Ex- Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham legend, William Gallas was widely regarded as one of the best defenders of his generation. The World Cup runner-up recently sat down with PlayOJO, the online casino to give his take on why it is only fair that Premier League clubs look out for their lower league counter-parts during these trying times, in the latest instalment of our ‘Fair Play in Football’ series.
FAIR PLAY IN FOOTBALL
As a former player – how important is it that footballers today embody the spirit of fairness, for the next generation to aspire to?
It’s very important because we are an example for the new generation. When they watch us on TV they want to emulate us, so players have to be careful. It’s important for players to understand that they need to set a good example, especially in the social media era.
How do you assess the impact of VAR on the Premier League this season? Is there anything you would change about VAR to ensure it is more fair when decisions are reached?
As a fan, VAR takes away the instant celebration as we now sometimes have to wait for the decision but it can also help, as it does usually make the right decision. For me, it has to make the decision quicker, as the passion of the fans is what makes the Premier League what it is.
Do you think the way the agent is trying to manipulate a move for Pogba away from Old Trafford is fair to the clubs and fans of Manchester United?
I don’t think his agent is helping because he’s putting Pogba in a difficult situation. I think agents today talk too much. Leave your players to play football, because otherwise you’re putting too much pressure on the shoulders of your player. It doesn’t help anyone when the agent speaks like this. I would tell my agent not to speak on my behalf.
Do you think it’s fair on Premier League clubs at the top of the football pyramid to bail out lower league counterparts who have been struggling for income over the last few years with less and less income coming from match revenue?
That is very fair, for example the distribution of TV income is very unbalanced throughout the leagues and the Premier League has to think about the lower leagues, who are suffering a lot. It’s not easy for these players, even the youngsters in the academies. I have to say well done to the Premier League for doing this. At the moment we have to be a unit to help the small clubs to survive.
How do you assess Mikel Arteta’s year in charge of Arsenal? How tough is it for Arsenal to be his first managerial experience? Do you think he can lead Arsenal to more trophies?
I was very hard on him, but for me, when you are Arsenal manager, or a top five manager in the Premier League, you have to generate results, as those clubs want to lift trophies. I was hard on Arteta, as he lost too many games and I said he wasn’t the right manager to lead Arsenal but football, as you know is very fickle, and Arsenal are still in the bottom half of the table but after a run of decent results, they are back in the race for a Europa League spot. Could they win the Premier League? No, I don’t think so. I don’t think they have the squad to win the Premier League. But to qualify for the Champions League or Europa League? Why not. Arteta can be the right manager (for the club) but it also depends on the players. You can give all your strategy for the week, but if the players don’t respond very well and at the end of the game, you lose a everyone will complain. So for me, the players have to do the job properly.
Where do you think Arsenal could finish this season and what do you think will be deemed a success?
It’s difficult to answer this question but in football, no one knows what’s going to happen. For me, Arsenal as a minimum have to qualify for the Europa League or at a push, for the Champions League. At the beginning of the season, I said Chelsea will win the Premier League but now it looks unlikely. Right now, Arsenal look better than Chelsea. The Premier League is so unpredictable so no one knows what’s going to happen.
Arteta has shown real character given the pressure he was under in 2020, do you think he’s the right man to lead Arsenal to their former glory years?
You have to give Arteta credit, he has shown real character and it’s not easy, but he has proven he has a strong character. He didn’t change his system or the way Arsenal play. So maybe because the players now understand what Arteta wants from them, they are preforming better. The game against Chelsea was a real turning point and since then, they are still winning. Arteta can be the right manager (for the club) but we will judge him at the end of the season. If they qualify for the Europa League or not will determine if he’s been a success.
Kieran Tierney and Bukayo Saka have perhaps been the standout players for Arsenal this season, what have you made of their impact this season?
I like Saka. He’s a young player and you can see that he has lots to improve, but for his age, he’s a really good player. He’s maybe one of the best players for Arsenal at the moment. I think it’s great when a young player gets an opportunity and they show what they can do, but what we want to see from him is consistency, and then with consistency comes the transition to becoming a top player.
Has anyone else impressed you from the Arsenal squad this season?
Not really. If I speak about Arsenals defenders, as that was my position, I don’t think there are any top-class players. They are still young ,so can improve but right now butno one playing at the back for Arsenal impresses me.
How big a boost to the squad is Thomas Partey’s return to the team?
He has a lot of experience. When he was at Athletico Madrid, he was playing very well. He’s the type of player that can protect his defenders but also push forward – so he can play box to box. Technically, he’s really good with the ball. He brings a good balance for Arsenal and that’s important to the team.
Granit Xhaka has divided opinion amongst Arsenal fans and pundits. How do you assess his role in this current Arsenal team?
He’s made some mistakes, he’s got too many yellow cards and has made little impact on games. So rightly, people have criticised him, including myself but against Chelsea he was one of the best players on the pitch and responded to the people who criticised him. So now, he has to play like this every game. Especially because he is an experienced player so he has to lead the team. Saka has had a much better season than him (Xhaka), how can you explain that? Saka is younger, but right now his season is more consistent that Xhaka.
There are strong rumours Ozil could leave the club this month, is that the best solution for both sides?
Maybe, because it’s been a long time since he last played and I’m sure he’s frustrated. When you don’t play, physically you’ll be in trouble when you come back. If he can leave, he should leave. I don’t think the board want Ozil so right now they need to find a solution and let him go to another club.
