In an exclusive interview with Fair Betting Sites, former Arsenal, Chelsea and Barcelona midfielder Emmanuel Petit gives his views on the biggest stories at his former clubs, including urging Harry Maguire to leave Manchester United for Chelsea.
World Cup-winning Petit also called Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel ‘nervous’ as well as saying a move for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would be a ‘gamble’ and looks like a panic buy.
Petit also urged calm when rating Arsenal’s perfect start to the season, while claiming they should concentrate on the Premier League and not the Europa League in their pursuit of Champions League qualification.
Petit gave a wide-ranging interview and gave some great quotes which would be great for you to use on your publications, provided you credit and link to fairbettingsites.com in the copy.
Highlights of the Interview
- ‘Mentally destroyed’ Harry Maguire should leave Manchester United for Chelsea
- Thomas Tuchel is ‘nervous’ and will negatively impact the Chelsea dressing room
- Frenkie De Jong ‘does not want to come to the Premier League’ despite interest from Chelsea, United
- Aubameyang would be a ‘gamble’ as Chelsea panic buy near the end of the transfer window
- Arsenal’s start to the season is exiting, but it’s too soon to say they can get into the Champions League
- The Gunners should concentrate on the Premier League for Champions League qualification
- Saliba is a ‘monster at the back’ for Arsenal
Full Transcript of the Interview
Q: I have to start with Arsenal, there is a lot of excitement about the start of their season – how are you feeling and how far can they go?
Manu: The story is far different to last year, after the poor start – expectation is very high this season. They did a good season last season and they were very close to getting a Champions League spot.
Unfortunately, they didn’t, they failed mentally during the last few games. In the transfer market, they signed very good new signings, especially Jesus. For me, he speaks the same football as his team-mates. I like the feeling of revenge, as well. He’s very determined, with big ambitions, and the way Arsenal is playing since the beginning of the season, I have been enjoying.
They are playing well, really, and mentally as well they look strong, and their confidence is back. So it’s very different from what we’ve seen the last few seasons. It’s a big hope for the future. Now they’re leading the Premier League, but I think we will judge them when they meet big guns – the next is Manchester United. I know that there’s no easy games in the Premier League, but I want to see them play against top teams. They are targeting the Champions League spots, so we need to see how they will evolve and react against those teams.
So far, so good. I am enjoying Arsenal on the pitch, the behaviour as well. I’ve been enjoying Arteta’s management. I think he has found his first eleven in his squad. Transfer market is not finished yet, so they will probably add more talented players to the squad.
I’d been very disappointed for the last seasons, especially about the results and the ambitions at Arsenal. I’d been very disappointed with the transfer market – I didn’t see why they were buying some players, the profile of some players didn’t fit into the dressing room and on the pitch with the DNA of Arsenal.
For the last season, I think Edu and Arteta has done a great job. I was not criticising Arteta, because it takes time for a manager – especially for a young manager – but he’s shown character, authority. Step-by-step, he’s building this team, the spirit, and so far I think they are on the way to do something good this season.
Q: Arsenal fans have had to suffer for quite a few years… does this feel like Arsenal are back as a big team?
Manu: It’s too early. But signings are very good. It’s very exciting to see them, the way they play, the way they are smiling on the pitch, the way they are enjoying what they do on the pitch all together.
You can see that they understand exactly what Arteta wants them to do on the pitch, tactically, and in different positions. We can see green lights surrounding Arsenal at the moment. It’s been ages since I’ve seen this Arsenal.
But I think it’s too soon to say they can reach the Champions League spot. I’m very convinced about that, I’m pretty sure they will do that, because I always think that when you play good football, most of the time you get rewards from that.
So far, all the big guns I’ve been watching, I think Arsenal is one of the best teams in the Premier League. The confidence, green – the next couple of games are comfortable for them. They can add more points to the table before they play their first big test in the beginning of September against Manchester United.
