William Gallas
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William Gallas on Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and more

| 18.12.2020

We’ve already heard William Gallas’ thoughts on Arsenal, Arteta and Patrick Vieira, but of course there was much more to come from exclusive interview with the ex-Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs defender earlier this week.

Keen to find out what the former France international had to say? Just read on…

On Arsenal’s problems

“The problem with Mesut Ozil is that we know he’s a quality player, but he needed to do more on the pitch from a defensive side. You have to attack and defend. When he’s attacking he can deliver so many key passes and create goal-scoring opportunities for the strikers, but he doesn’t do enough defensively for the team.

“For Mikel Arteta to leave him out of the side it’s a big decision, of course. But because they’re in a poor position in the league, questions are being asked and Ozil’s name keeps coming up. Ultimately, if Arsenal were winning games no one would be talking about Ozil. Everybody is looking for a solution and the naturally that means Ozil’s omission will be questioned.

“Yes, Arteta has won the FA Cup. That is great for him as manager in his first year, but do you think that’s what fans want? Are they looking for the FA Cup or the Premier League? It’s obviously the Premier League; that’s what fans want to be challenging for. There’s a competition among fans who are all trying to win the league.

“Tottenham and Chelsea fans are right up there and Arsenal aren’t. Right now who is the best team in London? It’s Tottenham or Chelsea; not Arsenal. As a fan you’re frustrated. Arsenal are a big club; they have to be in a better position.

“I’m sure Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will have called the players together for a meeting as captain of Arsenal Football Club. He has to bring everyone together face-to-face and explain to them how important it is they start getting results on the board. Whether you like the manager’s system or whether you don’t like it, that is not the problem. What we have to do as players is simple; we have to do our job.

“Our job is to give everything for 90 minutes and fight for every ball. They look a little bit lost at the moment; they look like they don’t know what they’re doing. They need to have that anger, that spirit and fight. That’s how you can start to get results and build a strong team. That starts in defence; you need your defenders to have that fight and that anger, which translates into the midfielders and strikers.

“What I don’t see at the moment in that team is a single player who is shouting and giving orders. When you’re not playing well you need one or two players to shout at the players on the pitch and wake the team up. I don’t see anyone in that Arsenal team doing it. Look at Arsenal teams that we’ve seen over the years; I was captain of the club and sometimes I was maybe guilty of shouting at my players too much because I wanted to win every single game we played.

“But even before me, you had Sol Campbell, Martin Keown, Patrick Vieira; these big players. When you watched them play, it was nice to see those players communicating with the rest of the team and their teammates responded in a positive way. Now I think football has changed – you don’t really see many players like that nowadays.”

On Arsenal’s most likely Premier League final position

“It’s hard to say where I think Arsenal will finish this season. At the beginning of the season their target should have been to win the league or to qualify for the Champions League. Now they have to just be looking to get into the Europa League. But if they carry on playing the way they’re playing right now, I don’t think they will make the top six.

“I think by the middle of January the Arsenal board have some big decisions to make if things don’t change in the next few weeks, because otherwise the club will finish in the bottom half of the table.”

Where Arsenal can strengthen

“They have to bring some players in. I’m still not convinced about the defenders. You need more experienced players that the ones they have. When you look at their defence, who has experience? David Luiz is injured. Maybe Hector Bellerin is one of your most experienced players at the back now, but he’s not been very good.

“Then you look in midfield. Where is their experience coming from? Granit Xhaka? I’m sorry but for me, after what I’ve seen, I think there’s something wrong with him. You can’t give away so many fouls and get so many cards. He makes too many mistakes. If he’s your most experienced player and he doesn’t have the experience to know you can’t make these mistakes and keep getting booked, you’re going to be in trouble.

“Mikel Arteta has brought in plenty of players since he took over, but there’s a difference between bringing in names and bringing in quality players that are going to fit in your team. At the moment the players he’s bought haven’t made the difference – which is a big problem.

“Mikel Arteta wants to play the way Pep Guardiola did with Manchester City when he first came to England, but don’t forget Pep has had that system in place for a long, long time. You can’t just go into a club and expect to successfully apply that system straight away. Maybe he has to change his style.

