Former Arsenal, Chelsea and France midfielder Emmanuel Petit spoke exclusively with Compare.bet this week ahead of this Sunday’s North London Derby. Petit praised Arsenal captain Martin Ødegaard, comparing him to Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne. He also urged Edu to avoid entering a bidding war with Chelsea in the race for Mykhailo Mudryk’s signature, advising a move for Newcastle’s Allan Saint-Maximin instead. Petit also addressed the rumours linking England international Declan Rice to Arsenal, calling him the “perfect option” at the base of Arsenal’s midfield.
- “Perfect example” Ødegaard is having De Bruyne-like impact
- “Petit advises Rice to avoid Chelsea move: “I would choose Arsenal”
- Warning sent to Edu in Mudryk saga: “Don’t be drawn into a bidding war with Chelsea”
- Arsenal urged to bring Allan Saint-Maximin to the Emirates
- Petit calls for patience with Potter: “He’s not a magician”
- Boehly transfer strategy slammed: “They don’t know what they want to do”
DB: Chelsea lost 4-0 to City last night and some fans were singing Thomas Tuchel’s name. Do you think people are being a bit unfair towards Graham Potter?
EP: It’s always like that, they want a manager to be sacked and then after six months they want him back. So I’m not surprised about this. I really feel for Potter – I agree with what you just said, he needs more time because I have no idea if there is a manager who would have done something better. He started very well with Chelsea and then he had a bad spell of results but with all the troubles surrounding Chelsea since Abramovich left the club and on the transfer policy, I don’t see the point. So I can imagine how difficult it is now for Potter because it’s not the same club, it’s not Brighton. So fans are thinking that they want Tuchel back, but I remember how he left the club and didn’t receive any support from the fans. I have memories of this and I hope some fans have memories too.
DB: Chelsea seem to be linked with so many different players, even after spending big last year. Do you see a cohesive vision or transfer strategy being executed here?
EP: They’re already one of the most important clubs buying young players these last couple of years. I don’t know how many players they’ve signed already. This question can be asked the same way as when Aubameyang signed for the club at the end of the summer transfer. For me it was like a panic buy, they don’t know what they want to do. Obviously, they’re spending a lot of money on young players so they’re putting money on the table for the future which I can understand. But they’ve bought so many players, I don’t know what they want to do. Do you think Potter is behind this? I’m sure he’s not, so is it the owner? It’s his money, he does what he wants with it, but do they have a strategy? Or a precise idea of what they want to do on the pitch? Because if you bring in a manager, it’s because you like the way his team plays, his kind of system, tactics, things like this.
With Brighton, they don’t have the same money but you have a precise idea of what they want to do tactically and how they want to use players. The profile of the players as well – at Chelsea, since Potter arrived, he’s changed his first eleven so many times, with so many rotations.
I’ll give you an example. If I’m Koulibaly and I sign for Chelsea. I’m very happy to be in the Premier League and one of the biggest clubs in the world. But you’ve been playing for the last ten years in Italy with the back four. Then you arrive at Stamford Bridge, Tuchel used to play with three defenders and so does Potter so is there something wrong in this? Do they have a strategy? So yes, honestly they are buying good players but buying good players is one thing. Trying to put them all together in the same system and with the ideas of what you want to do, tactically with the profile of the players, is something different. And I don’t see the strategy with Chelsea actually. I don’t know what they want to do or where they want to go. It’s the same thing with the strikers, I know the curse of the strikers but I don’t see the point in buying Aubameyang at the last days of the transfer market. There’s so many things I don’t understand.
DB: Do you think Graham Potter’s job is made harder with a transfer policy that lacks cohesion?
EP: Of course. It’s already a big difference compared to Brighton. And now he’s in the dressing room with so many stars, so many egos and so many players that are not happy. I’ve read about what happened yesterday on the pitch, especially in the first half. Come on guys! We’re talking about players who play for their national teams, who are used to playing big games, and who have standards. So I don’t get it.
