In an exclusive interview with Fair Betting Sites, former Manchester City, Chelsea and New York Red Bulls midfielder Shaun Wright-Phillips shared his thoughts on the sacking of Thomas Tuchel, the appointment of Graham Potter at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea owner Todd Boehly’s problems and also on Manchester City’s chances of Champions League success now Erling Haaland has joined.
Former England international Wright-Phillips also assessed his countries chances of World Cup glory and gave some opinions on his American experiences, including his views on Leeds United’s American manager Jesse Marsch.
Highlights of the Interview
- Todd Boehly Still has to Learn How to Run a Football Club
- Potter at Chelsea Could be ‘Scary’ for the Premier League
- ‘Maverick’ Aubameyang May Face Problems with Potter at Chelsea
- Haaland Can Break Premier League Scoring Record
- England can win the World Cup and should be favourites in Qatar
- Jesse Marsch will be a success in England
Full Transcript of the Interview with Shaun Wright-Phillips
Q: Obviously the big news is Thomas Tuchel’s sacking yesterday, what was your reaction to that? Was it the correct decision?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: I definitely wouldn’t say it’s the correct decision. I’d say more my reaction to it was – I was very shocked. I think if you go back to the transfer window and giving him 250,000,000 plus to spend on transfers, that kind of lets the rest of the world, especially the fans of the club, that back in the manager for the long term sort of thing. So when that happens after seven games, I think it would have surprised and shocked everybody, but also at the same time, there might be something going on that we don’t know about, that there might have been friction between them which caused it.
Q: Do you think that then giving him so much money and letting him bring in his own signings and then sacking him so quickly, does that show Todd Boehly’s naivety as a Premier League chairman?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: I wouldn’t say so much naivety. He’s new to the game and really he’s still learning and he’s still got to learn that understanding of how running a football club, especially like Chelsea is and what it’s going to take. And I think he’s going to have to get used to that. He’s going to have to get the hang of that quicker than he thinks, otherwise he’s going to be going for a lot of managers, or the opposite managers won’t take the job. So right now he’s put the club that plays in a weird situation and he’s just got to correct it as quickly as he possibly can.
Q: Now it looks like Graham Potter is going to be unveiled as his replacement. Do you think he’s the right man for the job?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: I honestly think he’s a fantastic manager, to be honest with you. What he’s done in the Premier League, especially at Brighton, and this is no disrespect to Brighton, all the players there, but what he’s done in the Premier League, with the funding that he’s had and the players that he’s had, he made those plays back. He’s built a team there that out-pass a lot of teams in the Premier League with the budget of 250,000,000 in the bank or 250 mil spent on players. So for me, if you can teach players, maybe not on that elite level, to get somewhere close to the elite team and keep the ball away from those types of players, I think it always makes me think, what would you do with a set of elite players? If those elite players buy into the way he plays and his philosophy of football, it could be a scary thing and a great new thing for the Premier League.
Q: Is there a concern over his experience managing world class players and challenging for trophies?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: I would say it’s hard. As for the challenges for trophies, it’s hard when you’re Brighton and his manager, you haven’t got that squad depth to possibly playing all the games coming up. So he has to prioritize one or the other, and he prioritizes the Premier League, rightfully so, and cease to run his luck and see how far we can get in the card game. So I think in that respect, he’s done a fantastic job, as I said before. But respect to handling the bigger players you call in, it inexperienced to start with. A lot of managers, firstly, are always inexperienced. How does he get that experience? He’s not given a chance to.
Q: Okay, how would you rate Boehly’s first transfer window at Chelsea?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: Well, I think they signed good players, to be honest with you. I think him keeping a hold of Galllagher was a good one, as long as he plays and gets minutes, because I think he’s fantastic young player, talent, English that we have. Sterling I think it’s a massive signing. He started once, they started slow, but for him, scoring goals, he started in a place he wanted to start, but he’s up and running, scoring goals now and he scored three important ones. So in terms of the play he brought in, especially at the back with Koulibaly and Fofana, I think they’re good signings. It’s hard to see how with the team that they have there, especially now that Aubameyang’s in, they have that number nine focal point, it’s hard to see how they don’t challenge for the top four with the squad of players they have.
