BettingSites.co.uk have sat down with ex-Arsenal and Premier League player, Emmanuel Frimpong, who gave his latest thoughts on the title race.
The Ghanaian praised Arsenal’s recent signings of Leandro Trossard and Jorginho for their impact in the title race so far.
Frimpong also rolled back the years talking about his former teammates, such as Mesut Ozil, Niklas Bendtner, Abou Diaby whilst briefly revisiting his time on YouTube with KSI and Lethal Bizzle.
Q: Was that Everton win a statement since it was Arsenal’s game in hand?
EF: The Arsenal performance against Everton was very good. The first 30 minutes was a bit poor because Everton showed a lot of spirit and fight, but quality always wins in the end. It took a brilliant pass from Oleksandr Zinchenko and a great finish from Bukayo Saka to unlock the Everton defence. At the moment, we have to keep winning, we’ve recovered from the bad performances against Manchester City and Everton last time. Yesterday was a crucial win because Manchester City have Newcastle on the weekend which is a tough game, we might be able to extend the points gap even more.
Q: Bukayo Saka’s first goal was the definition of world class wasn’t it? How many other wingers would score that?
EF: Bukayo Saka has been brilliant for the last two seasons and he’s what Arsenal is all about. It shows how good our academy is too. If Arsenal wanted to buy a player like Saka from another club, it would have cost £90m to £100m, but instead, we got him for free. Per Mertesacker and the other coaches in the Arsenal academy are doing amazingly because we’ve produced players like Saka. There are not a lot of young wingers who can score goals like Bukayo Saka did against Everton. It’s good to see him get his confidence back up again.
Q: Odegaard, Saka and Martinelli have all scored more Premier League goals than the whole of Chelsea have this season, what do you make of that?
EF: The fact Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli together have scored more Premier League goals than Chelsea shows you that it’s not all about the money. Chelsea have heavily invested in their squad yet they are struggling. It shows you need to give managers time too, Mikel Arteta finished eighth twice, which is not good for a club like Arsenal. The board and owners could see Arteta was a great manager so they gave him time, that’s the difference between Arsenal and Chelsea.
Q: Is Jorginho moving ahead of Thomas Partey as first choice? Is he a better choice?
EF: Thomas Partey is slightly younger than Jorginho and more mobile. Partey is faster, stronger, a better passer and all-around a better player. But Jorginho has been outstanding since joining Arsenal, most of the fans were very angry with the signing and I understood why, but Jorginho has proved everyone wrong. Long may that continue because Partey does get injuries, so players like Jorginho do need to step up. With Partey back in the team, it only helps Arsenal going forward.
Chelsea did not make a mistake in letting Jorginho go because of his age and he was there for a while. It makes sense with Enzo Fernandez coming in. Jorginho is a perfect fit for Arsenal because we have a lot of young players whom he can give his experience to. Jorginho reminds me of how Mikel Arteta used to play, the way he plays, very direct and serious while directing the players on the pitch.
Q: Is Trossard at striker the way to go for Arsenal now? Fans have complained that Nketiah does not link up with Martinelli enough
EF: The criticism Eddie Nketiah gets is harsh. As a striker, if you don’t score, everyone will have a go at you. But with Nketiah, take away his goals, he is very good at holding up the ball and linking up the play. Lots of Arsenal fans were disappointed when he signed his contract, fast forward to now, and everyone has been delighted with the crucial goals he’s scored. The goals have dried up recently, but he’s still a young player and can learn more from Gabriel Jesus. Nketiah should be proud of what he’s done this season.
Leandro Trossard has done well, we’re winning when he’s in the team. When you do lose, managers look to make players scapegoats and unfortunately for Nketiah, he’s one of the players who was taken out of the team. It helps that Gabriel Martinelli has started scoring again because he looked shaky against Everton and Manchester City.
Q: There are rumours that Julian Alvarez wants to leave Man City because he wants to play more, would you take him at Arsenal? If not, where should he go?
EF: Manchester City won’t let Arsenal take any more of their players now they’ve seen how successful Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus have been. With Julian Alvarez, I can imagine why he would want to leave Manchester City, imagine winning the World Cup just to come back and play second-fiddle to Erling Haaland. If Alvarez was anywhere else in the world, he would start. It shows Manchester City’s strength in their squad, if Alvarez was at Arsenal, he would be starting games.
Q: If you had to rank Foden, Saka or Rashford at their best, what would you pick? And why?
EF: I would pick Bukayo Saka at his best because he is an all-around better player than Marcus Rashford and Phil Foden. Saka can defend, score goals, assists, helps his fullbacks, dribbles very well and is versatile. I’d pick Rashford over Foden too, he’s not in the same class as the other two but that might be because he’s playing with better players.
Q: Man Utd fans and media are half-joking and half-being serious about a quadruple charge after the Carabao Cup win, are they getting ahead of themselves?
EF: Manchester United are definitely getting ahead of themselves if they actually think they can win the quadruple. I don’t think they will win any of the other trophies, they have no chance in the league, Manchester City will win the FA Cup and Arsenal will win the Europa League. A trophy for Manchester United will be exciting for them because of how they’ve performed over the last few seasons. They’ve had some difficult moments and sometimes it’s a good things when fans are full of confidence, but in reality we know that Manchester United will find it hard in the other competitions.