I can understand Potter’s frustration but for me, to be honest with you, he’s not the only one responsible for that. I think the players should look at themselves in the mirror and try to be honest with themselves. But I think we are coming back to strategy again. Is Potter behind all of the new signings? He’s just arrived at a new club and I think I totally agree with Guardiola. They need a strategy or direction that can be taken altogether because at the moment I don’t get it. So Potter is under pressure,
I’ve read that some people are asking for him to be fired, including some former players. Come on guys, he just arrived a few months ago, he’s not a magician. Don’t you remember what happened a year ago with Abramovich? And Tuchel inside and outside the club as well? How many players are left in the transfer market, especially in defence? So it’s not easy, he’s not a magician. You could put Guardiola, Klopp, or whoever you want, I’m not sure they’d get better results. So give him time. He’s under pressure – I think he needs results as soon as possible. This season is a transition season, so don’t do stupid things. Keep calm, it’s a new owner, new players are coming, and it’s a different strategy right now, so try to finish this season as best as you can. In the meantime, don’t forget that you can say what you want about Potter, but he’s not a magician and he needs time, like everyone.
DB: Chelsea recently confirmed the arrival of Benoît Badiashile. Do you think he’s a good signing?
EP: He played his first important game with Monaco when he was 16 years old, four years ago. He already plays for the national team. He’s got good experience from Ligue 1, and has European caps every season as well. He’s a very good defender, but needs to progress in some aspects as well. But it’s a good buy, and I think Fofana and the other young players at Chelsea right now, are the future of the club. If you look at Koulibaly, he doesn’t fit in a system with three defenders. Badiashile can play in different positions, he’s very good with the ball, he’s very good in the air, and he’s good at fighting for the ball and clearing it. So I think this is a good buy. He needs to improve as well, in terms of personality, and his character. When you play in central defence you need to have character and personality. But for me, with Fofana as well, this is a good buy. Unfortunately, Fofana is injured, but he will come back and prove it’s a bargain. I’m confident with Badiashile here.
DB: The window is open so the rumour mill is churning and all the talk is about Shakhtar Donetsk’s Mykhailo Mudryk. It seems that his club are holding out for a large fee and Chelsea are also involved in the race for his signature. Spending such huge sums can be risky as we’ve seen with Pepe previously. What would you advise Edu and Arsenal to do in this transfer saga?
EP: Don’t be drawn into a bidding war with Chelsea. If Chelsea want to splash £100 million on him, Arsenal should let him go. But I’m not sure that’s the desire of Mudryk. I’ve been told he wants to come to Arsenal, reuniting as a pair with Zinchenko. I think right now he prefers Arsenal more than Chelsea. The way Arsenal play fits perfectly with Mudryk, instead of Chelsea. He has a perfect idea of what he can do with Arsenal, but if Arsenal want to spend more money on him and want to go into a bidding war with Chelsea, it’s up to them. But if I was Edu, I wouldn’t do that. There are other players who can fit in Arteta’s system and give them different options with Martinelli on the left. But if Chelsea wants to offer a lot of money, I have to recommend that Arsenal shouldn’t go into this bidding war.
DB: If not Mudryk, is there anyone else you’d like to see at Arsenal?
EP: I was very curious last week in the 0-0 draw in Newcastle, and wondering why [Allan] Saint-Maximin is not playing anymore. Joelinton is playing very well in the midfield area, and the system with Eddie Howe is 4-4-2 most of the time so he doesn’t fit. But we all know the qualities of Saint-Maximin, and he’s still on my mind all the time. If he’s in a good system with good players, he can still improve a lot. So for me, Saint-Maximin would be a good option if Arsenal can’t buy Mudryk.
They [Arsenal] need to sign more players and they know that, but I can understand Arteta because he’s said it’s better to get their players at the beginning of the season, better for the team and for the manager. But we’ve seen the difference between Manchester City’s bench and Arsenal’s bench, especially when you get two or three important players injured. So we all know Arsenal are going to buy some players or take someone on loan. They need a striker, a wingback and a midfield player as well. They need at least two or three players in this transfer window if they want to compete for the Premier League at the end of the season. Big games are coming and the European Cup is coming back in February too, so they will need players.
