Emmanuel Petit playing football

Emmanuel Petit Exclusive: Cole Palmer represents the future of the England national team

Emmanuel Petit spoke to Compare.bet following an epic week of football. The ex-Chelsea and Arsenal midfielder discussed Cole Palmer’s future in the England national team, the Premier League title race, where Arsenal need to strengthen this Summer, and where Arteta and Klopp ranks as the best Premier League managers.


You suggested recently that Jurgen Klopp surpassed Arsene Wenger by winning the Champions League. But which manager do you think has been more influential in English football?

“Except Sir Alex Ferguson, obviously there is Pep Guardiola. I think Pep has changed a lot of things in the Premier League, in football, in terms of tactics, management, things like this. And I think Jurgen Klopp was probably his best enemy for that.”

And between Klopp and Wenger?

“I am a big fan of Jurgen Klopp. Everyone knows that I am 100 percent committed to Arsene Wenger. Loyalty and respect, and we have a long history between us. But I’ve always said in the last few years that I would have loved to be managed by Jurgen Klopp. I know Pep, we played together at Barcelona, so it’s not a surprise for me. But Jurgen, I think I’m going to miss him. I think a lot of people in the Premier League are going to miss him.”

Who has been the better midfield signing this season? Declan Rice or Alexis MacAllister?

“Declan Rice. That’s not because I am a Gunner, because I love Arsenal. That’s because this is the reality. I really like Mac Allister, I’m a huge fan. I was saying that when he was playing for Brighton, I was saying that Arsenal should take [Moises] Caicedo and Mac Allister and they couldn’t do that. But Mac Allister, I think, has been much better the second part of the season than the first few months when he played for Liverpool. Declan Rice was a hit, a huge hit, straight away, as soon as he wore the Arsenal shirt, so it changed everything in the midfield area. He’s a leader, he can score goals, he can give assists, he can defend, he can do anything, everything he wants. On top of it, he’s such a nice guy with a great mentality. He’s got a great future, a bright future in front of him for the national team as well. English people should be very proud about this guy because he is an example on the pitch as well as an example off the pitch. I’m a huge fan, and I’m very happy that he’s playing for Arsenal.”

David Raya. A Champions League penalty shootout hero and much more reliable in goal. Has he fully convinced you? Where would you rank him among the best Premier League goalkeepers right now.

“He’s among the best for sure because, even Alisson or Ederson, they are great goalkeepers but they can make mistakes sometimes and they have again this season. Raya has made some mistakes as well. But a lot of people didn’t understand why [Mikel] Arteta put [Aaron Ramsdale] on the bench instead of Raya, because he was playing well with Arsenal before Raya signed for the club and all of a sudden everything changed. You have to be very strong in your head, to support the pressure from outside, from the media, from fans, even from your own teammates. Because I’m pretty sure that a lot of players in the dressing room didn’t understand the situation surrounding Ramsdale. 

I remember the game when he was playing, at the end of the game, I think it was an away game, I think it was against Brentford. And they won at the end, and after the whistle a lot of players came, they were surrounding Ramsdale, trying to give him some support because they were understanding the situation. So you have to be very strong to support that pressure and Raya has shown that he’s got character, he’s got skills as well. We all know that Arteta wants to build the game from behind and he’s more capable to play technically with his teammates. We’ve seen Ramsdale play last week and he made a mistake against Brentford, and they conceded the goal. And this is the kind of mistake that Arteta saw before everyone. So Raya is one of the best. You cannot be first in the table if you don’t have one of the best goalkeepers. It’s impossible. And Arsenal have one of the best defences as well. It’s not just because of the defenders, it’s because of Raya as well.”

Which team do you see going on to win the Premier League title from this stage? Are you surprised that the bookmakers have Arsenal as third favourites, despite them being top as things stand?

“This question is like, “can you give me the lottery numbers?” I mean, I can’t see the future, I’m not a medium. So I wish it could be Arsenal winning, I think they have shown so much character and quality on the pitch. And they’ve grown up so quickly over the last two or three years, and last season, we saw that there was a gap. At this point last season, Arsenal were leading the table as well, eight points ahead of Manchester City, and lost. So fingers crossed, I’m going to touch wood as I hope they will avoid injuries, big injuries, to their spine because they don’t have the same quantity of players, the quality of players that City [have], the bench is not the same. I hope it’s going to be Arsenal, but I think this season we are so privileged to see the competition between three clubs. I think people who can see the future should send me a text message to tell me who’s going to win the Premier League. I think that will be decided in the last two or three games of the Premier League. So we’re going to have to wait.”

