In part two of our exclusive interview, Richard Dunne looks ahead to the weekend's fixtures and offers his opinion on VAR.
Looking ahead to City vs Liverpool this weekend, what are your predictions for the game? City and Liverpool have built up a bit of a rivalry in recent seasons, do you think it is one of the best the Premier League has seen?
This is going to be a great game. Both will just go at each other again. The way they play football, they’re so attack minded. I fancy City being at home to win the match – in front of their own fans they’re fantastic. Their know-how in these big games is getting better each season. But Liverpool are desperate to prove something after dropping off like they did last year. They have improved.
Hopefully Erling Haaland is fit and ready to play. Doku has been exciting but for me the player who has stood out in Bernardo Silva, he’s been fantastic. He’s the big game player who takes control and he could be the difference. I’m going to say it is going to be 3-1 to City.
Everton were docked 10 points with immediate effect last week which drops them into the relegation zone, do you think they can still stay up this season?
I do think they’ll stay up whatever happens. They’ve surprised a few people this season, there were worries about whether they’ve improved their squad enough over the summer. But Sean Dyche has got them playing for each other and working really hard. There are maybe four or five teams in the league that you would look at and say even with the deduction, Everton will pick up more points than. It’s a shock and a disappointment but it will galvanise the team and the club, they’ll work their way out of it.
As the January transfer window approaches, is there an area you believe Everton need to strengthen in?
Everton have a really hard-working squad but they just don’t have the depth. I don’t imagine they’ll go out and get a £50 million player who can take them up the league. I think it’s more about numbers with Premier League experience. Maybe a goalscoring midfielder who can really chip in would be important. I just think they need to slowly build what they’re doing. It’s a building phase right now.
Everton face Man Utd this weekend, what’s your prediction?
With what’s gone on at Everton in the past week or so, the atmosphere is going to be unbelievable. It’ll be a brilliant place to be at the weekend and they won’t have lost any of their confidence after what’s been happening off the field. Manchester United are somehow the form team in the Premier League but they should be winning the games they’ve won. I think Everton will get one over them and I’m going for a 1-0 home win.
Villa have started the season really well under Emery, what have you made of the job he has done so far?
He’s done an unbelievable job. Since he came in, the way they’ve progressed as a team you can clearly see an identity in the style of football they play. They’re enjoyable to watch and they take risks with the high line they play. Ollie Watkins is in great form. You ask what their main problem could be, and again that may be squad strength. Maybe they need another flair player – but don’t squeeze a player into the system. The way they’re playing and competing, you wouldn’t be surprised to see them in Europe again next season.
After such a successful period at Villa, do you think it is going to be hard for Villa to hold onto Emery?
I don’t know how highly he is still regarded amongst the big clubs in England. Do they think ‘well he’s failed at Arsenal, we’re not going to go there’? He did a good job for me, he just wasn’t given the time. Villa are a big club and could go forward. I don’t see him leaving to go to Manchester United or anywhere like that. Maybe going back to Spain you wouldn’t be surprised but he will be happy with what’s going on. He’s been great at a team of a certain level.
Should a top four finish be the goal for Aston Villa this season?
That’s the dream. They’ll know they need to qualify for Europe again next year. They’re more than capable of challenging for the top four but there’s teams you would have ahead of them right now. The form they’re in and the fact they score so many goals means they won’t be far off the top four, but maybe the more realistic one would be the top six for Villa.
Douglas Luiz has been fantastic. Do you think Man City could look to bring him back to the Etihad? Could you see some of the bigger clubs coming in for him in January or the summer?
It’s more likely that the big players will be poached away, not the manager. Luiz will have Champions League ambition. He will know soon enough if he can do that at Villa. There are certain clubs that need that position covering, so I expect he will be sought after in the January transfer window – if not, the summer.
During his time at Aston Villa, Alex McLeish crossed the second City and joined from Birmingham. What did you make of the decision to hire a manager that had just been relegated with your biggest rivals?
It’s an unusual one as the rivalry is so great. But on a personal level you knew he could deal with the pressure. He was big enough and good enough to handle it. For the players, it wasn’t an issue. But for the fans, I’m not sure if they’ll ever accept someone from the other side of the city.
Spurs face Villa this weekend, how do you see it going and give us a prediction?
It’s a big game for Tottenham. They’ll be determined not to lose it. I think it will be a 2-2 draw – both sides do give away goals but they score them too. It looks like it’ll be a good game and maybe a high-scoring one.
The other big game this weekend is Newcastle v Chelsea, how do you see this one going?
Newcastle are in a bit of a situation with their injuries, and with the size of the squad that’s something I’m sure they’ll look to fix in January. That doesn’t help them this weekend – Chelsea are in form and playing well. They’re exciting to watch and they’re starting to score goals. But Newcastle don’t lose at home so it’ll be a tight game. I think they’ll win 1-0 because they grind out results.
QPR have had a really poor season so far, do you think they have enough to stay up?
It’s looking difficult at the moment. They just can’t get any kind of consistency with their performances and results. They’ve had a massive fall off since February. I hope they can but they’ll need to do some business in January to try and save themselves. Fingers crossed they can do it and stay up, but they’re in a dog-fight.
What did you make of their decision to appoint a fairly unknown coach in Martí Cifuentes?
I don’t know much about him. It’s a surprise because when you’re in a tough position in the Championship which is so difficult anyway, it’s about understanding the league and the competition. You don’t get time on the training field to change things. It’s about mentality and that’s where QPR need help. They need to knuckle down. Don’t worry about trying to build systems, just win games and that’s the most important thing.
VAR has been a big talking point this season, what did you make of the decisions made in the Spurs v Liverpool and Newcastle vs Arsenal games?
I think the Liverpool goal at Spurs was a complete mess. Even with how it was shown on TV, you just think ‘something isn’t right here’. The audio, well it was just amateur stuff – the best league in the world and they don’t know what one another is saying! It was very bizarre. The Newcastle goal against Arsenal is contentious in so many ways. I did think it was a foul on the defender Gabriel. It took them a long time to come to a decision, but they looked for every reason to give the goal.
Do you think VAR is good for the game?
It needs to be tightened up for sure. It’s taken so much enjoyment out of the game. You’re getting muted celebrations at times now because you just don’t know anymore. It’s too frustrating. But they’re never, ever going to get rid of it, it’s there for good. But at the moment, it’s a time-wasting process.
You had a few red cards during your Premier League career, if VAR was around during your time, how many do you think would have been overturned? Or do you think you would have had more?
I think a few may have got overturned but there would have probably been a couple added as well! It would have balanced itself out over a season, and that’s what we’ve always said about football. The only time I really look back on my career and think of VAR would be the Thierry Henry handball.