenham.
Even though he knows the Premier League very well, he has to settle. I’m sure his target is to qualify for the Champions League. And then, you know, he can attract the players he wants for next season. He will know which players he will need to give him the opportunity to lift a trophy at Spurs.
What do you feel now about Harry Kane?
I know him from my time at Tottenham and I spoke about him a few months ago. Tottenham didn’t let him leave and perhaps give him the chance to maybe win the Premier League if he had moved to Manchester City as rumoured.
He looks ok the way he is playing, but it’s not the Harry Kane we know, and it feels that everybody knows that the decision from Daniel Levy to keep him has affected him a lot. I don’t know what’s going to happen for him in the summer.
I believe if he wants to leave, Tottenham have to let him to leave because I hope for him that he gets to have an opportunity to lift a trophy. Unfortunately, Tottenham can’t give him that right now. I feel the uncertainty has played a part in his comparatively poor start to the season.
If you’re Kane, and Man City come in in January –
You know, I’m not a big fan usually, to make a move during the season. It’s not easy. You play for six months for one club and then you play for six with another. As I said, it’s very important to settle as a player. You to have think about your family.
If your family doesn’t feel good it can affect your performances. Personally, I feel even if City come in January, Tottenham won’t let him to go. He has to wait at the end of the season, I think that would be best for all parties.
Are you worried that a player of his ability might not lift a trophy, the big trophy?
It would be a great shame. If he did stay at Spurs, he would be a legend for Tottenham. That is sure. But at the end of his career, if he doesn’t lift one major trophy, I’m telling you, it will be hard for him to accept that.
He has been the best forward in the Premier League for a few seasons. He has given everything to Tottenham when he played. If a player of his talent hasn’t got a title when he retires, he will be very sad.
If Antonio Conte gets Tottenham into the Champions League next year, there’s no guarantee that that team will then go on and challenge for the title next season. If you’re Kane, are you thinking you must leave.
Yes, I don’t think qualifying for the Champions League would change his mind. I still believe he will want to leave.
William Gallas on Arsenal
You’ve said in the past that you didn’t think Arteta was the right man for the job. Have you seen anything from him to convince you that he is?
We should always judge players and managers on their performance at the end of the season, What many now expect from Arteta is to qualify for the Champions League this season. That’s why it’s difficult to speak right now.
I will say a really good position is to finish in the top four. Even if it would be difficult, because right now there are a lot of clubs in front of Arsenal. West Ham are still up there and that has surprised everybody.
Manchester United have a new coach and, at the beginning of the season, everyone expected them to be in the top four. So, it won’t be easy. I’m a little bit worried about Arsenal and where they may end up.
Recent results where they lost four-nil against Liverpool, three-two against Man United; and 2-1 against Everton, showed me, that when Arsenal play away from home, and particularly against the bigger clubs, that they remain in trouble.
They have to qualify for the Champions League, with no European football this season as a distraction. Arteta needs to do everything he can to get his players and his team playing. When they have to play against a big club, they have to give a better performance and find a way to win.
Aubameyang wasn’t in the squad for disciplinary reasons. I wanted to know; when a relationship between a manager and a captain becomes difficult, how does that affect the other players in the squad?
It doesn’t help the squad, that is for sure. Normally, the manager gives his confidence to the captain and, normally, the captain is the first person who represents the manager. If there is a little issue between the manager and his captain, it’s not a good message for the squad.
For the team. If Aubameyang did something wrong – I don’t know what he did –it’s normal for the manager to discipline him. The manager must explain that he can’t do what he did because he’s the captain of the club, and it’s very important for the captain to lead by example in the dressing room.
When you were the captain at Arsenal, you had the armband taken away.
Yeah. It was not easy to accept that. I didn’t accept it at the beginning, because it was not for the right reason. It’s difficult for me. That’s why it was difficult for me to accept it. But you
have to say, “OK. The club and the coach, took that decision, and I have to find everything to refocus myself,” and that what I did. When I lost the captaincy, the next match was away against Manchester City, and I was not in the squad.
It was hard to understand. The next game was at home; I think it was in the FA Cup. You have to be very strong in your mind to be on the pitch to do your job, and I did it very well.
We played Hull City and we won that game. I scored the winning goal and I wanted to show the fans that I was strong because it wasn’t an easy decision to accept.
What advice would you give Aubameyang?
Keep focus, work hard and get back to your best level.
Do you think that sometimes the armband can be a bit of a curse, on certain players?
Sometimes it can help you. Sometimes the armbands can be a little bit too heavy. As I said, you have to lead by example, and sometimes you know that, if your team doesn’t perform, the first people they’re (the media) going to attack are the manager and the captain.
Some people, especially some of the pundits, they may not want you to be the captain, even more so if they played for the club your captaining. They will attack you for anything – I’ve got so many stories about this.