Arsenal were drawn against Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Friday. How has this affected Arsenal’s chances?

“I said at the beginning of the season that Arsenal, for the last two or three years, have made so much improvement on and off the pitch. That’s because of Arteta and his staff, but because of the players as well. And I said at the beginning of the season that it will be a very tough season for them to play every three days, especially against the top teams in Europe, and fighting in the Premier League as well. And this is exactly what they’re doing. And I said, they will go to the next step because of the Champions League. So they are in the quarter-final, they are not on the best side of the quarter-final, if you compare with Paris Saint-Germain for example. And we all know what happened in the past against Bayern Munich, but Bayern Munich is not the same strong team as usual. But this competition will be the point for them, for the season, because they won’t win the Bundesliga, which means they will do everything they can to reach the final, to win the competition.

It’s a very open game, it’s going to be very interesting to see Harry Kane back at the Emirates. He just scored a hat-trick, I think he was injured at the weekend, but I don’t think it’s a big injury. I think Arsenal have something to prove against Bayern Munich. I think this is the next stage for them. They want to grow even more. The gap has been reduced with Manchester City and Liverpool, and now they can fight and look them in their eyes. Before, for the last few years, they were looking up, they were standing further up, Manchester City and Liverpool. Now they are on the same line and they’re looking straight in the eye. So this game for me, they are in the quarter-final, some people were saying that they are one of the favourites to win the Champions League. I think it’s too soon, but what they’re doing is the right way to grow, and to improve even more, and to fight against the best teams in Europe, which means Manchester City. So if they can fight and if they can look City in their eyes, why can’t they do that against Bayern Munich?”

Is there any position you feel Arsenal need to strengthen in this summer, to ensure they remain constant Premier League title contenders?

“Definitely. I think they need to add at least four players. Some wingers, strikers and midfield players, and a central defender. This is my opinion. I think some players in this team need competition to earn a place in the first XI. Because, just like [Oleksandr] Zinchenko, for example, he was great last season but he’s not the same player this season. He’s on the bench, he’s injured, he’s got competition. [Gabriel] Martinelli, [Bukayo] Saka as well, they need competition. Just the turnover sometimes, you could see last season they were lacking some freshness physically and mentally. And this is why they need more players, to put competition in the team. Just like City, just like what Guardiola does with these players, just like what Luis Enrique does as well, at Paris Saint–Germain, Jurgen Klopp with Liverpool. At the moment, Arsenal have a very good squad, but limited for me. There are only, for me, 15 or 16 players who can fight for the first team, but they need to add more players. As I said, strikers, wingers, one midfield player, one central defender. If they can add as well, I will say I would love to have some right backs or left backs, something like that. But definitely they have to have at least four or five players.”

Bukayo Saka has taken his game to another level this season. Is he good enough to be considered world class? If not, what does he need to do?

“I heard that. Come on, Saka is not a surprise, he was not born last season. What he’s been doing for the last three, four or five years, it’s amazing. At his age, he’s playing as a leader. He was one of the young players showing an example to the rest of the team all the time. He can score, he can give assists, he plays for 90 minutes, he gives everything on the pitch all the time. He’s got great, great, great mentality. On top of that, he’s a great player. So yes, when you score so many goals and you give so many assists against top clubs, for me you have the level to play as an international player. He’s playing for the national team. So I heard that. Come on guys. 

It’s like [Gary] Neville when he was saying something against Chelsea players, the bottle [job] thing. Guys, you have been players before. You know how it is, you know how hard it is. How can you say that for Saka, just because he didn’t win the title with Arsenal? Come on. Because he didn’t win something with Arsenal, he’s not an international player? Come on. Of course he’s a world class player for me, definitely. He can play in any top team in the world. He can play in Barcelona, he can play at Milan, he can play at Bayern. He can even play with Real Madrid on the right flank. Definitely. So yes, for me, he’s a world class player.”

Kai Havertz seems to have turned his Arsenal career around in recent weeks. What have you made of his season so far?

“I said last year, when he was under criticism again after he left Chelsea, I said Arteta should put him on the bench, which he did. And when he came off, he was decisive. He scored goals, gave assists and all of a sudden, step by step, mentally everything changed, in terms of confidence as well. So I think he’s enjoying this team, the way they play, you can see that on the pitch. It’s not the same player. The way he moves, the way he’s showing himself to his teammates all the time. The way he celebrates goals with his teammates, the smile on his face, it has changed everything. Last season I was looking at him, even when he was scoring goals and giving assists, he was very down. You could not see him smiling. And he just can’t stop smiling at Arsenal, so he’s in a good way. I’m very happy for him, because he looks like such a nice guy. And you can see he tries to give everything he can on the pitch. It’s not easy because he’s playing in a position, sometimes I think even he doesn’t really know his best position on the pitch. And I’ve got this feeling as well, sometimes I don’t know if he’s a midfielder or a striker, I have no idea. But in this team, with Arsenal, the way they play, I think he’s enjoying his game and you can see that he’s improved a lot since last season.”

