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William Gallas Insights

Former Premier League star William Gallas gives his exclusive insights into Arsenal's chances of going all the way in the Premier League, Roy Keane's comments on Declan Rice, Graham Potter's system at Chelsea, if Harry Kane will remain at Spurs and more. Read the full interview with William below.


On Arsenal 

Q. Does it seem inevitable Arsenal will win the Premier League title after that last-gasp win against Bournemouth?

I think the last minute winner is a good sign for Arsenal to win the Premier League, but at the same time they have to be careful. When you play at home, especially against Bournemouth and three days beforehand they won 4-0 against Everton, you can’t be 2-0 down like that. When they conceded those goals I was a bit worried because it shows they were not really focused at the beginning of the game.

I was a little bit worried they were going to draw the game, but to score in the last second was amazing. I was with my daughter, watching the game and I just jumped up from the sofa. One of my daughters said to me, ‘Daddy what is going on?’ And I said, ‘Arsenal have just scored, this is unbelievable!’

I can’t imagine the atmosphere at the Emirates. So it is great for the emotion, but they have to be careful. Even though we have seen a lot of positive times for Arsenal, they look like they are at their limit before City start to come back to them. They took the three points this time, but for the next game they cannot be in that position because sometimes luck will not be on your side.

They can’t do it every game because it is too stressful for them and, okay Bournemouth you can do this, but they will never come back against a team that are stronger.

Q. Paul Merson described Thomas Partey as ‘the best holding midfielder’ in the league. Do you agree?

Partey is having a great season, it has to be said; he is a very important player for Arsenal, with the way he sits in front of the back four, he is defensively very good. But at the same time, he can go forward and he has the quality to do that job.

So to say at this moment in time he is the best player in the world, I don’t know. But in the Premier League, I would say yes.

Q. Reiss Nelson is out of contract in the summer, how important is it Arsenal tie him down to a new deal?

To win the Premier League, you need to have a big squad. You need people who can come from the bench who can have a big impact when they come on. Nelson showed exactly what you want to see from people coming from the bench.

They have to keep him, I think it was difficult for him to show what you can do. Normally, when you go on loan, you extend your contract. So maybe Arsenal didn’t believe in him, but now you can see exactly why they need him.

You always have to do more to expect to sign for a big club like Arsenal, this is something that all young players have to understand. It is not a case of playing five games and that will make the difference, in the Premier League you have to be a professional and you have to do it almost all the time and that is one of the most difficult things to do.

So I hope young players like him understand because he is an Arsenal boy, from the Hale End Academy, so I’m sure he loves that club and he has to do more in training, he has to put himself in the best condition to stay there.


Q. You previously questioned if Leandro Trossard was a good signing but, based on his recent performances, is he looking like good business?

Since he has joined Arsenal, he has done a good job - but I’m not looking for a fix in the short-term. That’s why when I was asked when he first joined, I just wanted to see what he was capable of doing. 

It’s very positive, but I want to see it in the long-term, that’s what the best players do.

Q. Gabriel Jesus is reportedly closing in on being fit again. Should he go straight back to starting every week?

I think Mikel Arteta will know exactly what he has to do with Gabriel Jesus, but don’t forget he has had a two or three month injury. He may be back to fitness, but that doesn’t mean he is ready because training sessions are completely different to what you do on the weekend.

He is going to be fit and ready to play, but to show all of his good qualities in a 90 minute Premier League game will take time. I’m sure Mikel Arteta will bring him in slowly and surely, but he will definitely be in the starting XI in a few weeks.

Q. Jack Wilshere recently said he thinks Declan Rice will snub Chelsea, Man Utd and Man City in favour of Arsenal. Do you think the Gunners have made themselves the most attractive option?

Jack always has good information, maybe he is very close to Rice so you have to ask him! I said before the World Cup that this player is magnificent when he plays for West Ham.

The way he plays is very strong, very powerful. He defends very well in midfield and he can go forward very well, he has both short and long passes and he really understands football.

So maybe how Arsenal play can fit him because what i like with Arsenal is that the ball is always in motion, the players are always in movement. They are never waiting for individual players to make the difference, Arsenal make the difference as a team and that is what I like about Arsenal and how they play.

