Football Insights - Gael Clichy

Below is an exclusive interview with former Manchester City and Arsenal fullback, Gael Clichy, who believes Pep Guardiola’s side will beat Mikel Arteta’s in the blockbuster title-defining match this weekend.

Clichy, who is currently the U-21s France assistant coach to Thierry Henry, believes Gabriel Jesus and Kai Havertz are the right players to take Arsenal forward, despite recent criticism.

The former defender talked about his Manchester City captain, Vincent Kompany, and how well he has done for Burnley in the short amount of time at the Clarets, whilst saying he could rejoin the blue side of Manchester as a manager after Pep Guardiola eventually leaves.

Read the full interview below:


What are you predicting for the Arsenal vs Man City game?

GC: "It's too early in the season for Arsenal vs Man City to be a crucial game because there will still be points to be dropped and won for the next few months. Man City and Arsenal have been the best two teams in the Premier League for the last 20 months, but this fixture was always a game that people thought Arsenal would struggle in because of the experience of the squad. After coming up short last season, Arsenal will want to show the fans in the Emirates that they can match Man City. From a Manchester City perspective, I'm not worried about Rodri being out because that midfield has so much quality. It will be an amazing game with a very high intensity. Mikel Arteta is a copy of Pep Guardiola, you can see he's a mini-version of him in his tactics, on the touchline and in his press conferences.  

I do think Manchester City will win the game, they have so much quality and still have Erling Haaland, who complicates how to defend against the whole team when he's so dangerous. All Man City need to do is get the ball in the air to Haaland and he can hurt Arsenal." 

What were your thoughts on the Bournemouth vs Arsenal game?

GC: "Arsenal are a huge club with a big history. Until last year they hadn’t challenged for the title in some time, but now you can see progress. Mikel Arteta has been given time and funds for the process. Bournemouth away a few years ago would have been a really tough game, a 4-0, dominant win away from home is a big win. The young players Arsenal have are maturing quickly and I think it will be a very big season. It's important to have a mix of experience and youth, there's an eagerness to win something at the club. I still think Man City will be the Champions again, but when you win the treble, it's hard to keep that determination, and that opens the door for Arsenal.” 

Was the penalty against Bournemouth a good way to raise Kai Havertz's confidence?

GC: "Sometimes players need more time to adjust, and that can let people criticise how big the price tag is when you perform poorly. Kai Havertz came from Chelsea as well, obviously people expect results straightaway from him. Mikel Arteta went for Havertz because he was the best in a certain group of statistics whilst playing in a team that was struggling. Last season, Havertz was in the top three players with different penetrations into the opposition box. This did not mean anything at all, but if you now play for a team that can get the ball into the opposition box considerably more, then you have one of the best players to do that job. I do believe Havertz is the right player and that his penalty against Bournemouth will make him more relaxed. I want to see great football from Havertz because he can be a great player." 

What did you make of Man City's surprise loss to Wolves?

GC: “Of course, Man City should have done better, but these things happen, the first goal was a deflection and a few players weren't at their best. If Man City played away at Wolves 10 times, they'd probably win seven, draw two and lose once. Man City are still dominant and playing comfortably, the loss was nothing to worry about." 

Up next for Arsenal is Lens, a team from your home country. What can fans expect?

GC: "Lens have played very well the last few years, but they'll find the Champions League to be a different animal, especially against Arsenal. But the Lens players will be pumped up for their Champions League games and view this as an opportunity to prove their worth to the bigger sides, to get a big move. Arsenal will go to a packed stadium, full of intensity, which is what they took advantage of in Ligue 1. But I'm not sure Lens have the players to keep this intensity up every three or four days, which is why Arsenal will probably win by a few goals while Lens are still trying to find their own feet. Unfortunately for Lens, I can imagine it being a 4-0 win for Arsenal." 

Man City travel to RB Leipzig, what's your prediction for that game?

GC: "RB Leipzig are a very difficult team to play against. They can be very aggressive and have played very nice football this season. If you play for Man City, you know you have to win this game. Man City are expected to win this game, which gives RB Leipzig the advantage of having no pressure. That's the hardest part for Man City, they'll play a freely flowing team with players who might want to impress Pep Guardiola, as a message for him to sign them. But I'm a Man City fan, I think they're too strong, it would take a lot more proof for me to say Man City are in danger of travelling away to RB Leipzig. I think it will be a 3-1 win for Man City." 

