Former Arsenal, Chelsea and France midfielder Emmanuel Petit spoke exclusively with Compare.bet on Monday following the start of the World Cup. Among the topics of discussion were Ronaldo’s interview with Piers Morgan, if Chelsea or Arsenal would be a good fit for the Portuguese striker and Graham Potter’s tough start to life at Chelsea.
- Manu on Ronaldo: ‘It’s so sad.’
- Ronaldo’s links to Arsenal & Chelsea: ‘There’s no chance of it.’
- The World Cup break affects Arsenal’s title challenge.
- January business key to Arsenal’s season: ‘They need three or four players.’
- Chelsea’s recent struggles: ‘It’s been a terrible year for Chelsea.’
MB: A hot topic in the football-world has been Cristiano Ronaldo’s explosive interview with Piers Morgan. What’s your opinion on this?
EP: It’s so sad to see his story with Manchester United ending like this. I don’t think the club or Cristiano deserve it, neither of them. The situation has become… for me there’s no solution, he has to leave the club. I can’t see him coming back to the dressing room after the World Cup. For me, that’s impossible. His words were off limits, and things have gone too far. There is no way back. For me it’s over. He has to go. I think that’s exactly what he wanted by saying those things in this interview, and I think he knew exactly what the consequences would be. That’s why I’m thinking this is probably exactly what he was looking for: an exit.
But for me it’s so sad to see this, you know, to be a witness to this, because Ronaldo is such a huge player with such a great career. Sometimes I’ll get annoyed to see that, to see the ego, you know, becoming more important than your club and your team. I wish him the best of luck with Portugal, if he can win the World Cup he’s said he will stop his career. What is the point of stopping your career if you can still play? I’m frustrated, I think it’s sad, I’m sad for him. It reminds me in some way of Thierry Henry’s handball against Ireland, you know. People here in France still remember the hands of Thierry Henry in what represented the last game for him in the national team. But he was such a great player, Henry, and it’s the same for Ronaldo. People will have memories of him as one of the greatest players in football history, but when you do things like this you don’t help yourself. It’s not exactly how I wanted Cristiano Ronaldo’s story to end, and I think it’s so sad to see that.
MB: We saw him linked to Chelsea in the summer, but amid his comments that he’d like to see Arsenal win the league this year, transfer speculation regarding a move to Chelsea or Arsenal has arisen. Could you see him at either club?
EP: No. I think Chelsea have so many troubles already, and Graham Potter has so many problems to solve. I think he will use the time and the break for the World Cup to sort things out, because he has so many troubles. He started very well for Chelsea, but already… they look miserable on the pitch when they don’t get a good result. For me, can Ronaldo fix Chelsea’s problems? I would say no. I think they have enough problems on the pitch and in the dressing room for Graham Potter to add more. I think this is new for Potter, big players, big egos. If you add one of the biggest egos in football history in Cristiano Ronaldo… Well, you’re going to have to say something to Aubameyang as well, to other players. For me there is no chance Cristiano Ronaldo will join Chelsea. It’s not just what he’s said about Arsenal, but when you say things like this against your own players, your own club, your only option is to take the exit. But in your head, do you think Arsenal, Chelsea, big clubs like this, could be interested in taking Cristiano? They will think twice when realising what’s happened in the last couple of months between Manchester United and Ronaldo. Do you think a club will take the risk of becoming the next victim? No, I don’t think so. I wish him the best of luck to win the World Cup with Portugal, because I think it will be difficult for him to find a club that fits his standards after it.
MB: Would you say the same for Arsenal?
EP: Honestly, with all the good work Arteta and Edu have done over the last two or three years in the transfer market, with their transfer policy, especially with Aubameyang, do you think Arteta will take the risk of breaking his balance in the dressing room? All the players are following Arteta and his staff, they’re all respecting his decisions in the dressing room and on the pitch. Do you think he would take the risk, for one second, to put Cristiano Ronaldo into this dressing room, where the relationship with the players is beautiful? No, there’s no chance of it.
MB: Are Arsenal title contenders?
