In an exclusive interview with Betway, the former Arsenal midfielder looks ahead to the North London Derby.
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Do you think Chelsea need to consider a new striker in January?
I think Chelsea have had enough new players to go for a new striker in January. They have Nkunku injured right now and he’ll come back. The answer isn’t signing new players, it’s developing the ones you have. It lies with Pochettino, he needs to convince his players how he wants to play and stick with the system he’s laid out.
Up next is Aston Villa, who are in good form at the moment. What are you predicting for that game?
I’m very impressed with Emery. I’m also impressed with their work in the transfer market. Villa lost 5-1 to Newcastle and were thrashed 3-0 two weeks later to Liverpool, but the games they have won since have been convincing. It’ll be a very difficult game for Chelsea, but I think Chelsea are a danger at Stamford Bridge.
Villa mostly play 4-4-2 in a compact system, and if Chelsea don’t play as a unit, then they’ll be in danger themselves.
If Chelsea lose, then there will be big pressure on Pochettino. I’ll go for a draw.
Chelsea are struggling to score, but Villa tend to concede a lot. I can see a 1-1 or 2-2 draw.
Asmir Begovic recently said that he thinks Robert Sanchez is a downgrade on both Edouard Mendy and Kepa. Do you agree with that?
I think it’s too soon to say Sanchez is a downgrade on Edouard Mendy and Kepa. We have to be careful at the beginning of the season, and every ex-player knows that the beginning is a difficult time.
Every time we speak about a Chelsea player, I say the same thing: name me a single player who’s excelled there over the last few years? It’s hard to think of a name. It’s only five games in, and it’s too soon to make judgments on players.
Arsenal play PSV in the Champions League. What are you predicting for that?
Arsenal are back in the Champions League for the first time in six years. They’ve got great young prospects, but not many players have experience at the elite level. Saka, Rice, Zinchenko, Jesus, and so on, but I’m looking at other players too. Martinelli and Trossard have never played in the Champions League before. It’ll be very interesting to see how Arsenal cope with the demands of both the Premier League and the Champions League games.
Things are not perfect for Arsenal right now, and they definitely need to win against PSV. The first few games are so important. I watched Arsenal against Everton and I got bored before they found an answer late in the game. They need to start playing as they did last season. They were so enjoyable to watch until the last few games of last season. They don’t seem to be playing that way anymore. If they want to improve, they need that back.
What are you predicting for the North London Derby on Sunday?
Spurs aren’t playing in Europe this season, so they’ll be rested. They’re full of confidence right now. Richarlison looks a lot more confident. They’ll have the advantage of a lighter schedule, and the game will be a big test for Arsenal. I’ve been impressed with Spurs so far. I’d bet for a draw.
There are always goals with Arsenal and Spurs – so I’ll say 2-2.
Evan Ferguson is scoring goals at Brighton right now. Do you think he’d be a good option for Arsenal to rival Gabriel Jesus?
Arsenal already have two very good strikers with Nketiah and Jesus, but they are not typical goalscorers. If Arsenal want to go a step further, then they need a pure striker – someone who can get 30 goals in a season.
Look at Guardiola. He thought he could win the Champions League without a No. 9. He then changed his mind, signed a goalscorer, and won it by the end of that season. I think Arteta wants to emulate Pep’s success at City, and I think he’ll be influenced by him to sign an out-and-out scorer. The aim of football is to score goals and win. I like Jesus, but he needs a few chances to score. Arsenal are lacking a prolific scorer.
Do you think Ferguson could be that striker?
Evan Ferguson could be that striker, why not? He’s a very young guy and he’s already a great goalscorer. He’s doing well at Brighton so far. If I were him, I’d look at how the team is improving with De Zerbi and I’d want to stay there for now. They’re playing European football and aiming for the top four. I think it could be a bit early to leave at the moment. I think Arsenal need a ready-made striker. Could that be Ferguson? I have no idea.
Paul Pogba is potentially facing a four-year ban for alleged doping offences. If he’s banned for that long, should he retire?
Paul Pogba should definitely retire if he is given a four-year ban. When you are suspended for that long, you can’t even come to the training ground. That leaves you going to the gym or the park with no teammates, no balls, nothing. Four years for a 30-year-old player is a long time.
His time at Manchester United didn’t end well, and in France, we think he’s been a disaster since then. Forget football, forget money, it’s a disaster for him. He’s completely destroyed. He’s nothing like the Pogba we used to know. There’s no way he’ll be back in high-level football.
Did you ever play with, or against, anyone you suspected was using performance enhancers? Pogba’s alleged violation is rare in comparison to athletics and cycling, for instance.
I started playing football in the early 90s and I remember some rumours surrounding Italian players, but with no proof. Some players have been linked with those issues, but it’s very rare in football. I still don’t get it. When a story like this comes out, I think that these drugs don’t really give you more footballing intelligence.
You may be stronger or faster, but doping can’t make you a more intelligent player. Cycling is different because you’re traveling in a race, but in football, performance enhancers won’t help you as much.
Monaco are currently top of Ligue 1. Who do you think will end up winning the French league?
PSG have been tipped to win the league ever since they were taken over. For me, they have the best team, but they’re struggling at the moment. Monaco will be PSG’s biggest test and they won’t play in Europe this season. They had a bad season last season, but they’re looking good. But I do think PSG will still win Ligue 1.