Q: Arteta’s been quite clear that more signings will happen this month – where would you sign someone?
Manu: I would probably ask for another midfield player, because you could see that Arteta wants his midfield to control the ball, just like Manchester City does all the time. With Odegaard and Smith-Rowe they have players who are capable to keep the ball technically and with a good vision to give good assists.
But they need to control the tempo of the game, if they want to control their opponents. For me, in the midfield area, they need to add more quality players technically and mentally. Someone who can be able to control the ball and to direct the ball, someone who can have an influence on his team mates and on the opponents.
When you have control of the ball and you show confidence, it’s a deadly weapon for the opponent. This is why I think they need to add one more midfield player – not holding midfield player, someone who can be box-to-box, someone who can be a 10 or 8.
And I would probably add another player up front because, with Jesus and Nketiah, they only have two strikers. Someone can play different positions, either up front in the attack, or in the wings, or something like that. I would probably add two more players to the squad.
Q: How seriously will they be taking the Europa League?
Manu: The Europa League, as you know, the winner has a chance to play the Champions League for the following season, so it’s something that Arsenal are very aware about.
They were not far from reaching it last season. But they have the quality to do something good in this competition. Knowing, as well, that there is big, big teams in the Europa League.
For me, the priority is the Premier League. If they can do something good in Europa League, that’s good enough, I will take it. But to be honest with you, and I’m pretty sure all the players and managers are focussed about it, their priority is the Premier League. They need to come back to the way Arsenal was before years ago. They need to get stronger in the Championship, to get stronger in Europe.
Don’t forget, two or three years ago, when Arteta came to the club it was a mess. On top of that, it was the pandemic, and he had so many troubles with some leaders – especially Aubameyang, his captain.
They were missing quality players, options, and now – three years after that – all the work has been done, and they are doing great jobs. This is why the priority is the Premier League. They need to come back stronger in the league to pretend for something else in Europe.
Q: Someone who isn’t a new signing, bit has felt like one, is William Saliba. Arsenal fans are very excited, he’s looked very good – what’s your reaction to his performances?
Manu: I’m not surprised. I’ve been following his season at Marseille last year, and he has impressed everyone, especially the French manager – because he was selected for his first cap, and he deserved it.
He was a leader and a monster at the back, he showed so much maturity and confidence. I like the same way that Jesus, the way he came back to Arsenal – we didn’t know for one or two weeks if he’s going to stay at Marseille, maybe he’d be unhappy with Arsenal’s decisions.
The fact is, from pre-season, he thought to himself that he was good enough to start the Premier League season. He showed maturity, character, and he’s enjoying his spell at Arsenal. That’s what he was expecting when he first signed for Arsenal and, after three years, he didn’t play one minute.
He came back after making a great season with Marseille – it’s not easy in Marseille, the pressure is very high in the city, the passion of the fans is very high. They have pressure every single day, every single game.
It was a very good season for him. He came back to Arsenal a different player and a different person. He grew up so quickly, he got mature very quickly, and he showed personality at the back. You could see that.
For me, I said at the beginning of the season, if he plays the same way he played for Marseille, Ben White would be in trouble.
Q: Another of your former teams, Chelsea, have had a more mixed start to the season – losing to Leeds heavily this weekend – should they be worried about their place in the top four?
Manu: You could see frustrations with Tuchel on the bench since the beginning of the season. He showed he’s very nervous, his communication is bad as well – trying to find excuses for bad performances, bad results.
I think he’s very annoyed by the fact they are not active on the transfer market. He wants players, especially at the back.
He could’ve anticipated that, to be honest with you. When you let three important players at the back leave for free, you should have anticipated this.
This year has been very difficult, mentally, for the club, the fans, the players, the manager. You could see that. They started the Premier League tired. I can see that Tuchel is very tired, is very nervous. He was complaining about the pre-season tour, all the trips they had to do, it was exhausting for them.
