Jeremie Aliadiere
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Jeremie Aliadiere: Jesus can score more than 20 goals for Arsenal this season

| 02.08.2022

Jeremie Aliadiere spent five years with Arsenal at the turn of the century and was part of the Invincibles squad that won the Premier League title in the 2003-4 season.

In an exclusive interview with Ladbrokes and ahead of the launch of Friday’s 5-A-Side bet on Crystal Palace v Arsenal, the first Premier League game of the season, the Frenchman discussed the signings of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko, hopes of a top-four finish, Edu and Arsene Wenger.

However, he kicked off the interview by talking about the latest Arsenal documentary.

All Or Nothing: Arsenal gave me goosebumps; people are going to be really surprised at what they see

I’ve been able to see a few clips of the Arsenal documentary on Amazon and if I’m being honest with you, it’s actually given me goosebumps. I think a lot of people are going to be really surprised at what they see.

A lot of supporters have struggled in recent years to connect with the team, be it the ownership, the way things were being run, and all that stuff behind the scenes. Fans couldn’t recognise the old Arsenal in their team. I go to pretty much every game and you can hear fans questioning the commitment of this team, especially in recent years gone by.

But looking at that documentary, seeing the players in the dressing room after games and hearing Mikel Arteta’s talks with the players – I was gobsmacked. I didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes. I’ve been in plenty of Arsenal dressing rooms over my years with the club, but I hadn’t seen anything like this before.

We’re getting a deeper look into the fabric of the club, inside the dressing room, on the training pitch, in the manager’s office. I think a lot of fans are going to change their opinions off the back of this documentary. I really think a lot of supporters will change their minds about some of these players. I think this is a good thing. It will bring the fans closer to the team again. People are going to love it, and I really feel like it could be a positive for the team on the pitch as well in the opening weeks of the season.

No excuses, top four is a must for Arsenal this season

Performances in pre-season have been amazing; the boys must have worked really hard on the physical side of things. In every game I’ve watched, they’ve looked sharper than everyone else. They’re a hungry bunch, full of desire and you just feel like they’re starting to create something really special.

We all know that pre-season counts for nothing, though, it’s about starting the campaign off well against Crystal Palace. Arsenal have to capitalise on these major signings. The manager has got the players he wanted through the door, so you’ve got to finish in the top four now. There won’t be any excuses in the league this season. Martin Odegaard, and a couple of the other boys, have had enough time now – there’s no more time to see how things go. This has to be the season the team finishes back in the top four. That’s the ultimate reward for all of the work that’s been done over the last two years.

I didn’t think there was any chance we’d land Jesus and Zinchenko

It’s been a really impressive transfer window for Arsenal so far and I must say I’ve been very pleased with what I’ve seen in pre-season. I didn’t expect things to go this well. Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus? I didn’t think there was any chance we’d get them through the door, not least because we’re not playing in the Champions League, but also I just didn’t see Man City selling them to a Premier League rival.

Zinchenko and Jesus would have had other options – I don’t think it was a choice of Arsenal or nowhere. I wonder if the relationship the clubs have through Mikel Arteta was a key factor?

Mikel Arteta’s role in those moves will have obviously helped, so he has to take a lot of credit. But I’m also really happy that we’ve managed to keep our own key players as well, because that’s been a problem of Arsenal’s over the years. Too often an Arsenal player has performed really well in the past and we’ve ended up letting them leave, so keeping hold of the top players at the club is just as much a priority as adding new ones, for me.

I can see Gabriel Jesus scoring 20+ goals this season

It’s always hard to put numbers on strikers. I don’t mind if you only manage 15 goals but we have a great season and finish in the top four; it’s more about the overall contribution to the team when it comes to Gabriel Jesus, and what he brings to the table.

We’ve lost Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, and while Eddie Nketiah proved towards the end of last season that he is capable of getting goals, there will naturally be pressure on Gabriel Jesus to deliver. It’s not necessarily a case of him having to score 25 goals this season, because there’ll be more of an expectation for the likes of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe to chip in. But Jesus is a confident boy and he likes to score goals; we’ve seen it already in pre-season that he’s a born goalscorer.

I don’t really want to put a number on it, but if Jesus carries his pre-season form into the campaign, I can see him scoring 20 goals for Arsenal. He’s going to be their main man so he’ll have lots of game-time, so I expect him to score plenty.

I didn’t think Edu had the personality for technical director role

I’m amazed by the job Edu is doing at Arsenal, if I’m being honest with you. Obviously I remember him very well from my time with the club. I was there for a couple of years before him so when he joined we actually ended up spending quite a lot of time together.

He also played for the reserve team a lot in the early days so we got to know each other, and he was always a lovely guy to be around. When he retired and headed in the direction he went, I was initially surprised. I wasn’t certain that he had the personality for it. I knew he was such a nice guy who gets on with everyone, so that wasn’t going to be a problem. I just wasn’t sure he’d be ruthless enough to make certain decisions, but he’s proven that he can.