“It’s a tough game they’ve got this weekend against Everton so you have to choose some strong players at the back. I’m not the manager so it’s difficult for me to say who should and shouldn’t be playing. I’m just a former player who has watched them in almost every game so far this season.

“I’m sure Mikel will put the best players on the pitch against Everton because that game will be very, very physical. So he has to go with strong and powerful players all over the pitch who will fight in every minute.

“Sometimes you need your defenders to make a difference going forward, too. You need them to try and help get goals from free-kicks or corners. Not enough forwards are scoring for Arsenal at the moment so you need help from your defence on set-pieces. The defenders have to get in among the goals more. When you look at Arsenal’s defenders, it’s like they’re only doing what they have to do as defenders; no one is stepping up and getting goals to help out the rest of the team.

“I scored 17 goals for Arsenal, and I decided to take more responsibility to score goals when I was around 25-years-old. I decided to change my game and try to add goals because it only helps your team in the long run. I don’t think Arsenal have that option so maybe they do need to change their defence.

“I like Rob Holding, he’s OK. He has to do more, though. He has to control things more. He’s played quite a bit this season so he has to take control at the back. It’s his responsibility to control his defence and maybe he’s the guy who can be that voice, ordering his teammates. That’s something he should look to do as a first-team regular in defence. Take that responsibility on your shoulders now.

“I’ve played for Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham, so all I want is to see a London club win the Premier League. I don’t mind who it is; I don’t have one favourite club out of the three. But after what I’ve seen so far this season, you could see early on Arsenal weren’t going to win the league.”

On Chelsea’s signing of the season so far

“I really like Hakim Ziyech. I think he’s a great addition to the Chelsea squad and would probably say he was their signing of the summer. He’s a player who can make the difference. When he’s on the pitch you always fancy Chelsea to create chances and score goals. He’s a very clever player. He’s a little bit like Riyad Mahrez, and when you play against a team who are difficult to break down, someone like Ziyech is a great asset to have to make the difference.

“Timo Werner is going through a bad run at the moment and it’s brought Olivier Giroud back into the mix. Everybody speaks about Giroud as a bench player who comes on and makes the difference. Giroud is an interesting player because people don’t really understand him and his style of football. He scores a lot of goals; maybe not 20 goals a season but he can get you goals – important goals. When he starts games, he has to score.

“I know his target is to do that but when he’s given an opportunity from the start of a game he has to take it, and I know there’s an extra pressure on his shoulders because he knows if he doesn’t deliver he will be back on the bench.

“He’s an interesting player who has experience and he knows what he has to do. His style is so different to the rest of the Chelsea team; he can be difficult to understand. If he doesn’t score after 90 minutes people will say he hasn’t done anything, because he’s not quick, he’s not as technical and he’s not as involved as players like Ziyech. Giroud doesn’t have that type of game so there’s a lot of pressure on him to score goals because that’s ultimately what his job is.”

On Tottenham’s title chances

Jose Mourinho once said he’d never manage Tottenham. Never say never! I think Jose was desperate to stay in England after leaving Manchester United. He loves life in England and an opportunity came up at Tottenham and I think he made the right decision.

“He’s brought a winning mentality with him to a Tottenham side that have gone for so long without a trophy. Even if his team doesn’t necessarily play well, the main priority is taking three points. So Mourinho will definitely help those players change their mentality and that’s very important for that team.

“They’ve got the biggest stadium in London, they’ve invested a lot of money on the training ground and players so they’ve got all the makings of a big club. But you have to win. You have to lift a trophy and only then will people respect you more and refer to Tottenham as a big club. So maybe Jose Mourinho is the right man to bring a trophy to Tottenham, given his mentality.

“You have to bounce back if you’re Tottenham this weekend against Leicester. You need a good response after that Liverpool defeat. You have to win this weekend. You have to show every other team that you’re not out of it. Everybody is now waiting to see if they’ll drop even more points.

“So you can send a good message out to your rivals if you can beat Leicester. Leicester are right up there in the table so it wouldn’t just be an important win for Tottenham’s title chances; it would be a good win against a strong team. It’s not easy when you have to play every three days but you have to focus. Your mind can be tired, your legs can be heavy, but you have to do a job. The job is to go out on the pitch, enjoy your football and show the opponent you’re here to win.