Q: You mentioned in a previous interview that Aubameyang would suit Chelsea, given his history with Tuchel, given what’s now happened, do you think that either party will be regretting that move?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: Well, I don’t think Aubameyang will regret the move because he’s tried to sign in for a massive club in Chelsea, great club, great fans, and he’s back in the Premier League again and he’s playing Champions League football as well. So I don’t think he’ll complain too much. I think what will maybe the struggle or the thing that they both have to get used to is when the new manager comes in, is he going to be like, is he going to allow him to be a Maverick or is he going to him strict, which doesn’t seem to work for Aubameyang. He seems to like to do what Aubameyang likes to do. I think the next manager that comes in is you cannot say leaning with him, but as long as he works hard to the team and he scores you those goals, you got to give him a little bit of a yardage in a way, because it’s hard to change your character.
Q: Raheem Sterling followed the same path as you from Man City to Chelsea. Do you think that he’s made the right decision for his career going there?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: Yeah, I think for him personally, yes. I think the key thing to him was playing more football and being a bigger part of the bigger and more important games. And I think if he felt he’s going to get that Chelsea, I think for him it will be the right decision. And playing all the time, he’s getting loads and 90 minutes under his belt and that’s what he was looking for. So it’s hard not to say it was the right opinion.
Q: Where do you think Chelsea going to finish the season now? And could they miss out on the top four?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: To be honest, I kind of thought with what Spurs did in the transfer window, that they would miss out on the top four from the start of season. But then after seeing Spurs play against
Chelsea, I retracted that, but now I’m not sure. Like I said, they have the players. They definitely have the players to do it. I think now it’s about Tuchel’s not there so now that’s about finding that manager that is going to take them into the top four. I think there’s a lot of tough things, especially ones once they put the potential banana skin once, where you ain’t going to give you a challenge. I think people don’t pay attention to Brighton. We’ve seen what Fulham have done to Liverpool. We’ve seen what Brentford has done to Man United. Crystal Palace beat Man City. So do you know what I mean? There’s loads of potential points lost for a lot of the top clubs if they’re not at their A-game, so there’ll be a lot of opportunities.
Q: Do you think this is the strongest the Premier League’s ever been in terms of going down the league and seeing so many brilliant players at unfashionable clubs?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: Yes, for me, honestly, I think so. I would be totally in agreement with that and I can totally understand why we would all say it as well. I think if you see what the teams have done, strengthening Newcastle, strengthened in very clever and strategic ways, I think obviously we know Man United’s gone out and broke the bank, Chelsea has done the same thing. Spurs, Arsenal, Crystal Palace are always steady and causing a problem. Brighton’s bought a few players, the list can go on. Everybody for the first time, with exceptions of I think Bournemouth has bought quality to try and stay in the Premier League.
Q: Man City look great so far with Haaland up front. Do you reckon he can fire them to the Champions League this season?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: I’d like to think so, but the Champions League is a hard competition. It’s not the Champions League for no reason. Every team in there is a hard game. We would have put our houses on Real Madrid to beat Sheriff last year. They go there and lose. So you have to bring not only A- game all the time, but sometimes you still need that little bit of luck. And that was to take you over the line. And I think they have the squad, the players, especially with the new adds of Haaland and Alvarez, give us that extra edge up front, in and around the box.
Q: Do you think Pep should put any less attention in the Premier League and focus on the Champions League or have you got the squad to compete for both?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: I don’t think you should basically put more attention on the Champions League than the Premier League out of all the competitions. I still think to win a Premier League is kind of harder to do then I would say the Champions League because of the length of time you have to be consistently good for. It’s not about just being a little bit lucky and we’ll take you through the next round. You have to be good for 33 games plus to win the Premier League. So I think that’s a massive achievement in this one. And I think if I see when the champions of the Premier League, I think that helps them get to where they need to in the Champions League because of that keeping that consistent form going rather than a break. So I think they both work in tandem together, to be quite honest with you. But I think we have the state Man City do have the squad to basically do what Liverpool did last year and get to finals in every cup if they need to.