Mikel Arteta has made the ruthless decision to cut out Aaron Ramsdale and replace him with David Raya. Do you agree?

GC: "Mikel Arteta has shown again why he's a copy of Pep Guardiola. One the main qualities of Pep [Guardiola], he's ruthless, he doesn't care who you are. Arteta bringing in David Raya is the same situation, he doesn't want Aaron Ramsdale to relax. Ramsdale was the only goalkeeper competing for the number one spot, now he has tough competition. Ramsdale plays with his head up and can wind up the opposition fans. Those qualities are great, it shows character, but if you go over the line then it can become an issue. I see this as a way of Arteta keeping Ramsdale humble and reminding him that Arsenal have not achieved anything yet, and now he'll ask Ramsdale to prove to him what he's made of." 

Does the Ramsdale and Raya situation remind you of when Claudio Bravo replace Joe Hart?

GC: "With Joe Hart, the first quality Pep Guardiola wanted was his goalkeeper to be great with his feet, which he felt Joe [Hart] wasn't and Claudio Bravo was. But, personally I think Hart was a much better player than Bravo was. In that situation, Hart was one of the faces of the club and perhaps Guardiola realised he had to deal with him quickly for it to be less of a problem than it could have been. Hart had so much presence within the team, to the fans and the youth team, but Guardiola had to do what he thought was right for the club. Aaron Ramsdale doesn't have the same status as Hart did, but I can see the resemblance in the situation." 

Did your relationship with Ashley Cole at Arsenal, or Wayne Bridge at Man City, ever come under pressure because of the manager’s decisions?

GC: "At Arsenal, it was no competition with Ashley Cole, if he was fit, I would never play. We both knew Cole was better than me, even though I was trying to compete for the left-back position. But when he left for Chelsea, Arsene Wenger was confident I could take his place. At Man City, it was the same situation but I was the better player. Bridge was a few years older and on his way out of the club, it was the generation that Man City started to bring in Champions League quality players. Bringing players like me was the next step for the club, so I can't relate to the Aaron Ramsdale and David Raya situation in that way because they're equally matched, but the competition can make things difficult and drive you to be a better player." 

Is Gabriel Jesus a good enough striker to win Arsenal a Premier League? Should they go for a more ruthless striker like Victor Osimhen?

GC: "The question I want to ask is what makes a ruthless striker? Because if you compare anyone's numbers to Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, then nobody is a great striker. We're so drawn into high numbers, that we can almost begin to think someone like Gabriel Jesus who gives 15 goals a season is an average striker. Erling Haaland scored 53 goals in all competitions, which is a lot but it's actually not if you compare to Messi and Ronaldo. The top strikers like Haaland and Robert Lewandowski have settled at clubs already. Of course, there's Victor Osimhen but he's in a completely different league, you can't just ask him to come in and score 30 league goals. Jesus is the player Arsenal needs up front, I'm becoming a coach slowly, so I understand how exceptional Jesus is. His versatility is amazing, he can play on the wings, false nine and upfront by himself. Jesus can give Arsenal between 10 to 18 goals, we'll have to see if that's good enough to win Arsenal the title. The only argument you can make against Jesus is the team that won the treble got rid of him because they didn't need him. I think Jesus is in the category just below strikers like Haaland, Lewandowski and Benzema. Arsenal need a backup for Jesus, someone young who can push him to score more goals." 

Does that backup player replace Eddie Nketiah?

GC: "Eddie Nketiah has scored some big and important goals for Arsenal, but he's not as good as Gabriel Jesus. Nketiah has proved he can be a difference-maker, but I don’t know if he's a player who can take Arsenal to the title. That's why I think Mikel Arteta should bring a top backup striker to compete with Jesus." 

Going on to City now - I wanted to get your opinion on Jeremy Doku. For years, City had wingers like Mahrez and Grealish - wingers who held onto the ball. Jeremy Doku feels like a breath of fresh air, a bit like Sane and Sterling. What do you make of him? Can he replace Jack Grealish? 

