kai havertz looking sad

Emmanuel Petit Exclusive: Arsenal players will be watching from the bench thinking ‘why is Havertz playing?’

Emmanuel Petit spoke to Compare.bet yesterday. The ex-Arsenal and Chelsea midfielder questioned Kai Havertz’ place in the Arsenal team, discussed Mikel Arteta overplaying Bukayo Saka and worried about David Raya making mistakes and called Chelsea’s spending ‘embarrassing’.

MB: After the controversy in the Liverpool-Tottenham game on the weekend, what needs to be done to make VAR work in the Premier League?

EP: Well, there’s been so many mistakes since the beginning of the season and it’s not just about VAR, it’s human errors – loss of concentration, poor communication and it needs to improve. The project of VAR isn’t bad, but the human beings involved in it need to improve. Now it’s come out that the referees dealing with the VAR in the Tottenham v Liverpool game were in Saudi Arabia two days before, how can this happen? They would have been tired and not focused entirely on the game. Everything about refereeing and VAR needs to improve.

MB: What were your thoughts on the Arsenal v Lens game?

EP: Arsenal deserved to lose yesterday and Lens were the far better team on the pitch. They outnumbered Arsenal, they won almost every battle and outplayed Arsenal. The Gunners were unrecognisable in this game. They looked like they were improving every game this year after a slow start and I was more convinced after the last two or three games but in this game they looked like they lost their DNA on the pitch. They were suffering physically, late to every battle and massively lacking creativity. They could have played the game for another two hours and they wouldn’t have scored.

MB: Saka hobbled off against Lens – he hasn’t been rested for a game for years and played 87 PL games in a row – do you think Arteta overplays him?

EP: Arteta is definitely overplaying Saka. This is exactly what happened last year where the players were playing too much and they looked tired by the end of the season. They have such a good squad and quality players on the bench but Arteta doesn’t make substitutions often enough or early enough. This is the difference between Arsenal and City where Pep Guardiola can make lots of changes and the quality is still there and this is why there is still a big gap between the two teams. I’m still wondering if some players in the dressing room are not of the level to play consistently for Arsenal because Arteta keeps relying on Saka and now he has got injured. He’s been clearly dealing with some knocks and needed to be rested but he’s kept on playing but the issue is who could replace him? Trossard on the right-hand side maybe? Because in the Lens game Arteta played with a right-hand side of Tomiyasu and Vieira for most of the game and although I am a huge fan of Arteta he got this wrong. It is really not good news for Arsenal to lose Saka.

MB: David Raya has become the Arsenal no.1 and looked a bit shaky last night – do you agree with the decision to sign him and to drop Ramsdale?

EP: PSG have the same issue where they have two goalkeepers that want to be number one in Donnarumma and Navas. Since Navas has come back from his loan at Nottingham Forest there has been trouble in the dressing room and it is hard for the manager to explain why a top goalkeeper isn’t playing. The same is happening with Ramsdale at Arsenal. He has never done anything wrong for Arsenal and although I can understand Raya playing because of the way Arteta wants to build up from the back, but against Lens he took so many risks and made mistakes and it cost them. We will see in the next few games if Raya keeps his place because if he keeps making these mistakes, it becomes a huge issue for Arteta where he has to defend his new goalkeeper and comes under pressure from the media and fans. I really hope Raya won’t make these kinds of mistakes against Manchester City on the weekend, because then the problems will come straight away.

MB: Kai Havertz scored his first goal for Arsenal on the weekend, being given the penalty and was crowded by his teammates in celebration – can he kick on and prove himself to be worth the money Arsenal spent on him now?

EP: The goal against Bournemouth will give Havertz a huge boost, but now he needs to be consistent because he followed that up with another poor performance against Lens. I don’t understand why Havertz keeps starting games for Arsenal because for me he isn’t impacting games enough. I know what Arteta wants to do with him but there must be players watching the game from the bench and asking themselves ‘why am I not playing?’ because some of the players on the pitch are not good enough and they are starting every game. Arteta must be careful putting all of his confidence in certain players because it’s to the detriment of other players in the squad. He must rotate and give all of his players a chance.

MB: Mikel Arteta has admitted Emile Smith-Rowe is struggling at the moment. Do you think it would be best for him to look for a move elsewhere due to lack of playing time?