Q: People have been labelling Erik Ten Hag a ‘miracle worker’. Is that justified given they’ve spent around £200 million this season, or is he really working miracles?
EF: If Erik Ten Hag is ‘working miracles’ then I’d like to know what Mikel Arteta is doing. Everyone expects Manchester United after the money they’ve sent. Let’s not kid ourselves, the Carabao Cup is the trophy that all the top teams drop out of and play their second teams. None of the other big teams have taken the competition seriously. The trophy will build Manchester United’s confidence, but Arteta has done a much better job than Ten Hag. If you compare Arsenal and Manchester United, Ten Hag has a better squad so that must mean Arteta is working wonders too.
Q: Who has been your manager of the season so far? If Mikel Arteta wins the league, will it be him?
EF: There is no manager that comes close to Mikel Arteta this season, maybe Thomas Frank. Arsenal have been very consistent and the best team in the country. When Gabriel Jesus got injured, everyone was worried how we would perform, but Arteta dealt with the situation. It will get harder from now because he has risen the expectations of the fans, we all expect a win at the Emirates every week.
Q: With Gabriel Jesus returning to fitness, would Bournemouth at home be the best game for him to get some minutes in? Score prediction?
EF: I’m so happy to see Gabriel Jesus back, I’m such a big fan of his. The confidence he gives to players around him is unmatched. He will be the difference if Arsenal finish second or in first place by the end of the season. Jesus will get a massive ovation if he is back for the Bournemouth game.
I can’t see Bournemouth scoring, I predict Arsenal to win 3-0.
Q: Newcastle want Kieran Tierney, could it be a mistake for Arsenal to sell him to a possible title challenger in years to come? Similar to how Man City regretted selling Zinchenko and Jesus to Arsenal?
EF: Kieran Tierney has been outstanding since signing for Arsenal in 2019, he’s one of the players I do love because he always fights for Arsenal and the badge. Oleksandr Zinchenko has come in and performed really well, with the way Arsenal play at the moment, Zinchenko suits the team more. Tierney is no doubt the better defender, but you need to more than just defend to play in this Arsenal team. You need to be able to pass, dribble, move forward and contribute to goals, even from fullback. I can’t see Mikel Arteta taking Zinchenko out of the team anytime soon, which might mean Tierney will move.
I don’t think Arsenal would regret Tierney leaving for a club like Newcastle. Newcastle would be a great destination for Tierney because they are pushing up the league, fighting for top four and are a team on the up, just like Arsenal. There might not be too much difference in the quality of the teams, just location. Playing at St James’ Park in front of crazy and passionate fans, I’m sure he would love the move.
Q: If Arsenal lose the title race and don’t win the Europa League, would it now be considered a failure of a season since they raised their standards so much?
EF: If Arsenal do not win the Premier League and Europa League, it’s not a failure of a season. It’s going to be a success if we get top four, because that would have been the original message at the start of the season. Manchester City have more quality than Arsenal so it will be difficult until the end of the season. Arsenal have a higher chance of winning the Europa League than winning the Premier League, because every game now has a lot of pressure.
Arsenal still have to play Liverpool, Newcastle and Manchester City away, those are three really hard games. It’s going to be really difficult, I’m praying that we have a fully fit squad by then, if we do, we can easily get at least six points from these games. If Arsenal have the ambition to win the league, then they need to win at places like the Etihad and St James’ Park.
Q: Who is the one player you think is key to Arsenal’s side, that they can’t afford to lose? Lots of people thought it was Jesus or Partey but they have survived without them?
EF: Gabriel Maghalaes has been outstanding this season. I’ve noticed his passing has improved a lot because it used to be a little suspect. If you look at our defence, he is probably our most senior defender. He has made a few mistakes this season but everyone does. Gabriel has been one of Arsenal’s best players and has developed into a fine leader, he would be our most missed player if he came out of the team.
Q: Is he more crucial than Saliba?
EF: Gabriel is more crucial to the team than William Saliba. Saliba gets all the praise because it’s his first season and has the chant with his name. If you asked Mikel Arteta, he would probably say that Gabriel is the more crucial player because of his leadership.
Q: Have Arsenal moved ahead of Chelsea as a more attractive proposition to Declan Rice, particularly if they secure Champions League football and the Blues don’t?
EF: I don’t believe Arsenal will go in for Declan Rice now they have Jorginho and extended Mohamed Elneny’s contract. With Rice, Arsenal would have four defensive midfielders, it’s pointless. Rice is a good player but we have too many players similar to him already, I’d rather see Arsenal bring in a player like Dusan Vlahovic who has pace and power as a striker. Rice would cost too much, it would be a waste to spend that much on one player. Over £100m is crazy money for any footballer, let alone Rice. You look back at players like Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard and Partick Vieira, you have to wonder how much they would cost. Vieira would cost at least double what Rice is worth, maybe around £240m, paid in instalments over 30 years!