Q: Obviously, Pep and the City owners are desperate to win the Champions League probably above anything else. Now, if he doesn’t perform well in it this season, are there any question marks over his future?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: No, I would never – I think it would be wrong to put a question mark over his future/ What he’s done in his time at City is just out of this world. Like what he’s built in the club. The whole structure from the Academy all the way up to the first team. Even to the ladies football women’s team. They all play the City way and they all play how Pep wants to play. But they all play with their patient, controlling possession and stay in control of the game and wait for those chances and opportunities to come out. So I think, in general, what he thought, it would be hard for somebody to come in and try and step in and take that role. It would almost be like starting again, sort of thing. But as a manager at the same time, unless you just needed a break or a sabbatical where you just need to wind down. Because, as you can see, he wears his heart on his sleeve on the sideline. He’s involved in every minute. So he will need a break at some point. And hopefully for me, he takes his breaks in the summer rather than elsewhere. But I think, no, I wouldn’t question his job at all.
Q: Erling Haaland, unbelievable start to the season with ten goals in six games, I think it is so far. Could he potentially break the Premier League goal scoring record this season?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: Yeah. Yes, he can. It’s so hard to explain because he plays very patiently, I think, in his position, because he’s completely different to Alvarez. Alvarez will, in a way, wander around, search for the ball, get involved, pop it off, then run in behind, whereas Haaland will keep pushing the defense back and create that space and those little gaps in between the midfield and the defense with people like Foden, Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo. And then he comes into effect then and you’ll see every now and again you’ll probably get the ball to see pass it off or turn, assist or run at people. But more times than not, if you see before he scores, he’s back to back hat trick. I think there was a spell of ten minutes where I don’t think he was involved in the game. Ball goes in a box, he scores a goal, then he gets more into it and he scores another two goals and so on. So I think he’s in a way that finished that piece of the puzzle that we were missing. And you could say to a degree what Chelsea were looking for in a Romelu Lukaku, which didn’t happen. I think Haaland is the perfect fit.
Q: Obviously, it’s early days and he’s managed to create a kind of work out how long he’s going to stay there for. But if he does stay there for six, seven years, is he potentially a danger to Alan Shearer’s record as well?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: I think the guy is going to like me saying this, but yeah, it’s going to be hard to stop him from getting it if he’s scoring the goals, he’s scoring ten in six games, that’s going to be an issue for anyone, really.
Q: Following Liverpool’s 4-1 defeat at Napoli last night, they have won two of eight games this season. What do you think is going wrong for Jurgen Klopp and his side?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: I would say I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s anything to be worried about. They’re definitely going through a bad patch, but then at the same time, I know it’s only Bournemouth, but you see what they can do against Bournemouth when they play that high press and get the way they want to get it. So I think it doesn’t matter getting things back to where they were last year. I think Thiago Alcantara’s fit now, so he’ll come back into the team. There will be Fabinho. I’m not sure why Henderson didn’t play it. I’m not sure whether he will be injured or anything, but he’s still to come back and it’s just a matter of just getting that thing. I don’t think they realize how big of an impact and a miss Mane would be on that squad going forward. And I think it’s more of a readjustment and getting used to Mane’s not there. So this is how we play now.
Q: A couple of their key players, van Dijk and Salah particularly, haven’t quite hit the same heights as they have previously this season. Are they beginning to show signs of age or is it just a blip?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: With Salah, I wouldn’t say he hasn’t completely hit form. I just think he’s not scoring as much. But if you look at his chances created, he’s actually creating more chances than he’s ever done. So instead of scoring, he’s just doing something else. Of course, Liverpool need these goals more than anything right now because nobody, especially over the last three years, has put the ball in the back of the net as many times as him so they definitely need him to put his goalscoring boots on rather than his assist boots. I wouldn’t say that age is getting to Virgil, but I just think Napoli offered Gomez and Virgil something completely different. They didn’t sit back. They were more interested in exploiting Liverpool’s high line with the long, deep runs in from deep and if runs come from deep, and the timing of the pass is perfect, it’s next to, I wouldn’t say impossible, but it’s hard to get that offside trap because they’re running from the halfway line and I just think Napoli’s tactics were a masterclass. They exploited it well.