Liverpool is the same when you see how they play; they attack together and they defend together and they are the most attractive football teams for players to join. So if you look at it, if you had to choose between Arsenal and Liverpool, I think he will go to Arsenal. He’s still young and he is a London boy

Q. Do you think Roy Keane was right in saying Rice is not worth £100 million?

He is right, he’s not worth £100 million! That is not his value yet, but it goes back to what I was saying earlier about players who want to get to the top and how they have to be consistent.

He plays for West Ham and he has had a few great seasons, but he has to go to another level and when you play for the big clubs it is completely different. You are around players who are different, they are at your level or maybe even bigger. You have to adapt.

So that is why we have to wait to see if he can fit very well at a big club and then if he has a great season then his value will go up. So I will agree with Roy Keane.


Q. Emmanuel Frimpong recently described Bukayo Saka as a £100m player. Do you agree with that?

I always have a problem with the value of a player. If Saka already costs £100 million at 21 years old and he carries on developing at the rate he is now, how much will he be in five years? £300 or £400 million? Come on, come on. This is getting ridiculous.

So sometimes clubs are very clever because everybody is desperate to sign players for big fees, but sometimes these players disappear. I don’t want to see a player like Saka, who is a really good young player who is improving every game, disappear in a few years.

Don’t put too much pressure on his shoulders, that always comes from the media and you never know what that impact will be on the players. You need to give players time to prove, to get more experience, to be strong, to deal with all that pressure on their shoulders.

Cristiano Ronaldo was very strong when he moved to Real Madrid from Manchester United, but he had already won a Ballon d’Or. His value was around £80 million and that was his real value. Nowadays, £100 million players haven’t won anything yet! So that is why I have a problem with this.

Q. How much would a prime Thierry Henry cost in today’s market?

It would be £200 or £300 million easily! But you're talking about Thierry Henry, how many times was he top scorer in the Premier League?

If you had to compare, at 21 years old, Kylian Mbappe has already done more at this age.

So that is why you just have to calm down

Q. Nicolas Pepe is nearing the end of his loan at Nice. Why do you think it didn’t work out at Arsenal, and could he still have a future or should he move on?

He is a perfect example of a player signing for big money and then failing to deliver. He was bought for £72 million and where is he now? We don’t know if he is going to come back to Arsenal.

Whenever you leave a club on loan, it is never a good sign. I think they will try to find a solution, but I don’t think he will stay because now they have so many players that can play in his position.

I don’t think he will come back.


Q. Kieran Tierney has been linked with a move to Newcastle. Would that suit both parties, given Oleksandr Zinchenko has been such a success story?

You always need two quality players in every position if you want to be successful in the Premier League. If Tierney goes to Newcastle, then they won’t have that competition. You have to find the best solution for all of the parties because I’m sure Tierney wants to play more regularly. Arsenal need to have good, young players who are waiting to come through and prove their quality.

On Chelsea

Q. Graham Potter seems to have found a system that works with three at the back, could this win be a turning point for him?

Definitely the system to play is three at the back, with James and Chilwell. But I am still waiting because I don’t think Potter knows what his best starting XI is for Chelsea.

The biggest problem for me in this Chelsea side is the left-hand side. They don’t have a player like Reece James on that side, because it is only between Chilwell or Marc Cucurella. We don’t know who is the guy to start in the XI and that is the problem.

Chilwell and Cucurella are a little bit similar, but you need to have a No.1. Maybe they don’t have enough quality to play every game as they don’t have that consistency for the manager to definitely say who is the number one.

They are always making mistakes, which even for the centre-back is really difficult because you want to have a settled defence and to not keep changing things. On the right side, they don’t have that problem because James is there and settled. 

Q. Mukhalyo Mudryk started from the bench on Saturday. Have you been a bit underwhelmed by him so far?

He doesn’t start, what is that!? Maybe the boy is not ready, or the system doesn’t fit him and he wants to play a different position - I don’t know.