The transfer market is ending in a couple of days, he doesn’t see any players coming in, so I can understand his frustration. On top of it, he’s losing big important players, Kante for example, Kovacic is not fit, he lost Koulibaly on the sending off.
To be honest with you, it’s not the perfect start for them, on and off the pitch. I can understand the frustration, but I think Tuchel should show more composure – he should take it on him to try to show that he’s calm. The fact he’s nervous, the players can feel it. When you look at him on the bench, to be hoenst, he needs to calm down – he needs to show more confidence to his players.
It’s definitely a must-win game for them against Leicester. They cannot afford to drop points again at home. They have to win that game if they want to keep in touch with the podium.
Victories are the best medicine when you are not good on the pitch, and you have troubles outside.
Q: Could Tuchel come under pressure this season?
Manu: It was the case with PSG. First season was good, the second season the trouble started. You can see that, when things go right, he’s very happy, he’s very smiley in the press conference.
But as soon as the troubles arrive on the pitch and off the pitch, you could see that he’s nervous, and this is something that you can spread into the dressing room.
If results are not good enough that could be a big pressure on him. Troubles can happen very easily in the dressing room, in terms of relationships and communications.
Q: As a player, how would you have reacted to the touchline incident that he had with Conte?
Manu: As a player, we are focussed with what’s happening on the pitch. You need to avoid everything surrounding the pitch, especially the bench and what’s happening in the ground.
If you are too sensible about that, that can affect the game and your focus on the game. The concentration, as well.
If you are a proficient footballer, at the highest levels with the highest pressure, then you need to control your emotions. So sometimes it’s good to see your managers fighting with the opponent’s manager, but in the meantime the reality and the truth is on the pitch.
Q: You mentioned Aubameyang earlier and the issues they had with him at Arsenal – is he a risk for Chelsea?
Manu: At Arsenal, I didn’t see it coming the way it ends. I was quite disappointed and surprised about what happened between him and Arteta – but I could understand Arteta’s decision.
I remember when he went to Barcelona, the first few games he scored so many goals. I thought ‘wow, what a good story for someone that has been disciplined for months at Arsenal’.
After that, he didn’t play much, didn’t score much, and now you realise that Barcelona prefer Lewandowski.
The fact he knows the Premier League very well, he will fit perfectly into the game. He still has qualities. If he comes back to England, that will be with the feeling of revenge – especially with the Arsenal rivalry.
He will be in London, a city that he knows very well already, so he will settle perfectly. He will probably give an answer to Tuchel in terms of efficacy in front of the goal, scoring goals. You see that they are missing strikers, it’s been the case for ages at Chelsea.
They need to get a proper striker, who can score between 20 and 25 goals at least in the Premier League, and they don’t have that for ages.
It’s a gamble because I have no idea what the real level of Aubameyang is right now. I know that he can score goals, but he has to be fit physically and he has to be good in his mind. He needs to find a really good balance between mental and physical, and this is my only question.
He could be a hit the first few games, but then all of a sudden he could disappear. And what happens if he doesn’t score for the first few games for Chelsea? With all the ‘curse of the number nine’?
He’s a quality player, but my question is what exactly is his level right now? I have no idea.
For me, he looks more a panic buy than something they’ve been thinking about for months or weeks. Transfer market is ending in a few days, and you could see that they are in panic, Chelsea. They want to buy defenders, strikers, but they don’t know what they want.
I don’t see the real qualities behind it. The projection in the future. If you want to spend so much on a player, you need to have a vision, but I don’t see that coming from Chelsea. It’s panic buys. They are willing to do everything they can to bring players that can fill a void in their team, especially in central defence and up front.
This is not the best way to do things.
Q: They’ve also been linked with Harry Maguire, who is struggling at Man United – could a move to Chelsea kick-start his career?
Manu: Honestly, I watched the game Monday night, and I looked at his face on the bench – him and Cristiano Ronaldo – and I’m pretty sure he was thinking exactly what everyone was thinking after the game.