Q: The World Cup is obviously approaching quickly now. Do you think Gareth Southgate and England can win it in Qatar?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: I like to think so. Being English, I’m rooting for them that’s for sure but it’s tough, isn’t it? The World Cup is completely different to the Euros. I thought they did well in the Euros. There was resiliency. Even when they didn’t play well, they knew how to still win the game, which normally wins you trophies, to be honest with you. If you can normally do that, if they have that in them again at the World Cup and play well alongside it, they have the quality, especially in the front and the midfield, to actually destroy a lot of teams if they’re all on song. So it’d just be a matter of keeping the defense fit, whoever he picks, and keeping them on form.
Q: How much do you think the heat is going to play a part for our players?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: Yeah, it’s going to be massive. It’s very hard, especially the time they’re going, because they’re coming from, say, a cold England. They’re not really going to have much time training in the heat or playing in the heat before that kicks off. So it’s going to be a quick transition that they’re going to have to get used to. Some players, I think, will adapt to it better. Others will, but you’d expect, say, the South American teams and Spain and teams like that, the countries like that, to hit the ground running may be quicker than some others.
Q: Who’s your favourite for the tournament other than England?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: Oh, man, I’m only going to say England, but you have to look at France. Only that I think France have got three players for every position so we have to be realistic, much as nobody likes to say. You can never really ever count out Germany because in tournaments they just always come good. So it will be an interesting one, but I’m still going to England win it.
Q: Do you think a lot of the criticism that Gareth Southgate has got from the fans is unfair or fair, given his record in tournaments?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: His record in tournaments, for me is good, like it’s insanely good, to be honest with you. He’s done more in his short time as England manager then a lot of managers have done over my career. He’s gone to places that we’ve never got to before. Whether people enjoy the way England play, that’s not what he’s there for. For me, at the end of the day, he’s there to try and win trophies. And so far he’s come very close to doing those things. So I think at times you just got to accept this is the way the manager plays. Okay? Everybody wants to see England more positive because we know the attack that they have, but at the same time he has a tactic and it’s working with him. So I salute him. Southgate is doing what he needs to do to get England to finals and semi finals and giving the players a chance and the country a chance to bring those trophies home.
Q: Kalvin Phillips has barely featured for City since joining and Jack Grealish hasn’t played in all of their games so far. Do you think either of these players are in danger of missing out on the squad or do you think they’ll play their way in?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: I don’t think they have to worry too much. I think they’ve proven, especially in the last tournament. They’ve proven what their capabilities are. Jack’s been struggling with injuries and so has Kalvin Phillips, but they’re both back in the squad. Jack played well in the 60 minutes, I think it was on Tuesday. He scared them, he ran out, then kept the ball, tried to create chances. It looked like he was enjoying football, going forward and entertaining people again. And I think Kalvin Phillips will be fine. It’s just a matter of getting over these little niggles that he’s having.
Q: Are the only Premier League teams that you think are already going to be looking forward to the World Cup as a chance to reset their seasons?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: Yeah. Bournemouth, I think, is the main one. I think Forest, it will be massive for Forest because it’s a bit of time for them to get those 21 players together and try and do some team bonding so they can get to know each other properly because it’s not going to be easy for them all together with those many players anyway. So I’d say those ones will be the key ones for me.
Q: How do you think Jesse Marsh is bearing the Premier League? And is he changing people’s expectations of how an American manager would cope?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: No, I think he’s done really well, apart from the sending off, which is typical Jesse. I’ve known him for a while, so he gets very emotionally in tune with the game, just as if he was playing on the pitch. So he finds it hard when something’s wrong and he sees it right to keep cool. I think he’s done really well. I think he’s come in and he’s had to step into some big boots at Leeds, obviously with Bielsa did there. He’s come in, always played a similar style with that high press, that energy. He wants you to, not burn yourself out, but he wants you to make it so uncomfortable for the team. But then when you get the ball, keep the ball, try and create chances and enjoy taking people on. That is the way Jesse has always managed. So for me, I think he’s done really well. I wouldn’t say necessarily surprised because he’s worked under the banner of Red Bull for a while and Red Bull’s philosophy has always been quite European based. They have their culture stuff, they all play the same. So I think he adapted to it quite well.
Q: How did you enjoy your time playing in the MLS? First in New York and then Phoenix.