When I was a captain, people would attack me when we lost even when I was not playing! We lost one away game that I didn’t play because I was injured. A newspaper journalist said, “We should take the armband from him,” And I thought, what is he talking about? I didn’t play the game.
That’s why sometimes the captaincy can be very difficult. It doesn’t change anything because all people want are good performances on the pitch, captain or not.
Arteta, he’s brought in a lot of younger players, and last year he got rid of some of the older guys. Do you think that he might struggle dealing with some of the bigger personalities in the dressing room; some of the older players?
Some managers like to avoid confrontation with experienced players. They prefer to have younger players, because sometimes it’s easier to manage them and it’s easier to make some decisions.
I don’t know if that is good and I am unsure if that is Arteta’s approach. As a manager, you have to show who you are and that you have authority. If you have to take a decision – even in front of the experienced players – it should not matter. You are the boss.
With young players, they don’t have the experience and you need some experienced players, to be ready, to be alongside them and support them, when you have to play against a strong team, who understand the pressure.
That is what a manager has to understand and Arteta has to understand that. He used to be a player and he knows you have to be ready to manage experienced and young players. You have to find the mix. Right now may will feel the experienced players are not stepping up as much as the younger players.
OK. With Arsenal, if they don’t qualify for the top four is it a season of disappointment?
Yes. For a club as big as Arsenal, with no European football and the opportunity they now have, I think it will be.
The Arsenal defence. Is there anyone in that back four that you been impressed by?
For me, when I look at teams, especially up front and at the back, I always want to see a mix of players with experience, and young players. Young players will learn from the experienced
players, and that experienced player will take all the pressure of the young players. Sometimes when you put two young players together for big games, it’s really difficult. Arsenal have been playing with Gabriel and Ben White at Centre Back. They have done fairly well in this recent period.
Unfortunately against Liverpool, Manchester United and Everton they didn't have that experience at the back. The best combination for me at Centre Back is to have one world class experienced player and one young player alongside him. A manager has to pick the right players for his squad. And get the right balance of experienced players.
It’s crucial that when you are an experienced player at the back – you must be a world-class player and I don’t feel Arsenal have that right now. Liverpool, City and Chelsea all have much more experienced better quality defenders.
Arsenal want to be at their level, but aren’t there at the moment. The coach has made a choice to go with younger players, the rewards may come, but right now, they can’t challenge with the top clubs.
What do you feel like Arsenal need to change to go to the next level?
To bring in the right players for Arsenal to go to another level and win the biggest trophies. OK. They’ve got good, young players. They’ve got quality. But you need to have players with character and experience along side and that will make the difference.
Like I said, if you look at Chelsea, Liverpool or City they have the perfect mix of players with character, players with experience and young players. Arsenal, unfortunately, do not have experienced players.
Gallas On The Midweek Premier League
Arsenal play West Ham on Wednesday night. Is this a must-win game for Arsenal?
Yes, it’s a big game for Arsenal in their ambitions for the top four. West Ham look very strong. They look strong because they play as a unit. As a team, they play very well, David Moyes has done a great job with them.
if you look at both teams, who do you think has the better players?
Possibly, it’s Arsenal, but saying that, we’ve seen what David Moyes has done with his squad and it’s been terrific. West Ham play with a very compact system. Moyes has got some – quality players, and they show tremendous commitment and that’s been key to their success so far this season.
Leicester and Tottenham on Thursday is a game that should go ahead Thursday pending the COVID situation. Again, for their Champions League hopes, should they be going to Leicester and looking to win this one?
Yeah, because if they’re trying to qualify for the top four, it will be very important for the end of the season. When you play against Leicester, even if they are not the Leicester we have seen over recent years, they can still cause a lot of problems to the top six clubs.
So that game, you know, you have to win it or you have to draw, but you simply can’t lose that game. Because if you want to qualify, you need to have a good result.
Which defender has impressed you the most – from any club in the Premier League – this year, and why? Who do you like?
I will speak about two players. I will speak about Thiago Silva because, he always finds the edge. I think what he does for Chelsea, it’s magnificent. As you know, to play in the Premier League it’s not easy.
It’s very physical. And Thiago Silva is 36 years old. He is the boss of that defence. He’s mature, he’s got experience. So that’s why players like Rüdiger and Chalobah, when they play next to Thiago Silva, they feel secure.
Thiago Silva, with his experience, he takes all the pressure on his shoulder. So that’s why Chalobah, Rüdiger, Christensen play so well. Thiago Silva is maybe one of the best defenders in the Premier League.
But as well, you’ve got Rúben Dias, at City. He is a very strong, and a very thoughtful defender. He doesn’t make a lot of fouls. In his position, that is always good. That is how he communicates to his team.
He doesn’t speak a lot, but he doesn’t have to. But you know, he looks strong. So those two players, for me, are the best defenders in the Premier League.
Who’s going to win the League this year?
Chelsea, because I have to support Chelsea! Even though City and Liverpool are strong, I feel Chelsea can do it and as a former player will back them to do so.
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