After the very good performance collectively and especially at the back, Martinez and Varane, they played very well. If I am Maguire, I would feel insecure and in a very difficult position.
I lost the armband, I’m not the captain anymore, I lost my place in the team. And now I am on the bench.
When I look at him, my first feeling is ‘this guy is destroyed mentally’. He’s not there anymore. He needs to rebuild mentally. He has to do this every single game, by playing well. Trying to get back the confidence from the fans, from his team mates, from the press, from himself. To try to feel more secure on the pitch.
At the moment, this is not the case. I think mentally, he’s very low, he’s down. He needs to work mentally. He’s got quality to be a good defender – for me, he’s not one of the top defenders, he’s never been. But he’s a good quality defender if he’s good in his head and plays well.
But this is not the case for ages. He has received criticism for two or three years now.
For me, I’m not sure his future is laying with Manchester United. I think things have gone too far.
To be honest with you, if I am Maguire, I would probably think about leaving. Because the World Cup is coming, so if I’m not playing, that means my position in the national team is in danger as well. All the dangers are surrounding him.
He needs to take a very strong decision for his future right now. If I’m Maguire, I cannot see myself playing the next game. Ten Hag has been convinced with Varane and Martinez – I can guarantee they will play the next game. And if they play well and they win again, he will never change his team. That means Maguire can spend weeks on the bench, looking at his team mates.
He needs to take a big decision. If he wants to play for Chelsea, that could be good for him. I think he would probably play, because Thiago Silva is aged, and they need a central defender.
I think it’s a win-win position for Chelsea and Maguire. If I am Maguire, I would leave Manchester United.
Q: Barcelona have been at the centre of a lot of controversy this summer, how have you reacted to that?
Manu: Since UEFA introduced the financial fair play – for some big clubs it’s not the same story any more. So they need to be careful about their finance.
There’s been a lot of talk in England and France about the money they’ve spent, money they don’t have. But they have sold so many private equity inside of Barcelona, so they have received a lot of funds.
In the meantime, when you spend so much money like this, and you ask your players to split their wages – this is something I don’t understand, and I will never understand.
They are selling the jewels of Barcelona year after year. It’s panic for them financially. They are trying to do everything they can to avoid a bankruptcy.
But the way they built this team, they look more competitive, buying some very good players. But financially, of course, it’s a big question.
There is nothing illegal in what they’ve done in the transfer market, because they’ve sold the jewels – the TV rights, their own TV company, things like this – and they received hundreds of millions of Euros. So they have the money to spend on the transfer market.
But it’s a big, big gamble for the future.
What will happen if things are still the same on the pitch? If they don’t get what they want in terms of rewards and money – what are they going to sell next? To fill the financial void, that’s a big question for me.
I think they have a big concern as well with Kounde about his contract. The clock is ticking for him to be registered with Barcelona. So they still have a lot to do outside the pitch.
But if I talk only about what’s happening on the pitch, I think they will look stronger than last season, and they will probably be hard to beat, because they’re a quality team.
Q: Frenkie De Jong’s been in the papers a lot here, linked with Manchester United, allegedly asked to take a pay-cut… how hard is it for a player to deal with this off the pitch stuff?
Manu: It’s very difficult because all that matters for clubs and players is money. This is a priority most of the time. Of course the sporting project is important for the club and the players.
But when you talk about big guns dealing with signing players, we are talking about money.
I’m not convinced De Jong wants to come to the Premier League. If he comes, I hope that will be something that he’s happy with, because I don’t get this feeling.
It’s all about money. We know this from Leicester and Chelsea over Wesley Fofana. We all know that the last few days of the transfer market are the most important.
Because most of the clubs are paying cheques. They want to put pressure on players, and on clubs, to accept their deal. Many transfer will be made in the last few hours before the transfer window ends, so a lot of pressure, and a lot of money.