GC:‘’Doku's status in the squad will depend on how Pep wants to play. It's horrible to play against players like Doku as they come at you with so much pace. He can destroy defenders. Doku's age would be my only possible concern, he looks to have a little hesitancy with his final ball. His crosses have looked too strong at times, but if he improves as he could well do under Pep, he'll be difficult to take out of the team.  

He's like an old-school winger! Pep's formation worked well last season as the players were creating less and not taking on defenders very often. City won the treble, so it obviously worked, but the addition of Doku gives City a great option. He just needs to tidy up his end product. A player can be as flashy as he wants, but if they don't produce goals and assists, people will have questions. David Beckham wasn't flashy, but he'd regularly end the season with 15 assists. Compare that to players like Zaha and Bolasie - there's a big difference.’’ 

Kalvin Phillips looks low on confidence. Do you see him staying at City? There are links between him and Arsenal in January. 

GC:‘’Manchester City will never let Kalvin Phillips go to Arsenal as they already let Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus depart! It's a weird situation as we're talking about a player who, just a few years ago, was the best midfielder outside the top six. Phillips has had injury issues and an apparent weight problem, but there's no doubting his quality. In a way, it's easier to play for Leeds United as there isn't the same expectation.  

You need to produce quality every day and be the best professional you can be. I can list a hundred players who play well with no pressure on them, but not all of them can be a success at a top club. Phillips has had two years, and there are some question marks if he can perform on a daily basis for a club like City. I can't see him going to Arsenal, and if Phillips drops down to a ‘lesser’ side, then he'll have to spend time building his career back up.’ 

What do you make of Manchester United's downfall? They were the top side in England during your playing days. 

GC: ''I wouldn't say I'm happy about United's downfall, but at the same time, I couldn't care less about it. All football clubs have eras that end, but when a club is run the way City is run - with the finances and staff they have - it delays the end of a successful era. City's biggest test will come when Pep leaves, and we'll have to see what happens.  

“Football has evolved so much that, and players have changed - they're demanding sponsors, media, fans, and so much more. It's a different game now. 'Process' is more than just a word in football - you need to have a clear vision of what you're doing and how you're doing it. City and Toulouse are good examples of how to do that. Arsenal have managed it over the last four years by sticking with Arteta even when it would have been fair to sack him, but they've stuck with their plan and now they're reaping the rewards. Football managers now have an average of eight months in a job and nobody can achieve anything in a period that short. Time has to be given. It's impossible to follow Ferguson and Wenger, but if you look at what they did, you can make an argument that it is more of a personal legacy. There perhaps wasn't the foundation for the club to go on and be successful again.' 

Speaking of Real Madrid - Aurélien Tchouaméni was linked to Liverpool. They went on to sign Wataru Endō, but he hasn't started many games yet. Should Liverpool go for Tchouaméni? Would he be a success in the Premier League?

GC:''Tchouaméni has all of the attributes to succeed in the Premier League. He's strong, good on the ball, and aggressive. He's also young and has the ability to play in two or three different positions at Real Madrid. He wouldn't be playing for Madrid if he wasn't special! Having said that, the Spanish league is a different beast from the Premier League and people don't understand that. I played in England for 15 years, so I know how ruthless it can be. I'm not saying the Premier League necessarily has the best players or teams, but the level of competition is so high. Relegation-bound teams can rake in more money than a top La Liga side! TV rights have changed the whole landscape.   

A team scrapping at the bottom of the Premier League can have a similar budget to a top side like Arsenal - something that does not happen in La Liga. In Spain, a team can have one difficult game a month against a team around then, but then they're facing a team they cannot possibly match in Real Madrid or Barcelona - games where the opposition are just too dominant. That needs to be factored in when talking about Tchouaméni.  

The physicality is completely different in the Premier League - but he certainly has plenty of that. We need to consider that he'll be coming from a club who are better than 95% of their league and, if he did move to England, if he can perform week after week. I'm certainly not doubting his ability, though. He isn't playing for Real Madrid or France for no reason. Until he comes and shows he can take playing tough games every three days, you can’t be sure. 