I was slightly worried he might tarnish his name by returning to the club, because you sometimes see that happen where things don’t quite work out. But so far I’d say it’s been a success; they’ve got rid of the players that needed moving on and they’ve brought in some really exciting names. Edu and Mikel have done it on a few occasions now, where they’ve signed promising names which have all arrived with potential risk.  Look at Martin Odegaard, for example. They took a big chance on a guy who didn’t really play that much for Real Madrid. But they’ve put trust in him and he’s established himself as a key player in this team.

He’s done a great job and is bringing the club and its fan base closer together again. He’s a very honest and open guy, and you can’t ask for much more as a supporter. Now it’s about getting the results on the pitch and getting back into that top four – that’s his next challenge.

Arsene Wenger personally scouted me in Scotland when I was 15… then he called my house and struck a deal with my dad

I grew up in Paris so was naturally a PSG fan, but we all had a club we liked abroad as well, and mine was always Arsenal when I was growing up. That’s mainly down to the likes of Emmanuel Petit, Patrick Vieira, Nicolas Anelka and, obviously, Arsene Wenger.

I was 15-years-old, playing for the Clairefontaine Academy and had pretty much every club in France – and a lot from the rest of Europe – interested in signing me. I was considered France’s biggest prospect at the time, and I remember my dad would get calls on the house phone every single weekend – scouts were trying to get me to play for their club.

I was also with the under-15 French national team and that year we had a tournament in Scotland where we played against the likes of England, Wales and Ireland, as well as Scotland, in this little tournament. I just absolutely smashed the tournament, finishing top scorer, winning player of the tournament. I knew I’d done really well, but I didn’t know Arsene Wenger was in the stands watching the whole thing.

Arsene Wenger, Arsenal

He’d heard the stories about this French kid and wanted to come and see me for himself. I knew there was going to be scouts present because it was just a regular occurrence at that stage of my career; every weekend we’d have around 20-25 scouts watching games. I didn’t know Arsene himself was there, though, until around a week or so later… when he called my house and spoke to my dad directly.

So the house phone rings and my dad answers, and when I saw his reaction when he started speaking, I just thought ‘wow, who is that?’ It must have been someone special, because the way he reacted was nothing like he’d ever reacted to anyone I’d seen before. Arsene got our home number from somewhere and decided to speak with my dad directly – that phone call lasted for around an hour. He put the phone down and was just completely gobsmacked. He told me it was Arsene calling to get me to sign for Arsenal.

And that was it; my mind was made up on Arsenal. I didn’t need to know anything about logistics, about money or anything. I was signing for Arsenal. While all these other clubs had sent their scouts who would call my dad every week, Arsene himself took the time out to speak with my dad and that was more than enough to convince me.

I lied to Arsenal about my living arrangements when I was 16

Moving countries at such a young age and playing with established, senior professional footballers, helped me mature really quickly. I won’t say I didn’t make mistakes in my youth because I’d be lying, but moving to London at 16 meant by the time I was, say, 20-years-old, I felt a lot older in my mind. I had to look after myself pretty much from the very start, and it’s something I never told anyone at the time.

Because of my age, and because my parents were both still working, we arranged with the club that my grandparents would move over to England and live with me until I turned 18. And that was something I really felt like I needed at such a young age, because I was able to bring this piece of my home country with me. Arsenal found a house for us and paid for the three of us to live there – that was the deal we had.

Until I turned 18, my grandad and grandma would stay with me which meant I’d still be close to my family, which was so important to me. But this was another kind of challenge for me, because we’re talking about two completely different generations living under one roof. My grandad was obviously a lot older than me and would constantly talk to me about what I was doing with my money.

Of course, I didn’t like that. I was young, I was doing something I loved and I was being paid well for my age. I wanted to go out and spend my money on new things. My grandad was telling me all about the importance of saving my money but I didn’t want to know at all. l I just wanted to enjoy things. I didn’t come from money. My parents had to work really hard for everything they owned. I’ve got this talent and with it I can earn money, and my grandad is telling me I can’t spend it.

I know now he was trying to prepare me for life, to calm me down and teach me the importance of not being too rash with my spending. But at the time I didn’t want to hear it and so we clashed a lot. Anyway, this deal only lasted six months. After six months of clashing my grandparents decided to go back home. But, at the time, I had a big choice to make. Do I tell Arsenal that my grandparents have moved back home? If I did, I’d have to move into digs, and I didn’t want to do that. So the other option was to not say anything; pretend that my grandparents were still living there, and that way I’d keep the house – even though I was too young – and keep living on my own.

So that’s what I did. I lived for a year-and-a-half on my own in a house that was paid for by Arsenal, without telling anyone at the club. Not even my team-mates.

It’s another thing which made me grow up, because I had to cook for myself, look after myself, and do everything a 16-year-old shouldn’t have to do. In some ways it was really, really hard, but at the same time it taught me a lot about myself.

I’ve never actually told them [Arsenal] any of this directly. They’ve since found out through interviews here and there, but I never told anyone. I just had to get to 18, at which point the deal on the house was up and I could go and move into my own flat, and everything was fine!

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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.