EP: I don’t want to put too much pressure on Arteta and I am a huge fan of him and his work, but if Smith-Rowe could get the same love, affection and confidence from Arteta that Havertz could that would be a great thing. Smith-Rowe has had a lot of injuries and his performances last year and the beginning of this season haven’t been great and now he’s struggling to get minutes, but Arteta needs to give him the confidence to get back to a high level because he’s going through a difficult time. He is a young player who is creative, talented and from the Arsenal academy so Arteta needs to protect him. If I were him, I would be patient and stay at Arsenal because he will get time to play this season and prove himself, but the sooner the better for him.

MB: Do you think Arsenal are lacking a prolific striker to really challenge City for the league?

EP: When you look at the best teams in the world, all the teams winning championships they all have a top striker. You look at Real Madrid for the past decade, they had Benzema, Bayern with Kane now and previously Lewandowski, and now City with Haaland and PSG with Mbappe. I really like Gabriel Jesus but he is not a 30-goal-a-season striker and that is what you need. Arsenal have lots of players who will score 15 goals a season and that is great but they need a true number nine that will score 30 goals.

MB: Huge game against City on the weekend – do you think they can pick up a result?

EP: Against Lens Arsenal looked sloppy, lacking imagination and creativity so will need to improve this weekend. The fact that Saka could be ruled out is a huge worry for Arsenal, but City will be missing Rodri in midfield too. Arsenal have a chance but it depends on the availability of players.

MB: Thoughts on Chelsea Fulham on Monday?

EP: It was the best performance by Chelsea for months. To win in a derby away from home after a really difficult start and to play with composure like they did is a big positive. I was not surprised because you knew Chelsea would improve eventually and they deserved to win. It was a great night for Chelsea.

MB: Mudryk got his first goal for the club on Monday. Can he become a valuable player for Chelsea?

EP: It was a huge night for Mudryk, he played really well and deserved his goal. He had a good relationship with Broja and they linked up well. You can see that mentally he was waiting such a long time to get that goal for Chelsea and it will make a major difference for him and for Chelsea moving forward.

MB: Poch has warned it could take 2 years for Chelsea to become competitive – do you think he’ll be afford this kind of patience?

EP: How many managers have Chelsea had in the past decade? At Chelsea you don’t have time to build a project, you need to win straight away. I totally agree with him that this is a long-term project because when you change so much and bring so many young players into the dressing room, it’s not easy. Last season was a nightmare for Chelsea and it will take time to improve, maybe not two years, but it will take time. If he thinks it will take that long to get the best out of his team he will be under pressure because that is too long. I understand why he is saying this, but he’s wrong.

MB: Really tough run of games coming up – Arsenal, Brentford, Spurs, Man City, Newcastle, Brighton, Man United. How do you think they will fare in those games and if he struggles do you think his job could be in danger?

EP: A huge thing for Pochettino and Chelsea is they aren’t playing any European football so they have a week to prepare for each game. If the Fulham win can light a spark in them they can get some results. But Poch needs to change the mentality at Chelsea and the only way you can do that is by winning games. In this tough run of fixtures they have coming up the performance is not the important thing, the result is. Because the only way things will improve is winning games and then he can implement his style and get them playing how he wants them to. They need to be back towards the top four as soon as possible to get the confidence back in the squad. This run of games is a chance for Chelsea and Poch to prove that they are getting better.

MB: Why has this season started so poorly for Chelsea?

EP: Any time a club changes so many players and change the vision so quickly you are always going to struggle. You would be mistaken if you think spending loads of money automatically brings you success. It gives you a better chance, but you still need to work and be intelligent about the way you do things. The problem with Chelsea is there is no stability at the club and that is something that is hard to come by at top clubs.

MB: Chelsea continue to be linked with more players for the January transfer window – is buying even more players on big transfers what they should be looking to do? Or should they try and consolidate what they have after spending £1 billion?

EP: It’s one thing to be rich but you still have to be smart about the way you spend your money. When I look at Chelsea, I see they’ve spent £1 Billion and that’s embarrassing! There is no magic in football and when you change absolutely everything about the club in such a short time you cannot expect it to work straight away. In modern football now it’s not the manager who decides who is coming in to the club, it’s the board members and to be honest, I understand Chelsea wanted to start a new project but they have made mistakes. They have spent all this money and I look at their team and they are still missing a few players – how can that happen? They have spent money on players that don’t suit Chelsea and it shows they are not thinking properly. Instead of continuing to buy players for big fees, why not work with what you have and improve the players already there who all have high potential.

MB: Do you think Chelsea are regretting letting so many senior players leave the club in the summer?

EP: They decided to change the vision of the club and when you decide to do that you have to stick with it. I understand they want to move forward with young players but now the board has to stick with the vision and give the manager time to work with these players. They need to stabilise the club and making more changes isn’t going to help that.

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