Q: Would Mason Mount be a good signing for Arsenal?
EF: Mason Mount is a very good player, not world class, but a good enough player to play for Arsenal. He would bolster Arsenal’s squad, if I was in charge of Arsenal, he is player I would like to bring in. Mount is very young, never injured, very professional and an England international. He has not been on great form but neither have the whole Chelsea squad all season, you don’t win Chelsea player of the year two times in a row if you’re not a good player. If the money is too much, then Arsenal would have to walk away, we’re not Manchester City, we can’t spend that much money on one player.
Q: You used to do YouTube videos with KSI, are you still ever in contact with him and what do you think of his boxing career?
EF: I did make videos with KSI around 12 years ago, when he was coming up in the YouTube scene, and now he’s done very well for himself. We don’t talk because we’re not close friends but follow each other on social media because we have previously worked together. If I did message him, I think he would be humble enough to message me back, but we have nothing to talk about! I congratulate him and wish him even more success because what he’s done and where he has come from is amazing.
Q: Would you like to work with him again?
EF: KSI didn’t pay me for the last couple of FIFA videos I did with him years ago, so I might have to give him a message and ask for it now! I always looked to work with people who were talented like KSI, but I don’t think we can have another round of FIFA because he’s moved on from that type of content.
Q: You made the iconic “Dench, you don’t want to get Frimponged’ verse on Leave It Yeah with Lethal Bizzle. What are your memories of that?
EF: The ‘Leave It Yeah’ music video was fun with Lethal Bizzle. I was young at the time and had a cruciate ligament injury so I was not doing much. I love music, especially grime by people like Skepta and JME. When I had the chance to do the music video, I said ‘why not?’, it still puts a smile on my face to this day. Given the chance, I would do it again.
Q: Did you get told off for doing it?
EF: I never got told off or anything, when representing a team like Arsenal all you have to do is behave yourself. It was a normal music video. I know some players still do music today, like Memphis Depay who makes his own music.
Q: What current footballer would you like to see rap in a music video like you did?
EF: I would like to make a music video with Marcus Rashford because he looks like a guy who likes to have a good time and represents himself very well. Jesse Lingard is another player I’d like to make a music video with, I can imagine being in a studio with him and having a good time.
Q: What about Bukayo Saka?
EF: Bukayo Saka would be too shy to do a music video, he’s calm and relaxed where as I’m outspoken and energetic.
Q: You used to play with Carlos Vela, who was considered the next big thing in football. Why do you think he didn’t fulfill his potential? Was the talent there?
EF: Carlos Vela would always chip the keeper with his very lovely left foot in training. Vela had the talent to succeed, but at the time he came through with Robin van Persie in front of him, he was never going to get in front of him. I’m happy Vela is doing very well in America and he has the talent to be one of the best. Sometimes you just need the right environment and manager to fulfil your full potential.
Q: Nicklas Bendtner was also a promising star, but drew criticism for his off-field antics. Do you think that was unfair?
EF: Niklas Bendtner is a funny guy. I remember seeing him in a London casino a few years ago. Footballers these days are boring, everyone wants to be correct and are afraid to speak their minds because they’re scared to be criticised. Bendtner would always say what was on his mind and sometimes people took it the wrong way. Football needs characters like Bendtner because they are open with their feelings.
Q: Abou Diaby was another player who was touted for great things, but got unlucky with injuries. How good could he have been?
EF: Abou Diaby was very good technically and physically. Injuries can make you struggle with your mentality. It’s such a shame for Diaby, when you’re injured so much, it makes you want to play football even more. I’ve seen on his posts now he looks happy, so that is nice to see.
Q: Mesut Ozil is another you played with who had sublime talent, but was accused of lacking work-rate. Do you think that was unfair?
EF: The way Mesut Ozil plays makes him look lazy. I was there when he made his debut against Sunderland, he assisted Olivier Giroud to win the match and was the best player in that game. Ozil’s style of play was relaxed and not rushed, I think people took that as him being lazy. Ozil did not do the extra running because he relied on other to do it for him, but he would create chances whenever he received the ball and he did that throughout his career.
Q: Do you think he could have had a longer career if he’d stayed in La Liga or gone to Italy?
EF: Ozil could have had a longer career if he stayed in the Spanish league because the Premier League is so high-paced. Let’s not forget what he did for Arsenal, he was outstanding. It did not end well when Mikel Arteta came in and demanded more work from Ozil, he was not used to that and the change didn’t work for him. Unfortunately he had to leave the club. Ozil is one of the best players of the last 10-15 years no doubt.
Q: Would he rank in the top 3 players of the Emirates era at Arsenal?
EF: Ozil was not the best player of the Arsenal Emirates era, the top three is Robin van Persie, Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez. Cesc Fabregas would be fourth too, so Ozil might make the top five.
Q: Is prime Mesut Ozil better than Kevin De Bruyne?
EF: No, I don’t think so. Kevin De Bruyne is the perfect midfielder that anyone could ask for, he is strong, fast, uses his left and right foot, has unbelievable vision, scores goals, works hard and is a top professional.