In an exclusive interview with Betway, the former Chelsea midfielder reacts to their 2-2 draw against Arsenal.
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Let’s start with Chelsea v Arsenal. What was your view on the game?
The way Chelsea play, they just pretty much unsettled Arsenal for 90 minutes. They didn’t let them play nice football, they didn’t let them build up. They set little traps for them in letting the two centre backs get the ball, and as soon as they played that first pass, they were very aggressive and they made Arsenal play the way Chelsea wanted to play. So for the best part of 60 to 65 minutes it was all Chelsea. In many ways, I think Chelsea let themselves down with the Sanchez mistake, and then you know what football is like once a team gets momentum.
Do you think Mudryk meant it for his goal? And do you think you’ll step up now and really start scoring?
Yes, I hope he does. I watched him come on in his first game against Liverpool, and I think we all saw what he did in that little cameo appearance, so we know he has a talent there. And for him to get that goal, especially at Stamford Bridge, and after scoring against Fulham, I really hope it continues for him, because that’s one thing Chelsea are lacking. For all the possession they have at times, controlling the games, they don’t score enough goals.
Talking about goals, Nicolas Jackson has struggled so far. Do you think Chelsea need to look at another striker in January?
To be honest, I’m a massive fan of Osimhen. I think he would fit Chelsea and the way they play very, very well. I think Jackson has struggled in terms of putting the ball in the back of the net. I think the runs that he makes, normally, are all good runs. He’s not too often offside from what I’ve seen, so his runs are perfect, and if you look at the chance that Sterling gave them at the weekend, in a game like that you need a striker that’s going to finish those chances and put the game to bed.
Two-nil is a very, very dangerous score, especially in England, and once it gets to 2-1 everything shifts and it becomes an even harder game than it actually was. So they definitely need a striker that’s going to put the ball in the back of the net.
Were you shocked at Cole Palmer’s decision to leave City for Chelsea?
You never really see moves like that coming, but as a player with how well he’s been doing, he wants to play more. At a team like City, we watched with Phil Foden’s journey and saw it’s hard for them to get a full break into the team with the players that are in front of them.
I think the decision that he made in going to play more football is certainly going to benefit him in the long run. We’ve seen what he can do – I think he’s a fantastic player, and I think he will suit the way Chelsea play. Especially with that more aggressive approach to him getting into areas and playing No. 10 role.
Where do you think Chelsea can finish this this year? Is top six about right?
I think the aim right now is to stick in the top half and build up a run of wins. They’ve had a lot of draws, and to be in that top four you need wins on the board – let’s just be clear about that. I think Pochettino and the players themselves know that – they have a great bunch of players and for whatever reason it hasn’t clicked yet, but now they are starting to turn a corner where they are dominating games and creating chances, but just not putting them in the back of the net.
Some people will say it’s the same old Chelsea over the last three years, but the improvements are there to see and I think with Pochettino you can see they have a way of playing, whether it’s in possession or aggressive, high-press football. They have the energy and those players to do it. The players seem to be buying into it and then you’ve got the plus of Reece James getting back fit. Hopefully he can stay fit so that the team is coming back together, and then it’ll be more balanced, because we know that when James and Ben Chilwell play that Chelsea seem a much stronger team.
Robert Sanchez made an unfortunate mistake. Is he good enough for Chelsea?
I need to see more of him. Being a goalkeeper has changed drastically. It used to be about keeping the ball out of the net was the most important thing, and I think it is still paramount for that to be the case. But I think you need to be able to play with your feet as well, and I think in the case of Sanchez’s decision – I don’t even think that pass was on.
I think sometimes, especially when you’re leading 2-0, there’s nothing wrong with kicking the ball up the pitch and getting reorganised and starting again. But the way managers want their teams play now is the percentage of positive odds and outcomes from playing out from the back and taking those risk, and goalkeepers playing through the lines and taking people out of the picture. I think it there is a benefit to it, and I think with City, Arsenal and especially Brighton, you’ve seen the benefits from it. So that there are rewards from it, but also the risk factor is very high.
It’s just a matter of choice from the goalkeepers whether they take that chance or clear their lines. Like I said, at 2-0 against probably the best Arsenal team we’ve seen in a very long time – they didn’t play well in that game, but they still have the quality to come back into games – so clear your lines in that moment.
Declan Rice was instrumental for Arsenal – how big a signing is he, and can he be the one that helps them win the title this year?
For me, Declan Rice was a massive buy. If you look at, say, City’s team, he would be in there as well. He’s added a lot of goals to his game. I think he was called out at a point last season saying he doesn’t get enough goals, and in my opinion I was like: “I don’t really care if my CDM gets goals, as long as he cleans up and does the job he’s meant to.”
But he’s taken on all the criticism and he’s now getting goals – and crucial goals, game-changing goals – and also controlling games, playing well, being in the right position, cleaning up. I think he’s a massive plus to the Arsenal team right now. If they are going to go for the title this year, I think he’s going to be a key to them doing that.