That’s why I said I felt some owners are just spending money because they have money to spend and they don’t even know if the players are going to suit the squad. At the moment, I don’t know what has happened to Mudryk.

It’s the same with Cucurella; I have nothing against Cucurella, I don’t know him but I respect him. This is on Chelsea though, not even the players. If you put so much money into one player and they come to join one of the biggest clubs in the Premier League, normally you are playing in the national team.

He is not even in the national team. So maybe this club is too high for him, maybe he doesn’t have that quality to be in Chelsea. So that is why, for me, the problem lies with the club. You have to buy players that are ready to play for the biggest clubs and who have the quality to play for the biggest clubs.

They will have the capacity to deal with all the pressure, it’s simple really. They bought too many players, and for so many of those players I don’t know what they are doing there.

Q. What is your prediction for the Chelsea vs Borussia Dortmund game on Tuesday?

They simply have to qualify, they have to win that game and they have to qualify. The problem is, they won’t qualify via the Premier League because they are in a bad position and they won’t finish in the Top Four.

It will be a really difficult game, but when you play at home anything can happen with your fans behind you. I hope they are going to have a good performance against Dortmund and they are going to qualify, because they are completely out of the race for the Top Four in the Premier League.

I thought they would finish in one of those positions at the start of the season, but after a few games I changed my mind 

Q. Mason Mount continues to struggle to form. Reports suggest this could be down to his contract stand-off, do you think that could be a factor?

I don’t understand what is going on with him, it is very difficult for me to understand that situation. When Frank Lampard was there, he had several great seasons and he had the same situation under Thomas Tuchel.

The contract speculation doesn't help him, but I don’t know if it is a problem. Even if you are renewing your contract, that is the job of your agent and you have to stay focused about what you have to do.

The best way to get what you want is to perform, it is that simple. It is not to be angry and your performance is going down, the best way is to perform. You have to show the board that they are wrong because you deserve to be in the starting XI, you deserve to stay at Chelsea and you deserve to get what you ask.

You have to show it on the pitch, and if you do that, the fans will be with you so there will be more pressure on the club. The fans will protest and start to ask why Mason Mount isn’t getting what he asks for, so they will tell the board to give him that. That’s why he has to react and not in another way.

He has to come back to his level, he has to train hard because right now, when you’re not training properly, it is really difficult to perform at the weekend. At the same time, you have different midfielders who are training with you and they are better than you. So you just have to clear your head and then regain that winning attitude and show to Chelsea that you deserve to stay there.

He’s a Chelsea boy, he is from the academy. Maybe we don’t know all the information, maybe he wants to leave for some reason. If he wants to stay, don’t go down the route of getting upset 

Q. Reports have linked him to Liverpool should he fail to agree a new deal. Would that be a good move for him, or do you think Arsenal or Man Utd may be a better fit?

I don’t think he is a player who can fit in at Liverpool. Mason Mount is more like a playmaker; when Frank Lampard was the manager, he was almost like the playmaker.

At Liverpool it is completely different, he won’t have the same impact like he had with Chelsea. He can still have that impact with Chelsea.


Q. What have you made of £107m signing Enzo Fernandez?

He still needs to adapt, but that is normal for foreign players. You need at least one year to get used to the speed and the intensity of the division.

We know his quality and he showed it during the World Cup, so right now we know he can do more. I’m not worried for him.

But the Premier League is way more intense and he has to adapt.

Q. Reports suggest Chelsea are holding talks over a £1.5bn stadium expansion. Do Chelsea need that to go to the next level? Did you always feel Stamford Bridge was too small?

If they can expand the stadium to 60,000, the stadium will be full every game. They have to do it because every big Premier League club has that capacity as a minimum.

If they can do it, they have to do it. It may be difficult to do, but they have to try under the new owner. 

When I joined Chelsea it was in 2001, it was from Marseille and the capacity was a bit similar. But the atmosphere was completely different because the fans were so close to the players, so it felt very different. As a player, you see things completely differently, it is like you can hear everything they are saying to you - good and bad!

When I was in Chelsea, I didn’t feel the stadium was too small.