DB: Looking at the current squad, Martin Ødegaard has really impressed with his performances as club captain this season. Rio Ferdinand compared him to “prime Mesut Ozil”. We know in Arteta’s system, Odegard is a playmaker that has adapted to the number eight role. What do you think of that comparison?
EP: Yeah maybe, the first two seasons of Ozil’s Arsenal career. For me, actually, I would say Ødegaard has the same impact as Kevin De Bruyne at Manchester City. Whenever Ødegaard plays well on the pitch, most of the time, Arsenal wins the game. He’s the playmaker of the team. He can play the perfect pass in the final third, he gets assists, his vision is good. His personality and character is great too, he’s the leader of the team in the dressing room but he is also humble. He reminds me of how Dennis Bergkamp was acting on the pitch. You don’t hear him much, but he leads by example, the way he plays, the way he never gave up on the pitch. I’m very very happy with Ødegaard, I really like him – not just the player, but the person too. I think he is a very decent, humble and respectable person and he’s the perfect example of what the leader of a team should be. Everyone in the dressing room loves him and that’s very important. I can understand what Ferdinand said, but for me, Ozil was brilliant for the first two seasons and we all know what happened after, fingers crossed this doesn’t happen to Ødegaard too.
DB: One of his midfield partners Thomas Partey has shown his importance as the deepest midfielder. Since signing for Arsenal his injury history hasn’t been the best. Do you think the depth in this position is a concern for Arsenal?
EP: Yes, definitely. That has always been a major concern in this holding midfielder position. I can’t remember how many players Arsenal have tried to put in this position over the years, for so many years they tried to find the perfect replacement for Patrick Vieira. Partey is 29, he cannot play every single game, every season. They need to think about his replacement. When I look at the bench, I look at the quality of this team, they don’t have many options at this position. Xhaka could play there for a few games, but he’s enjoying his new role so much, it would be bad to ask him to play as a holding midfielder again. I know your next question! Will it be Declan Rice as the perfect choice?
DB: Well you previously mentioned that Arsenal should go in for Moises Caicedo, and rather surprisingly, it’s Declan Rice, rather than Caicedo, that Arsenal have been linked with. Who do you think would be a better buy for Arsenal?
EP: If I had the choice between Caicedo and Rice, I would take Rice for sure, because he plays in the defensive midfielder role, which is what Arsenal need. He can play anywhere in the midfield but his best position is holding midfielder. He would be the perfect option for Arsenal. I really like Caicedo, he’s a really young talented player with energy and he shows motivation and ambition every time he plays, but I’m not sure he can play in that holding role because he’s used to playing a midfield two or three. Being a holding midfielder is different, you have to stay and guard the central defenders, to keep the balance of the team. You cannot just run everywhere, you have to be intelligent tactically. I’m not saying Caicedo isn’t intelligent, but he hasn’t got the experience playing in that position that Rice does.
DB: What do you think Rice would bring to this Arsenal team?
EP: He’s a leader, a warrior, he wants to win every game and has great desire. He has a great future in front of him and already has loads of experience at such a young age. He has to be very careful about his next club though. I know that Chelsea wants him, but if I were Declan Rice, I wouldn’t go to Chelsea, I would go to Arsenal. The two clubs are going in different directions and the way Arsenal is playing. If I was a player linked with Arsenal and Chelsea, I would choose Arsenal because the first thing I would look at it is “what’s the identity of the team?” and you can see with Arteta it is very clear what the identity is, he has a really precise idea of what they are doing and they are all playing for him, which isn’t true of Chelsea at the moment.
DB: Looking ahead to the North London Derby. Spurs have only lost once in this fixture at home in the past 16 years. Is there any weakness from Tottenham that you think Arsenal can exploit to earn a historic win?