EP: I hope so but I don’t believe it. I think they will qualify for the Champions League which will be a big achievement at the end of the season. I have a feeling that people forget sometimes that a couple of years ago, Arsenal were so far away from the podium and now they are fighting for the title, but more importantly they are fighting to be back in a Champions League position. For me the next step in Arteta and Edu’s work is to come back in a Champions League position. But I think it’s too soon, and for many reasons. I think Arsenal don’t have the depth on the bench that City has. For example, the last game Haaland was on the bench with Mahrez, there are so many great players on the bench. I had a quick look on the Arsenal bench for the last game they played – there are quality players but they are young and inexperienced. The second reason, they have match winners in their team. Arsenal is very good as a team, some individuals have played very well since the start of the season but they need more match winners. When it becomes more difficult on the pitch, you need to have those match winners in your team. The last reason is the break of the World Cup. I have a fear this could break the positive dynamic of Arsenal that they’ve had since the beginning of the season. When you play the World Cup your players return with a different mindset. Either you have done something good during the World Cup, then you’re full of confidence, however it can also mean that they want to rest – I’ve just won the World Cup so now I’m going to rest. This is a big risk to the team. Or in contrast, if you’ve had a bad World Cup and you played shit, and you want to hide yourself in the shadows – you come back from Christmas having had no rest and emotionally things can be very different. This is why I’m scared – the break is five to six weeks, it’s like in the summer at the end of the season which means your mind is completely different. So you have to link up very quickly when you come back to your club, and you have to come back two months before to get back to how you were before the break. The mentality of the team when we were all focused on the same target. This is different now. So the work of Arteta and his staff will be very important when all the players come back.
MB: Who should they target in the transfer window to maintain their title charge?
EP: They need at least three or four players if they really want to compete for the title. I think they need more wingers up front, and another option as a striker. I really like Jesus, Saka, Martinelli, Odergaad, but they won’t be able to play every single game, especially after the World Cup so they’ll definitely need one striker, one winger, they need more competition for Saka and Martinelli. And of course, if they can add one more midfield player, and one more central defender because I think they are short of central defenders – if Saliba or Gabriel are injured, who’s going to play, Holding? Really? I’m not a big fan of Holding. So overall, they need three or four players. If they can avoid injury or suspensions that would be great, but even then most of the players are involved in the World Cup so they’re going to be tired mentally and physically as well. So they definitely need to be active in the next transfer window.
MB: Do you think Potter could be in trouble if Chelsea fail to make the top four?
EP: Yes, of course. But he’s got excuses as well too. He’s just arrived in a club that was suffering so much – off the pitch as well as on it. There are so many injured players, and there are big players that have not played well for ages now. They are missing players like N’golo Kante. I think with what happened with Abramovich in Russia, it’s been a terrible year for Chelsea. Things move so fast in football – it doesn’t matter if you win the Champions League one season, if the next season is a poor one. When I look at Chelsea, I have no idea what Potter wants to do with this team. I have no idea what his first eleven is, or what kind of formation he wants to play. I have no idea what he’s asking from his players, or what kind of positions he wants them to occupy. I have so many questions. I was very pleased for the first few weeks when he took charge, but all of a sudden things have changed so much. I think Chelsea have excuses. I don’t see many clubs going through what happened to Chelsea in recent times. It was terrible. It will take months to get on track, but they have no time. Competition is fierce for Champions League qualification, with Newcastle’s emergence, Liverpool still fighting for a place and Manchester United’s revival. I don’t see Chelsea qualifying for next season’s Champions League. I hope the new owner will give Potter time to build something good for next season. He has to do everything he can to minimise the problems and the damages that could happen at the end of the season. For me we will see the real Potter next season.
MB: Was sacking Tuchel a mistake?
EP: If you put away the troubles with Abramovich, they had so many defenders at the end of their contract, and ended up losing some of these players. How can you lose players for free, if you’re Chelsea? You need to anticipate these things. Then there was panic buying at the end of the window, with Aubameyang. I can understand the situation wasn’t easy with everything going on off the pitch, but in the meantime, you’re still Chelsea, you’re still playing in the Champions League, so it’s still an attractive club for players. They’re suffering from their bad transfer window. They rushed things when players that they targeted weren’t available to them anymore. It was all very confused.