Q. Was there ever an atmosphere you encountered which you found too intimidating?

As a defender, I was a warrior and I felt like a warrior who wanted to show what I can do. I wanted to show the striker I was playing against that I was stronger and better than him. That means any stadium you go to, when the atmosphere is crazy - I loved it.

During the warm up, I was always looking at fans to see if I can feel their hunger to be against me and I was so happy. I always said to myself ‘I am going to show you I am strong, I am the best defender and I will dominate your striker.’

I took it in a good way, a positive way. Not in the Premier League, but maybe in Turkey with Besiktas I felt it was a bit too crazy. I remember when I went there, I didn’t feel secure. It is completely different, you fear the fans could jump over and come over at any time. In the Premier League, the fans won’t do that because it is a cultural thing. In Turkey, it was a good atmosphere, but it was scary.

On Tottenham 

Q. Tottenham host AC Milan on Wednesday trailing by 1-0 on aggregate. Can they turn it around? What’s your prediction?

It all depends on how Tottenham will play, if they decide to play very deep or not and wait for AC Milan to attack so they can counter-attack. But I don’t think they have a choice but to attack straight away, to try and score within the first 20 minutes.

But, if Tottenham do score, it looks like they will sit back and wait for Milan to come to them. With the players Totenham have, they have so much quality up front and they need to play a bit higher for their forward players.

To have more opportunities, to score more goals. When you are so deep, it is a long way to the goal, so that is the tactic of Antonio Conte and we have to see if his system will work until the end of the season.

But against AC Milan, I am sure they will attack and then wait to be attacked, before going to counter-attack. It is very difficult to sit and watch Tottenham play these days.

Q. Spurs, Newcastle and Liverpool seem to be in a three-horse race for that fourth-place finish. Who do you think will do it and why?

Even after beating Manchester United 7-0, I am still not sure Liverpool can make it to the Top Four. I still think my choice of Tottenham making it into the Top Four will come true.

Otherwise, Antonio Conte will not stay and Harry Kane will leave. He has to leave; I know he is their record goalscorer in history, but he has to be playing Champions League football.

Players like Harry Kane have to play there every year. He has to compete for trophies, to win the Premier League and if Spurs don’t qualify for the Champions League he has to leave.

Q. Where should Harry Kane go if Spurs do not reach the Champions League?

Right now, the only club he can join is maybe United. Harry has that strength to go abroad, but he was very young when I played with him so I don’t know what his goals are now.

Definitely he wants to win trophies, so if he has to stay in the UK then the only club he can join with a realistic possibility is Man United.

Or maybe Chelsea? The pressure will be very hard on his shoulders if he were to go to Chelsea.

Some players can do that type of move, I think Kane is that type of player. If the opportunity came, w

hy would he not go to Chelsea? They would have to pay the price, but I don’t think Daniel Levy will let him go to Chelsea - it would be a disaster! A lot of the fans hated me when I moved between London clubs, but I am not English so it didn’t bother me.

When I was in France, I wasn’t a big fan of one specific club. In France, you have maybe Marseille and PSG and you have those fanatic hardcore fans, to go between those clubs and go from south to north it is a crazy thing to do and people will hate you.

I was born in Paris, but I was not a fan of PSG, so I didn’t grow up with that culture.

I had that opportunity to move to another league - Italy or Spain - but I stayed in London to think about my family.

For a player like Harry Kane and the English boys, it is completely different and I understand.


Q. It’s nearly 20 years since you famously cleared Luis Garcia’s ‘ghost goal’. If Chelsea had had VAR in that game, would they have won the game and, possibly, beaten AC Milan in the final?

If you ask the question to Jose Mourinho he will say the exact same thing, in 2005 we were the strongest team in Europe. He knew if we won against Liverpool, then we would beat AC Milan to win the trophy.

We really had an opportunity to win the Champions League and if we had VAR there, it was clear it was not a goal. But things happen and it is 17 years, so I don’t think about it because you have to move on.

When I met Luis Garcia, we laugh about it because he always say it was a goal, but I was closer to the ball and I knew it was not a goal!

It was really difficult because we were really strong and after that game, three days later, we beat them in the Premier League.





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