Shaun Wright-Phillips: I really enjoyed it, especially playing in the heat in my old age. It was good for the joints, so I enjoyed it. One thing I did notice you would always find well, when I was at Red Bull, I think I would say it was a bit different because there was a lot of quality within that, even with the kids that came through. But the more you looked around, you would only really find there’s never a full team of high quality players. There’s always like three or four or one or two or five and then very young kids because of the way the budget system works. So there’s always a breakdown point within that team if you’re a high possession playing team, until you obviously learn that the steps very quickly on what the manager wants to do and you can relay that on the pitch, but in general it’s tough on the legs because it’s full of athletes, they can run all day.
Q: Do you think that budget system is an obstacle between the MLS sort of rivalling European leagues for quality?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s just a budget. Of course the budget plays a part, especially with the young kids coming through, because a lot of the parents would rather see the young kids be able to support their family and their wife and kids when they get older and the young kids that come through not really earning enough. So you could say that’s a part, but then at the same time they don’t really have an academy facility, so there’s three years missed. They just go straight from that into USL, which is basically 17 to 19, and then it’s a crossover. So there’s no build up process to, in a way, the reserve league that you’ve missed all the steps which take you to get into playing men’s football or young men’s football sort of thing. So there’s still a lot of work for them to do, I think.
Q: How far behind is the MLS to the Premier League and is the gap narrowing?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: No, gap is definitely not narrowing unless they start building those infrastructure now. I think it’s going to be a long way from it as well.
Q: There’s a lot of talented young players in the USA squad at the moment. Are the only particular stand out for you, is it being potential world stars?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: Well, I like Tyler Adam, so you never know where he’s going to play. That USA team he obviously plays at holding midfielder. They can also play right back, and he tends to play right back a lot for USA, but I think especially one to watch is Pulisic. I really like Pulisic. He always seemed to do well first, especially for USA I found when I watched him anyway. But he will create problems with his energy, his driven techniques and he’s quality in front of goal because he does score some incredible goals.
Q: Obviously popularity in the US is increasing a lot. Can you see a point in the future where they can actually challenge World Cups?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: You can kind of say that. I wouldn’t say that heading in the right direction but they’re setting a precedent. I think if you look at Aaronsen and Tyler, they’re both in the Premier League now, Pulisic, there’s a lot of American players that are playing in the German leagues and so on. So I think the fact that most of the national team players now are playing within the biggest leagues in the world is going to give them a massive chance to go on and do things in the World Cup and then the Gold Cup for example.
Q: Do you think that American Premier League owners have had a positive or a negative effect on the league overall?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: I don’t think I think it’s neither here nor there, to be honest with you. I think if you look at the Man United owners then you will naturally say the opposite but then when you look at I’d say Liverpool, think Arsenal as well, I would say in those respects it’s been quite good, it’s been quite steady. They wanted to know who they’re backing before they backed or they backed and learned the hard way and taking a different route and done it a better way like in Arteta’s position now and then you can go to Chelsea, just splashing cash effectively and then sack the manager. So I would say it’s in the balance to be honest with you.
Q: Two former England teammates, David Beckham and Phil Neville are obviously working together at Inter Miami now. How do you think that project is faring and does their friendship make it difficult for Beckham to potentially sack Neville if he starts underperforming?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: I think between both of them they would know and understand if something needs changing. He might not have to sack and they might just have a conversation like you said. They’re friends and just say look, it’s not working and they’ll say I’ll hand in my resignation so there’s easier ways to solve that solution but in general I think I definitely enjoying it is the thing. I also realize for Neville on the other side that it’s not easy to manage in America because you can’t just get all the players you want, you might be able to get only two or three of those out of ten and then you have to kind of work with what you have and work on trade. So I think it’s the learning curve for both of them and I think the next season after this one I think you’ll see a difference in Miami.
Q: Do you think we’ll see Phil Neville managing in the Premier League at any point?
Shaun Wright-Phillips: It would be nice, but he obviously needs to do work well enough for people to take notice of him. And I think Patrick Vieira was I’d say somebody that did that. When he was in America, he changed the whole philosophy of how NYCFC wanted to play, even if it took him a year. And I remember people saying to me, they just keep playing the same. As I said, it doesn’t matter. He’s getting them to play. He’s like he’s giving them the confidence and the belief to say, play out from the back and learn from your mistakes as you do it. And I think that changed NYCFC. Even though he wasn’t there, they went on to win things after him.