EP: Recently with Spurs, it’s a rollercoaster. You never know what will happen with them before the game. They were trash against Aston Villa, and they won 4-0 against Crystal Palace, so I don’t know. It’s a derby so anything can happen and when you have Harry Kane you can win any game. He always scores against Arsenal, so you never know. These games always come down to emotion. Obviously, you would say that Arsenal are the better team than Spurs at the moment but it’s a derby, and these games are different, they come down to emotion. Spurs are struggling a bit at the moment and Arsenal have a big few games coming up in January, so this is massively important for both teams.
DB: It’s often said that form goes out of the window in huge derbies like this. From your time playing in big London derbies, how does preparation for the game, even mentally, differ from a normal game?
EP: People stop you in the street to tell you how important it is. You don’t even have to wait until the manager meeting to be reminded. You live and breathe it. When the fixtures are released you look to see when you play games like this. You know there are 38 games, but there are two games that are not like the others, because of the rivalry, the history and that both teams are fighting for the same positions. You have to prepare emotionally and mentally for this game.
DB: Looking at Spurs’ strengths, Harry Kane has a great record against Arsenal, are you confident in Saliba and Gabriel’s ability to face the challenge of playing against him?
EP: It’s been just one clean sheet for Arsenal since coming back from the World Cup and Saliba hasn’t been at his usual level since returning. This is something that Harry Kane will look to attack, he’s so efficient, a nightmare for central defenders. We all know that if you control Kane, you have a huge chance of winning the game. They have other players that can cause damage, but he is the main man for this team. For me, the most important thing is not individuals, it’s the team. If Arsenal can keep their structure, style and aggressiveness, that’s the best way of stopping Kane and Tottenham.
DB: Reports are that Spurs are doing all they can to get Harry Kane to commit to a new long-term deal. He’s always spoken about his desire to win trophies. Do you think it’s in his best interest to eventually move on?
EP: It’s always the same story with Harry Kane, we’ve been talking about his contract and the fact he has had no trophies for ages. I really thought he would have left last season for Manchester City, but now with Haaland that won’t happen. Okay, trophies are important but he will be remembered as one of the best players in Tottenham’s history. He has proven he is committed to the club already, and if he wanted to leave, he should have already done it. I would say to him: stay at the club. You are a king of the club, a legend. If you stay at Tottenham for your whole career, you will be remembered for centuries, and that’s the kind of thing that players remember, like winning a big trophy. If he wants to leave, where would he go? It won’t be City with Haaland or Chelsea with the striker curse! Would he go abroad? No chance. The only club for me that he could go to right now is Manchester United, and where have they been for the last 5,6,7 seasons? Have they been winning trophies? No. So I think he already has an answer in his mind, if I were him, I’d stay at Tottenham.
DB: What are your thoughts on French Football Federation President Noel Le Graët’s comments on Zidane?
EP: Oh my god. I really don’t like this guy. I told him that to his face at the election when he was reelected. The French federation is not a democracy anymore, and this guy is a dictator. He’s not a good person. Bad things are coming out about him. He is already under scrutiny legally in France, facing claims of sexual harassment. He has so many bad things attached to his name.
I know he apologised, but I don’t believe him, he’s a liar. You can’t trust him. I’m not afraid to say it. I’ve said it on the radio, it’s not a secret, I really don’t like this guy. He should quit his job. He’s 80 years old and has been in this position for way too long. He is doing so much damage to French football. He doesn’t like footballers. Every time he talks about players, you can tell he doesn’t care about them. Maybe he likes football, I’m not even sure about that, but I’m sure he doesn’t like players.
Zidane is not the first person to be targeted by him. Hundreds of players have been targeted by him. Every French international player I know, across many different generations of the national team, does not like him.
I’m so ashamed to be in the same football family as this guy. The 1998 World Cup winners have dinner together every year, and I don’t know a single player that has anything good to say about him. He represents the French Football Federation and he doesn’t even like footballers. He likes himself. He likes power, putting fear in the people that surround him.
I have a message for Mr Infantino at FIFA, please do the right thing. With all of the bad publicity surrounding FIFA recently, he is bad for your image. Please don’t take Noël Le Graët into FIFA. Let him go, Bye bye! Quit your job and go back to Brittany and take the last few years in your life to enjoy yourself, and go away from football.