Danny Mills
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Danny Mills says Man Utd have ‘settled’ for Solskjaer, tips two-horse race for Prem title and blasts ‘incredibly naive’ Kane and agent

| 11.08.2021

With the new Premier League season just days away, ex-England international Danny Mills gave us his thoughts on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United’s hopes this term, how Pep Guardiola will arrange all of his attacking talent and much, much more…

Best formation to fit in Pep’s forward players? It has to be a 4-1-5… like his old Barca side

There are so many world-class players at Pep Guardiola’s disposal, you end up with the conundrum of making them all fit into a system, and for me the only way you can do it is by playing a 4-1-5 formation.

It’s what Barcelona used to do. Sergio Busquets would hold, and then you’d have the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi, and whoever the wide players might be. You can quite easily see Pep replicating that at City, with Rodri as the sitter. Then you’d go with Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Kevin De Bruyne, all in any particular order.

As a defender, you’ve got no idea how to play against that. It’s impossible. You don’t know where anyone is going to be at any one given time. And if those players get it right, they could run riot.

It’s very much a Pep thing; here’s five amazing forward players. As long as two of you stay high and wide, the other three can go where you want. He’s sorted out his defence by bringing in Ruben Dias. It could be frightening.

It’s a two-horse race for this year’s Premier League

Liverpool will be glad Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are back in the first-team but they’re going to have to do something pretty spectacular to be considered title challengers this season. Sadio Mane and Mo Salah are going to have to be at their absolute best, as are all of their midfielders, and we saw last season what happens when they drop off slightly.

Do they have the right amount of depth in their squad if someone as key as Trent Alexander-Arnold or Andy Robertson gets injured? I’m not so sure. They could probably do with a proper goalscorer in that number nine role as well, just to take some of that burden off Salah and Mane. I think Liverpool will be better than they were last season, that’s for sure. But are they good enough to overtake Manchester City and Chelsea? I have my doubts.

It’s between Man City and Chelsea for the title. Liverpool and Man United will probably make up the top four.

Tammy Abraham would be a great fit for Arsenal

Tammy Abraham has been linked with a few clubs in recent weeks and the latest news is that Roma are keen on him. For me, Tammy needs to play games. He’s at the stage in his career where he’s already proven himself in the Championship and in the Premier League but for whatever reason Frank Lampard didn’t really fancy him, and neither does Thomas Tuchel.

There are other similar players in and around Tammy at Chelsea, as well as Romelu Lukaku who looks like he’s coming back. At this point he’s got to think about his own career, and he’ll just want to be playing.

No one’s ever guaranteed a starting place, but if he went to Arsenal, he’d have a very good chance of playing every single week under Mikel Arteta. I think he’d be a great addition to that team, because he works hard. He doesn’t always get the number of goals he’d maybe like, but you know what you’re going to get from him every time he steps onto the pitch, and when you’ve got a striker like that, the rest of the team can work with it.

It’s players that are sporadic that sometimes cause more problems. You’d rather have someone putting in 7/10 performances every week than someone who puts in a 9/10 here and a 5/10 there, because you’re never quite sure what version of that player you’re going to get.

I think Tammy Abraham is a very good player, and I think if Arsenal get him in, along with Ben White, and if they can keep hold of Granit Xhaka, then they’ll have a much better squad than the one they did last year.

It now becomes about man management for Tammy. It’s about the right boss taking him under their wing, putting an arm around him and saying “alright, these managers might not have wanted you, but I want you”. It’s about giving him a little bit of belief, then he just wants a good start to the season, an early goal, and all of a sudden he can take off.

Ole has steadied the ship, but the Glazers look like they’ve settled for him

Even with the arrivals of Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho, I still wouldn’t say Man United are title contenders. I can’t see it. I think Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool will all be stronger. They might make third, but I don’t see them finishing higher than Man City or Chelsea.

Edinson Cavani is superb but does he stay fit for the whole season? Does Raphael Varane fit in immediately? Holding midfield is an issue, for me. Can Scott McTominay do it for the whole season? I don’t know. They’re slowly improving as a team under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but I still think they’re some way off being real title contenders.

The board seem quite content with Ole, though. Is it the Glazers saying ‘well, we’re in the Champions League, we’re improving’ – is that enough for them? If they were to bring in another name, they’d no doubt want to sign their own players and that means spending even more money. So many for the board it’s a case of ‘nothing’s broken, so nothing needs fixing’ at the moment.

Ole’s steadied the ship, don’t get me wrong. But it just seems at the moment like Man United have settled. Can you really see Man United winning a Champions League? I can’t. Do they win the Premier League this year? No. Will they make the top four? Probably. And that’s probably enough for the owners. It keeps things ticking over, they’re happy with that. Their theory is ‘why would we make an expensive change when we don’t have to?’

Lukaku joining Chelsea would be the signing of the summer

I actually think Aston Villa have done some great business this summer. Yes, they’ve lost Jack Grealish, but they’ve been really clever in replacing him. They knew Jack was going to go, so they’ve done their business early and brought in three or four new faces with the transfer fee they got from Man City.

Grealish could turn out to be a fantastic signing, but where’s he going to play? Ben White is a very, very good signing, an astute one.

If Chelsea get Romelu Lukaku over the line, that could be a gamechanger for the season. Suddenly you couple up Thomas Tuchel’s expertise and organisation with a striker of Lukaku’s quality, someone who is guaranteed goals, a proven Premier League striker, all of a sudden you’re thinking that could go down as a sensational piece of business.