Cole Palmer has enjoyed an excellent season for Chelsea – do you think he deserves to be in the England squad for the Euros this summer?

“Yes, definitely. Because this guy represents the future for the national team. This guy is probably the best player for Chelsea so far, and we all know how difficult it is to be good for Chelsea with the environment. On top of it, this guy’s got quality, he’s got character, he takes penalties all the time with Chelsea. But he can play different positions, which is very interesting for [Gareth] Southgate in terms of tactics against different opponents. He can move in different positions, just like [Phil] Foden with City. Foden is quite the same. I think Foden is a better player, but I think they’ve got some similarities in their game in terms of position, technique, things like this. So yes, definitely he should be at the Euros.”

Mauricio Pochettino has said that Conor Gallagher needs to score more goals for Chelsea. What does he need to change about his game to get amongst the goals?

“To be more efficient with Chelsea? The solution won’t come from yourself. It will come with the team. We all agree that Chelsea have a lot of quality players, but most of them cannot perform 100 percent on the pitch because of the environment for the last 18 months off the pitch and on the pitch as well. Changing managers, changing players. This team is very young as well, and you put them in the dressing room, you put them on the pitch and you tell them ‘now you have to play and win games’. It doesn’t work like that. It takes time. We saw that with Arteta when he took over his role at Arsenal, he took probably more than two years to set up something good on the pitch with his vision. So I think Pochettino should stay as manager. They need security and serenity on the bench, and they need someone that’s been working with these players for the whole season. And it’s not over yet, they could win a trophy at the end of the season. So, for me, this team is young, Gallagher is one of their best players. But he’s suffering sometimes with the lack of links with his teammates on the pitch, lack of confidence as well.” 

“It’s quite weird, and very difficult, to say the right level of Chelsea. Because they can give a great performance against a top club in the Premier League and three days later they will lose at home against a small team. So it’s very difficult to know their level. And Gallagher is the same thing. For me, he’s a brilliant player, but he needs to score more goals. He needs to be more efficient in terms of assists and scoring goals. But he won’t change everything on the pitch by himself. He needs his teammates. They will be better next season and I think Gallagher as well, because the understanding, the links, the fluidity, the techniques between the players, everything will improve. So I’m not worried. Gallagher has got a great mentality, he’s got great skills, great qualities. I think he will improve even more next season. It reminds me of [Martin] Odegaard. He was playing well but didn’t score goals, didn’t give assists. And look for the last three years, he’s a different player because they [Arsenal] know each other very well on the pitch. So I think it’s going to be the case for Chelsea and Gallagher next season. If he stays at the club.”

Could Pochettino’s first season at Chelsea be considered a small success if he wins the FA Cup?

“If he wins the FA Cup, that means they’re going to play in Europe next season. With all the troubles in the club for the last 18 months, all the money spent, all the pressure on the players, fans unhappy, putting pressure on Pochettino. Even the board are under pressure as well. So it’s not the best environment to work, with those young players, they need time. If I can give advice to [Todd] Boehly or the board or the next president of the club, be patient. Be patient, look around you. Look what Klopp did with Liverpool, after a difficult first year. Pep Guardiola as well, the first year was not that easy. So give him time, it will work, don’t worry. You’ve got quality players, you’ve got a quality manager, it will work. But if you change the manager again, if you change everything, well we’re going to start again with a blank page. So if they win the FA Cup, that means they will reach Europe next season. And with all these players, with the quantity of players they have on the bench as well, they definitely need that for next season. If Pochettino stays and wants to make his players happy, that will mean he will try to rotate, that means they have to play every three days. Chelsea should be back in Europe, which means they have to win the FA Cup.”

What do you think has been the main problem for Pochettino at Chelsea this season?