Let's move on to another French player - Chelsea's Malo Gusto. He's been filling in for the injured Reece James. Does he have what it takes to become Chelsea's main right-back? You've coached him at U21 level for France. 

GC:''Reece James has been at Chelsea for a while now but has suffered from injuries. It doesn't matter how good a player is, it matters how often they're on the pitch. Malo is very young and he's learning a new culture in England, playing in a team who aren't performing as they want. He's also not used to the pressure at Chelsea and, on top of all that, got sent off in a game where he could've proved himself. 

Reece James is an established England international and he's just been given the captaincy at Chelsea. Gusto won't replace him unless he produces at a top level week in, week out. Malo certainly has the quality to perform well and he's got great delivery, can score goals, and he loves to get forward. He's competing with a player who's perhaps not quite fully fit, so let's hope Gusto can perform.  

The red card came at the wrong time, but I think he has the quality to establish himself at Chelsea. The club wouldn't have spent so much money to get him if he didn't have talent. I've worked with him and I can tell you he's got a great attitude and he was one of the top three right-backs in Ligue 1. He started life at Chelsea well, despite how hard the Premier League is. He's adapting well, and he looks very promising for the future.  

I have to ask about Kylian Mbappe. What do you see in his future? He's been heavily linked with Real Madrid, but can you see him going to the Premier League? There have been links to City and Arsenal. 

GC:''Mbappe going to City will be game-over! Mbappe reminds me of Theirry Henry as he can pop up with vital goals and has so much charisma and confidence. I haven't seen a player with this much confidence since Thierry. Him going to City would be great, but as I've said before, the Premier League is the most challenging league in the world. Mbappe's favourite club is seemingly Real Madrid - and that's understandable due to their history and status. If he leaves PSG, I can't see him going anywhere before Real Madrid. Not Liverpool, not Arsenal, not Man United, and not Tottenham.  

The only Premier League club who I feel could tempt Kylian would be City due to Pep's influence as well as what City have achieved over the last few years. City also have the financial muscle to maintain their status. However, Real Madrid can do all of this, too. They could create a project around Mbappe and I can't see a reason why he wouldn't go there. PSG is his boyhood club, but his next-favourite team is Madrid. They can give him everything they need to become the next Ballon d'Or winner. I can't see him going anywhere else, but it would be great to have him in England. It may be tough here, but he's got all the tools to succeed. As much as I want that, I think he's destined for Spain.'' 

One last question - it's great to see Vincent Kompany do so well at Burnley. Their results haven't been great this season, but his style of play is great and he's really changed the way Burnley are perceived. Do you see Kompany going on to become an elite manager? He can always be sniffing around Chelsea when Poch leaves. Can you see him at an elite club in the future?

GC:''I can only see Vincent Kompany going to City. I'd be happy to see him going to another top club in England, but I'd be happiest with him going to Man City. His blood is blue! Simple as that. I don't think he can be called a great manager yet as he hasn't achieved anything yet. Having said that, he's been able to change Burnley's philosophy and perception in such a short period of time.

That's phenomenal. However, in football, your work will only be validated by what you bring to the table. It could be trophies, the development of young players for profit, or ensuring survival in the Premier League. If his remit is survival, then Kompany is doing well. We're only seven games in and other clubs, like Man United and Everton, have spent far more without looking like they’re achieving anything. I'm expecting him to hit difficult times at Burnley, but if he maintains their Premier League status and hits his remit, then happy days.  

I'd class an elite manager as those who've won the World Cup, Champions League, and other major trophies. If, however, we look at what he's done with Burnley during his spell, then I'd class him as a great manager. He's been able to deliver, and as someone who knows him, I wouldn't be surprised to see him take on new adventures. It's a long way away, but I wouldn't be shocked to see him as the next City manager.  

With Kompany, it's a matter of when and not if he will get to the very top. I really hope he does, and I'm sure he will. He had the youngest squad in Europe back in Anderlecht and he sold players for £75 or £80 million in the two years he had. Anderlecht will never win trophies due to the level of competition in the Belgian league, but his spell there was phenomenal. So was his season at Burnley last season. He has what it takes to get to the top.’’  




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