Emmanuel Petit Exclusive: Big Game Player Rice Should Be Arsenal Captain

Emmanuel Petit spoke to Compare.bet following the Premier League clash between title hopefuls Liverpool and Arsenal. The ex-Arsenal and Chelsea midfielder discussed Martin Ødegaard’s post-match celebrations, Arteta’s future at the club and advised the Arsenal manager to give Declan Rice the captain’s armband. Petit also welcomed Marcus Rashford to the club, amid rumours linking him with a summer move to North London.

DB: A huge win for Arsenal, what did you think of the performance?

EP: It was a stunning performance from Arsenal and they totally deserved the win against a poor Liverpool side.

DB: They kept Liverpool relatively quiet. Were you surprised by just how dominant Arsenal were?

EP: I wasn’t surprised by how dominant they were. They played in a similar way in the FA Cup match, but this time they were just a bit more ruthless. Arteta’s side have been very good in big games and that showed again here. I was surprised to see so many individual mistakes happen in the game.

DB: What did you think of the performance of the midfielders, particularly Jorginho?

EP: Arsenal won the game because of the midfield. It was the key to the performance and they dominated the midfield physically, technically and tactically. Jorginho and Rice were both absolutely brilliant. What is there left to say about Declan Rice? He should be Arsenal captain for me. He has such a brilliant character and he is a leader. He has something different to the rest of the players and is so influential in big games.

DB: Havertz has often disappointed fans since his move, but do you think he’s been important in these big games against City and Liverpool?

EP: If you only focus on goals and assists, of course, Havertz’ output has been disappointing but you cannot question his commitment at all. He worked so hard for the team against Liverpool, creating chances, fighting for every single ball, running all game. So we can’t just focus on goals and assists because he was brilliant. He’s not the same player we saw at Chelsea, he offers so much more.

DB: Trent Alexander-Arnold was subbed just after halftime. He seems to be a target for teams with pacy, tricky wingers like Martinelli. What do you think of his performance?

EP: Trent Alexander-Arnold is a real ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ player for me. He’s great technically and offensively, one of the best players in the league with the ball at his feet, but without the ball he is so terrible. I mean defensively, he just doesn’t know what he is doing. You could argue that Liverpool can afford to play with Alexander-Arnold at right-back because their other defenders are very good but against Arsenal they were all poor, they couldnt compensate for Trent so he had to be taken off.

DB: We saw Saliba, Van Dijk and Konate, who was sent off, all make mistakes in this high stakes fixture. Gabriel was praised for his performance. Do you think he deserves more credit?

EP: Saliba does get more praise than Gabriel but they are a duo. They have such a good relationship on the pitch and are so important for Arsenal. When one of them is not playing it is so noticeable and both players are so important together.

DB: Arteta praised the fans for the atmosphere they created this weekend. Do you think the Emirates has become a difficult place to play under Mikel Arteta?

EP: The atmosphere at the Emirates this weekend was absolutely electric. With the team coming back from so many disappointing years now the fans can see the future and are enjoying what they are seeing. It’s a credit to Arteta that the atmosphere is so good.

DB: 15 games to go and just two points behind Liverpool now, but if Manchester City win their two games in hand, they will go top. Are you worried about a repeat of last season, where City turned it on at the ‘business’ end of the season?

EP: I am so in love with Arsenal, that is well known and I really want them to win the league, but I have thought all season that City would win the league and still do. City was still in the race when they were missing De Bruyne and Haaland – their two best players. Can you imagine if Arsenal were missing their two best players in Rice and Saka and still kept fighting and winning and staying in the title race? I don’t think they would. City has so much depth and they are so hard to beat. We all saw what happened last season to Arsenal, if they get a few injuries to important players it would be so tough for them.

DB: Do you agree with Jamie Carragher’s criticism of Ødegaard and Arsenal’s celebration?

EP: I agree with what Jamie Carragher said after the game. I really like Martin Ødegaard but his behavior after the game was a bit strange. You’ve just won a game, it’s just three points. Calm down. I understand why they were so happy after a big win and a great performance but you have to be careful. There’s still 15 games to go and they were acting like they won the league yesterday.

DB: Having seen Arsenal struggle for many years at the end of Wenger’s tenure and in searching for the right replacement, do you expect Liverpool to perhaps enter a down period after this prolonged period of success now that Klopp is leaving?

