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David Seaman: Arsenal have a great chance of winning the league

14 Dec | BY Jack Green | MIN READ TIME |
David Seaman: Arsenal have a great chance of winning the league

In our exclusive interview, the former Arsenal goalkeeper discusses the Gunners' title prospects, Declan Rice's impact and the club's return to the Champions League.

Arsenal have one of the best defensive records in the league– is that a strong indicator that they can really challenge for the title this season?

It’s definitely a better indicator – that we are defensively solid – because that’s what we built all our games on and that’s how we won all our trophies. The defence was key, and not just the back four, but to defend as a team as well, and that’s what we’re seeing. We’re seeing Martinelli get back helping the full-back out, we’re seeing Saka getting back and helping out, the midfielders dropping in sometimes when the pressure is on. I see a team and that’s always a good sign.

The moment of the season was beating Manchester City at the Emirates. How big a moment was that for Mikel Arteta and for the team?

For the team as a whole, beating Man City was a massive moment because it got rid of that hoodoo. We won the Community Shield this summer by beating them, but we had to beat them [at the Emirates] or go to the Etihad and beat them there. We’ve done it now, we’ve got three points off them which, trust me, psychologically is massive. We know now that we can do it, we’ve got the belief now that we maybe we’ll go to the Etihad and give them a much better game than we have been doing in recent years. It’s positive signs and it’s only going to be good for the future.

Do you think the experience of just falling short last year is going to make the difference for Arsenal in this title race?

I hope that the difference this season is that we’ve actually experienced what happened last season. People say that we bottled it – we didn’t bottle it. Man City came, and they were so good at the end of the season. We had a couple of games where we should have won and we didn’t, but that’s all experience. Take all that into this season and it’s going to be proper this season. I did see a few people that were a little bit nervous last season because they’ve never experienced that sort of pressure, but this time it’s going to be different, hopefully.

What do you think Declan Rice has brought to this Arsenal team?

He makes it even better, by a long way. If I’m honest, I’m surprised as to how much of an impact he’s had. The way that he’s playing has shocked me, I suppose. I’ve seen him do it with England, I’ve seen him do it with West Ham, but then doing it with Arsenal is a little bit different. The pressure is there, but he just goes out there and plays, which is what I love to see. The impact that he’s had has been brilliant because it’s not just him that’s playing well, he’s upped the ante of everybody else as well. He’s gone in there, not just out on the pitch but at training, he’s showing how good he is and it lifts the players. 

Arsenal’s trip to Liverpool is coming up on 23 December. How big a game is that in the title race?

The away game at Liverpool is going to be massive, as was the home game against Man City. Liverpool are one of the [title] contenders. It’s a chance to show how good you are. You have got to be on your game on that day, there’s no doubt about it, because you’re going to Anfield. It will be tough, but are we capable of going there and winning? Yes, we are. We definitely are now because we’ve had all that experience of last season in big games. Now we’ve got the ability and the confidence to go to places like Anfield and take all three points.

Did you enjoy playing at Anfield?

I loved it, because it was always a test. I’ve been beaten there. Robbie Fowler scored one of the fastest hat-tricks past me ever, so I’ve got good and bad memories there! But I just used to love going to play Liverpool, because you knew it would be a fantastic atmosphere and a real test, and that’s that you want – to test yourself.

Arsenal are now back in the Champions League and have qualified for the knockout stages – something that happened almost every year in your career. How good has that been to see?

It’s been great to see Champions League games back at Emirates Stadium again. They’re special nights. We had them all the time, you know, and I think we took it for granted when we were here. Even after I’d retired, we were always in the Champions League, and then when we didn’t qualify for quite a while, I think people realised how good it was and what we were missing. Now it’s back. We’re having some special moments, we’re top of our group, we’re going into the knockout stages and it’s going to be great. The European nights here are really special.

How do the European games at the Emirates compared to those classic nights at Highbury?

Trying to compare these nights to Highbury is different, because Highbury was so much smaller than here. With all that history that we created at Highbury, that’s why it was so special there. It’s different, but this place needs us to win something here, like win the league. I know we’ve won a few FA Cups, but to actually get presented the league trophy on your home ground makes it even more special, and this place deserves it.

What would you consider a successful season for Arsenal in the Champions League? Should winning it be the expectation?

We’ve got to be at our best in all the games now going into the knockout stages to have a chance, because there are some real quality teams in there, some big teams. Obviously there’s Real Madrid, Barcelona, Man City, but we’ve got to believe that we’ve got a great chance [in the Champions League], and we’ve got a great chance in the league now. But that’s a sign of the times, we are now in contention. Last season we were in contention and we were worthy of being in contention. Now, we’ve got a great chance again. So things are improving, and the process is working.

You played under a couple of great Arsenal managers in George Graham and Arsene Wenger. Do you see any of their qualities in Mikel Arteta?

The qualities I see in Mikel are very similar to both managers. The determination of George, I see that in Mikel, but then the tactical awareness, and awareness of his players. His man management of the players is better than what Arsene was. So I see a mixture of that and then obviously from his time at Man City under Pep, he’s certainly learned from that. We’ve got a mixture of everything in Mikel, and I think that is going to get better and better. I was watching in training, because I go in and coach with the young goalkeepers, and I knew how good he was and I knew what he was getting out of the lads. I’m very grateful that he’s still our manager.

You were part of an iconic Euros campaign for England in 1996. Do you think this England team can go all the way next year?

Yeah, England’s chances in in the next Euros are massive, and we’re going in there probably as favourites, or second favourites to France. That’s where we are now. We have got an incredible squad of players that just need to go that one step further. I sampled Euro 96 under Terry Venables, and that was an amazing time to be an England footballer, and I know it was to be an England fan as well. What Terry did was, he made England fans love the England team again, and I think we’ve got that now with Gareth – that’s still there because of the football we’re playing and the players we’ve got. We’re now going into tournaments as favourites, so I’m so looking forward to the Euros. I want to be around when we win a trophy for England, because I’ve never done that. I’ve never sampled that, and I know I’ll be having one hell of a party, and I’m sure the country will have one hell of a party.

Bukayo Saka and Declan Rice should be key players for England – how pleased are you to see two Arsenal players be so central to the national team?

It’s great to see Arsenal players having such an influence on the England side. Then obviously Aaron goes in as the goalkeeper, as well. It brings back great memories because when we used to go, it was like there was the Manchester United table, the Arsenal table, and then the others. There was a big Arsenal contingent there, and when you’ve got that, it means that your side is successful. Hopefully that’s where it’s going to take us, the English players leading us to win trophies at the Emirates.

What can it do for a player to come back to your club having experienced a great international tournament?

It feels great. When I came back from Euro 96, it was fantastic. Alright, we didn’t win it, but we got to the semi-finals. We made England fans love the England team again, and it’s a great feeling. It’s not just about going back to your club – it’s when you’re out on the street and everybody’s shouting you, applauding you and saying congratulations. But to actually win something with England, that’s going to be special and I’m sure it’s going to happen soon, because we are too good not to win anything.

Last question – are Arsenal going to win the league?

Arsenal have got a great chance of winning the league. I think we’ve got to be a 10 out of 10 come April, May, and then we’ll have a great chance.

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Jack Green

Jack Green

Editorial content manager who is responsible for the Insider’s golf, American sports, UFC and boxing betting content.

Jack Green

Jack Green

Editorial content manager who is responsible for the Insider’s golf, American sports, UFC and boxing betting content.