I will say Tottenham will win. I don’t know whether it’ll be 1-0 or 2-0, but they are going to win against Leicester.”

Liverpool are the ones to beat for the title

“I think Tottenham have a really good opportunity to win the title. They are strong, they play as a team and they have Jose Mourinho who has so much experience. Chelsea also have a slight chance of winning the league but after what I saw against Wolves in the week, you can’t afford to lose games like that late on when you look at the position they were in. Champions don’t lose those games. I’d say Tottenham are the most likely of the two sides to win the league.

“Liverpool are very strong, obviously. When they lost Virgil van Dijk, I thought they’d be in big trouble, but they’re still so strong and they haven’t lost in the league while Van Dijk has been out injured. When you play against that side, you have to take your chances. You have to score if you create a chance because they don’t give many away. Tottenham had a great opportunity to do it in the week but they couldn’t.

“After their win against Tottenham, I think it’ll be really, really difficult to stop them winning the league, because they’ve got so much confidence.

“I haven’t mentioned Manchester City because they just don’t look like the same team anymore. I don’t think Pep Guardiola has replaced that group of players he had when he first went to Man City. You look at the back for them now, they don’t have a Vincent Kompany in that team. Vincent was a rock.

“But right now I don’t see anyone who can do the same job as Kompany. If you’re not strong at the back it’s really difficult to win games. They’ve also lost some players in midfield and how they play now, it’s like any team can beat them. If you put pressure on them, you can beat them. West Brom and Leeds both got promoted last season and both have drawn against Man City.

“That shouldn’t happen. But those two teams have showed others how you have to play against them. When Pep game in he brought a new system and at the beginning every team struggled to respond to them. That’s why they were so strong and successful, but slowly it’s like teams are understanding how they have to play against Man City.”

On Manchester United

“I’ve looked at the Premier League table and I can’t believe Manchester United could go second if they win their game in hand. At the beginning of the season everybody said Man United would be in trouble but it just goes to show, you never know.

“The league this year is very tight. There are so many teams up there at the moment separated by only a few points. It’s very close, so United could maybe finish the season in the top three. I don’t think they will manage that, but they could.

“They’ve got great players. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can’t say that he doesn’t have the players capable of winning the Premier League because he does. They have to start winning trophies, something they haven’t done since Solskjaer took over. Maybe that means he’s not the right manager. He has the right players to win trophies, but he hasn’t.

“At the moment Paul Pogba has a lot of issues. His agent is talking to the media, he was injured for a while. Solskjaer hasn’t found the right system for him. Pogba was unbelievable when he was playing for Juventus, but we haven’t seen that yet at Man United. He was in a system which really suited him. The problem is that Man United don’t have the same level of players Pogba was playing with at Juventus, and he just doesn’t perform well enough consistently.

“He might have one good game, or two, but that’s not good enough for someone like him. He has to do it all season. He played well against Sheffield United, but you have to sustain that level. Take that into your next game, and then the next one, and so on. That’s the difference between good players and top-class players.

“You have to be focused on your football, and sometimes it’s not easy because you’ve got so many things going on around you, like Paul Pogba does right now. The media are talking about him and for him it’s difficult to just concentrate on his game. Don’t forget, these players are still young so it’s difficult to focus sometimes. They have to be protected, and that’s where agents help.

“But if your agent starts going to the media saying their player has to leave and they’re unhappy – it just doesn’t help. If that was my agent I’d tell him to not speak anymore. Don’t say anything. Let me focus on what I have to do. I don’t need more pressure on my shoulders. Pogba might be wondering now what his teammates think of him because of what his agent has come out and said, so it’s not a good thing for the club. You have to tell your agent to not speak to the media the way Mino Raiola has.

“The amount of money they spent on Harry Maguire was a joke. I’m sorry, it is a joke. It’s Manchester United and they do have a lot of money to spend, but when you look at that player, he is not worth that amount of money. If Harry Maguire is worth £80m, then I don’t know how much a prime William Gallas would be worth in 2020!

“But football has changed. Clubs invest crazy money on players, and it’s very difficult to understand how someone can spend so much money on one player. If you’re a young player in the Premier League and you play really well in two or three games, your value will go up straight away. That shouldn’t be the place. You should have to play well the whole season for your value to increase so much.”