“The lack of experience of a lot of players in this team. A lot of players are very young, and the fact that most of them are quite new at the club. They just came in a year ago, or 16 months, or even last summer. So it takes time. I know that perfectly. It doesn’t work like that, by clicking your fingers, that’s impossible. So, for me, the main problem is the stability on the bench, the vision that you put on the pitch with your players. But they need stability at every stage of the club, every level, which means from the top of it. I just want to send advice to Boehly and the board. Please, please, please, guys, for the next transfer window in the summer, don’t splash hundreds of millions. Keep your money, work with your players. Maybe you can buy two or three players, or you can sell two or three players. But not more. You’ve got enough players, quality players, they just need to be confident and happy. Which means you can work on this. For me, this is the advice I will give to Boehly and the board. Don’t do the same stupid things you’ve done for the last 16 months. Keep your money.”

In the summer, you said you were surprised when Chelsea signed Malo Gusto. What have you made of his first full season with the club so far?

“I think he gets a lot of assists. I think, offensively, I’ve got nothing to tell him. He gives great things offensively. But I think, defensively, it’s not the same. I think Chelsea concede too many goals. I don’t know if they have many clean sheets this season. But every single game they concede, even at home, one, two goals easily. And Malo Gusto, with his teammates in defence, is responsible for that. I think before thinking ‘what can I give’ up front, I think your priority is to defend and try to make things very difficult for the opponent. Which is not the case. If you want the confidence, if you want the stability on the pitch, it starts from defence. I think you build success on defence, and then you can enjoy offensively. But I have the feeling that they don’t have the right balance actually, between the strikers and the defenders. There is a gap. This is why sometimes I can see the midfield, they are lost in transition sometimes. They are lost and I can see Caicedo running everywhere, but nowhere. So Gusto, he’s been very good offensively, but he needs to improve defensively.”

Are you expecting any surprise names to make a push for France’s Euros squad this summer?

“You ask me if there is a player I can see with [Didier] Deschamps with the French national team, right? Well, do you know how many players Deschamps can call? He can call at least 40-45 players, easily. He can make two teams if he wants for them. He’s got the king’s choice, you know? He can do whatever he wants. Even if tomorrow we have big players injured, that’s not a problem, we have other solutions. So actually, I cannot answer your question because I’ve got so many names in my head. This is a luxury for Deschamps, by the way, because when we won the World Cup in 1998 and European Championships two years later, we were a bunch of players around 25 maximum. So we couldn’t afford to get injured players. We’ve seen that in the World Cup in 2002, we were missing [Zinedine] Zidane and [Robert] Pires, and we were not the same team. We cannot replace them. And I think with France, you can replace every single player. Even [Kylian] Mbappe, you can replace them.”

Is Warren Zaire-Emery the best teenager in European football right now?

“This guy is amazing. Amazing. He looks so strong mentally and physically, but he’s very good with the ball as well and he’s only, what, 17? Something like that. When you look at him, you have the feeling that he’s been in the team for the last five years. He’s one of the leaders of the team. In some important games this season he was the best player on the pitch. He was an example to the rest of the team. He’s one of the best young prospects, actually, in the world. There are a few that can be on the same line. I was very impressed, for example, with [Pau] Cubarsi, the central defender with Barca. I was commentating on the game against Napoli and he impressed me a lot. And this guy is barely 17. And he put [Inigo] Martinez on the bench. The guy plays for the national team. He’s 30 years old, an experienced player, they put him on the bench. How do you think I would feel if I see a 17-year-old boy coming and putting me on the bench, and I play for the national team? I would be so fucking upset. For me, Mbappe is going to leave the club, Zaire-Emery should be the talisman of the team. He’s not a striker, he’s not a number 10, he’s not the player who will change the results of the game. But he’s a player, like Rodri sometimes, like Declan Rice. You need those guys. They are a talisman on the pitch, a talisman in the dressing room. They are leaders. And this guy has got the character, the quality to be a leader of Paris Saint-Germain for the next 10 seasons.”

As we get closer, are any nations standing out as clear favourites to win Euro 2024 for you?

“You asked the question, I can see a smile on your face. I know what you expect as an answer. Okay, England. England, our best enemy for the last 10 years, come on. Even when we reached the final at the last World Cup, I think England were a better team on the pitch. They deserved to win that game. They need to improve in terms of being more realistic on the pitch, defensively and offensively as well. This is exactly what we’ve learned, the French team. We can beat any team because we don’t need three, four or five occasions to score, we can punish them straight away. And this is exactly what England need to learn if they want to beat us. So I think this is probably one of the best teams to win the next Euros. They have so many talented players in England, but they need to convince themselves they can win a big tournament., which means they need to improve the last stage. Just what I said to you. Big games against top teams, you do not have many occasions to score. I remember when they lost 2-1 against France, they had so many occasions to score and they didn’t. They need to improve on that, be more realistic, just like what we did with the national team for the last 15, 20 years.”

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