EP: We saw with Ferguson and Manchester United and Wenger and Arsenal, when you lose a top manager who has been there for so long it is very difficult to replace them. I really like Klopp and everything he has done for Liverpool and the Premier League and it makes me sad to see him leave. The Premier League needs people like him in it.

DB: With Klopp leaving and Pep’s future in doubt, could Arsenal become the team to beat in England under Arteta in the coming years?

EP: Arsenal can absolutely become the team to beat in the league. They have a young team, a great manager, they are improving every year and all the building blocks are in place. They have to make sure Arteta stays, but I don’t see why he would want to leave. The story is not yet finished between him and Arsenal. It would be a mistake if he left, a huge mistake. Especially if it’s Barcelona, they are an absolute mess at the moment.

DB: With Xavi leaving Barcelona, Mikel Arteta has been linked with the job. He’s denied the links, but as a former Barca player yourself, do you think that role is tempting, particularly for someone like Arteta who has ties to the prestigious club?

EP: I would understand if Arteta won something with Arsenal like the Champions League or Premier League he would feel like he wants to leave and try something new, but he hasn’t got that yet so I don’t see why he would leave. Arteta is an intelligent man and he will know that he can win something with this team and it would be a huge shock if he left.

DB: Aaron Ramsdale didn’t get a move in the January transfer window. Do you think this has ended his chances of making England’s squad for the Euros?

EP: Ramsdale may be lucky enough to go as the third goalkeeper in the Euros, but he definitely won’t be starting and that is down to him not getting any games at club level this year. He’ll have lost all of his confidence and it’s a big blow for him to have stayed at Arsenal past the transfer window, he must be so frustrated.

DB: Some reports this week said that Arsenal are planning on making a shock move in the summer for Marcus Rashford. It’s obviously unlikely, but do you think he’s the right kind of profile for Arsenal on that left side, or maybe even as a number 9?

EP: Great players like Rashford are always welcome at Arsenal, but there is one big problem with him – he is so inconsistent. We all know what he is capable of on the pitch but he is a sensitive guy and he needs to protect himself a bit better. From what I can see, things impact him a lot and it can affect his performances on the pitch. He must work on that. If he wants to come to Arsenal, he needs to grow up. It won’t be easy to get into the team. Martinelli is amazing on the left and Jesus and Trossard work so hard in the number 9 role, so he couldn’t just come and think he’ll be the star man at Arsenal.

DB: Emile Smith-Rowe played very well against Forest in midweek, but was then dropped for Jorginho against Liverpool. What advice would you give to him, as he seeks to become a first-team regular for Arsenal?

EP: I think Smith-Rowe still has a future at Arsenal but he must be frustrated. He put in such a good display against Forest in midweek and he must have thought he would have got some game time against Liverpool but that wasn’t the case. It will be hard for him and he needs to ask himself in the summer if he needs to have a think about his future and if he has to leave. I really hope he doesn’t because he’s a good player.

DB: Chelsea lost to Wolves this weekend, they’ve conceded 8 goals in their last two. Pochettino admitted his job is not safe. Do you think they need to give him lots of time, like Arsenal gave Arteta?

EP: I was so disappointed with Chelsea’s performance against Wolves. They looked so disorganized, were tactically a mess, no fighting spirit, communication, or character. I felt pity on the Chelsea fans. I was thinking, why would you put Nkunku up front as a lone striker? Does he even know what Nkunku does best? In Germany and France it is well known that he cannot play by himself up front and never has done that. He is very good in the 10 or in a two up front, but he can’t do that role at all. Pochettino refuses to mold his tactic around his players and the composition of the team just doesn’t make sense at the moment. He doesn’t have a clue what he wants to do, and his body language is not good at all, he looks like he is on the way out already.

DB: Is Jose Mourinho the right man to turn it around?

EP: I’ve seen the speculation that Mourinho could come in with John Terry as his assistant. When you think about it, it could be something interesting. He would give the team character and personality. At the moment they are a broken team and he could be the man to come in and fix it. I actually think they need a manager who will have a proper vision of what needs to be done with the players that are there. They have to stop buying players and looking at how they can develop what they have there already. Chelsea need to develop an identity, because at the moment they don’t have one.

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Daniel is Head of Operations at Compare.bet. He has half a decade of experience writing on topics including sports betting, online casino and the NBA. Daniel also covers Premier League football for Compare.bet news and has interviewed Louis Saha, Richard Dunne and Gary Pallister. In his spare time, Daniel enjoys film photography and making Spotify playlists.

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