Lukaku’s record – even at Manchester United – speaks for itself. If you play to his strengths, he’s an absolute unit. He could be Chelsea’s modern-day Didier Drogba when you look at his pace, his strength and his record in front of goal. He’s got all the attributes.

You’re incredibly naive if you think there’s a gentleman’s agreement when it comes to Kane

It’s a really interesting one for Harry Kane now, because Man City have obviously gone and spent £100m on Jack Grealish. Add Kane to that City side, and who misses out? How many forward options can you have? So many world-class players are going to struggle to even make the bench at this rate. A couple of names you’d feel have got to move on to balance the books a bit.

There’s certainly a concern for Kane now that Chelsea look like they’re in advanced stages of the Romelu Lukaku deal, Man United have spent their money for the summer. Where else can Harry go other than Manchester City? I don’t think there’s anywhere else for him, and if Spurs won’t negotiate, there’s every chance he ends up staying where he is. And after all of the controversy surrounding his comments before the Euros and not turning up last week, it could all backfire on him.

Kane’s agent has got it massively wrong on so many levels. This whole gentleman’s agreement is silly; you don’t have a gentleman’s agreement when it comes to multi-million pound businesses. You’re incredibly naive if you think that’s the case.

Let’s not forget, Kane signed a six-year deal in 2018, which he was very happy to sign at the time. He snapped Daniel Levy’s hand off, and there’s still plenty of time to run on that deal, so you can’t blame Tottenham in this situation at all. He signed a bumper contract with no release clause, you had no issues about leaving and now all of a sudden you want to go. Tottenham are well within their right to say “I’m sorry, you can’t go.”

There’s obviously the risk you end up with a disgruntled, unhappy player. And Kane is powerful in that dressing room. He’s got a lot of friends in there. If the first few results don’t go well for the manager, all of a sudden Kane starts kicking off, he gets a couple of players on his side and all of a sudden, Nuno Espirito Santo is right up against it.

Nuno came out and said he hadn’t yet spoken with Harry Kane. Really? This is your best player, one of the best strikers in the world, he says he wants to leave and you’ve not spoken to him? I wonder whether that’s a bit smoke and mirrors.

What makes it such an interesting situation with Kane is because you’re talking about two clubs who are very stubborn when it comes to transfers. Man City have their ceiling and they’ve proven in the past with the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Virgil van Dijk that they won’t overspend on a player. But then you’ve got Daniel Levy who knows exactly how much he wants for Kane, and he won’t budge for anything less.

The problem there is that Kane then doesn’t feel wanted by Man City, and as a player you always want to feel wanted. At the astronomical fees we’re talking about, if it comes down to something like £10m being the difference between the two clubs, Man City should just pay up if they want to make Kane feel special and wanted. If you’re faffing around over £10m when you’re dealing with those massive figures, does the player really feel like he’s wanted?

I’m surprised no one ‘better than Arsenal’ came in for Ben White

Ben White is a fantastic player; he’s very good on the ball and he’s clearly got a bright future ahead of him. If I’m being honest, I was a little surprised that a better club than Arsenal didn’t come in for him, and just give him something to think about. Yes, Arsenal are a big club, but they’re not winning the Premier League any time soon. First and foremost for them it’s about getting back into the top six, then the top four before they can start thinking about mixing it with Man City and Chelsea in a title race. For Arsenal it’s a great signing, I’m just surprised other clubs didn’t come in for him.

I’m expecting another difficult season for Arsenal. It goes without saying that on their day they can be great, but consistency has been their biggest problem for so long now. And when you look at the teams finishing above them last season, it’s going to be very, very difficult for Arsenal to break into that top six.

Arsenal still need to figure out exactly what sort of a team they are and how they’re going to play. It’s almost like they still haven’t sussed that out yet, and Mikel Arteta is still trying to work out how he wants to play. Maybe with a more settled defence this time out, and that added solidity in the middle of the park, maybe this is the year they get it right.

You need a core of maybe eight players that are going to be starting week-in, week-out. Defensively you need consistency, because that’s where you build relationships, consistency and an understanding. Your holding midfielder is very important, as is your centre-forward. Then around that core group of players, you can start changing things from time to time. Arsenal did not have that last season, and that was down to chopping and changing the personnel, the formation and tweaking the style of play, and it makes things very difficult.

I’ve got my doubts about Varane

Raphael Varane is a fantastic player who has won everything, but the Premier League is completely different, and a lot of top, top players have come here and struggled. Sometimes it can take a little bit of time for these players to adjust and work things out.

If you go and sign an English player who has been playing in the Premier League for two or three seasons, you can more or less guarantee you know what you’re going to get from him. When you sign a player who has been playing alongside Sergio Ramos for the majority of the career, and you take him away from that environment and put him in the Premier League with a new partner and they come up against Burnley, Southampton, Everton, all of those teams – you don’t know how it’s going to go.

I’m not doubting Varane’s ability for a second; all I’m doing is asking whether it’s going to work out instantly, because so often we’ve seen it hasn’t.

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Author

Alex Apati

Alex has been with the Ladbrokes PR team since 2017 having previously worked for the news department. From sparring with Peter Fury to talking interviews on the Duke and Duchess' baby names, he's covered a range of sports and novelty events.

A frustrated West Brom fan who is no stranger to an oche, Alex is originally from Dudley, although he's worked hard to rid himself of the Black Country twang.