How do you think Mikel Arteta has handled the situation with Mesut Ozil? Was it fair to exclude him?
It isn’t easy for anyone from the outside to understand that situation. I don’t know whether it was board or Arteta that left him out of the squad. I’m sure Arteta is feeling pressure with the situation as Ozil was a top player, so if he made the decision to leave him out, it shows real character. If it’s a decision from the board, its creating a lot of pressure for Arteta as he is the one who has to make sure the team are performing to the same level without Ozil in the squad. Arsenal don’t want him anymore so they have to find a solution. Sometimes there’s too much politics in football, so it’s not easy to be a manager.
Can Pepe deliver on his transfer fee and help improve Arsenal’s season?
Who put the money on the table for Pepe? It wasn’t Pepe. Arsenal decided to put £72m on the table. Football is crazy now. If you play well for a few games, your value goes up and clubs put crazy money on the table. Right now, Pepe isn’t convincing anyone (he is worth the money) so now I hope this is a lesson to football clubs not to spend crazy money on players. People were surprised when they saw £72m on the table for Pepe, but it wasn’t his fault. It was the fault of the club.
What do you make of Aubameyang’s form this season? Were Arsenal right to offer him a big new contract?
For the last few years, Aubameyang played very well for Arsenal, but at the moment, his performances haven’t been at the top. Maybe he is tired. As a striker you can change people’s mind very quickly, you just need to score then everyone will forget the poor performances. Since he signed the contract, his performances haven’t been the same. At the moment he’s not in good shape but I’m sure he will come back, so I say don’t be too hard on him.
Arsenal have been linked with striker Diego Costa, what do you think he could bring to either team?
He would bring character to the squad. He just wants to win games. If his team mate doesn’t play well, he will shout at them during the game and sometimes I think this is good. Sometimes, when I’m watching Arsenal, they don’t show any reaction when they concede, and someone like Costa will shout to the guys “Wake up!” which can boost the players. If he comes to Arsenal, he will cause a lot of problems for defenders but it might also mean Lacazette going on the bench again.
William Saliba has just returned to Ligue Un on loan to Nice. Do you think he can have a future at the club?
I don’t know what’s happened to him at Arsenal. Like I said, there’s too much politics in football, whether it’s coming from the manager, board or the agent. Right now, the person who is suffering is the player. I’m sure it was not easy for Saliba to go back to France. To be told you’re not needed by the club mustn’t have been easy.
What are your thoughts on Chelsea’s form so far this season?
I am a little bit disappointed because I thought Chelsea could compete with Liverpool to win the Premier League, butafter the last few games I was disappointed, as Chelsea didn’t show the character to win against the big clubs. I’m also disappointed because when you see the Chelsea squad, it’s one of the best and its really difficult to understand what’s going on. Why Chelsea aren’t playing good football? Why don’t they win games? Maybe some players are not as good as we thought. For example, Timo Werner – everyone has been talking about him recently and I know it’s not easy when you first arrive at a new club and country, you need some time to adapt. Sometimes, it’s good for players to be on the bench if they’re not playing well. But if they have got strong character, they’ll start to give more in training and on the pitch to prove they should be in the starting eleven.
Do you think Werner has enough quality to make it in the Premier League?
From what I’ve seen, I would say he has a lot of work to do. He has to improve and show more quality.
Kai Havert’s came to Chelsea with a big reputation as a young starlet, do you think he’s lived up to this yet? How do you see his future at the club?
They need to give him time. He has the quality – when he has the ball at his feet, he has real quality. For him, its different (compared to Werner) – he can make a real difference, it will come down to how Frank (Lampard) manages him.
Is the pressure on Lampard fair given the start to the season Chelsea made? What do you expect from Chelsea at the end of this season?
When you spend almost £250m on players, that means you want to win the Premier League and the moment Chelsea’s position isn’t good. They’re not performing against the big clubs. The pressure is on Frank and he needs to find the solution very quickly because as we know, when you are the manager of Chelsea you can be sacked very quickly. The pressure is on him and he has to find the right system. They bought Werner for a lot of money, which is why perhaps Frank is playing him in every game, but if the player isn’t showing the quality, maybe they have to change the players in the team. I hope Frank finds the solution as soon as possible because he’s a young manager, but I’m sure he will be a great manager in the future. He’s very passionate and he knows football very well.
History tells us the Chelsea owner doesn’t give his managers too much time to turn the teams fortunes around – do you think Lampard’s position is in any danger? Can Lampard bring trophies to Stamford Bridge?
I think Lampard’s position is in danger. He’s not in a good position right now as they’re not in the top three at the moment. They spent a lot of money so the board want to see Chelsea winning the Premier League. I thought this season that they had a great chance to win it (the Premier League), but at the moment I’m sure the board aren’t happy with the results which is why I’m sure Frank is in a dangerous position. He needs to try and finish in the top three or win the Premier League.
Do you think your former teammate John Terry, currently the assistant at Aston Villa may become a manager? Can he make it a top job like Frank has?
He can do it. JT has taken an assistant role to understand the feeling of being the first team coach, but without the pressure and when the time is right, he will become a manager. Sometimes players want to manage a big club straight away but it’s not easy. You have to change your personality, become calm and learn how to speak to your players and that is a new job. You have to forget about when you were a player – it’s a totally different experience. To be an assistant coach, you don’t have the pressure on your shoulders straight away but you can see how the manager handles the pressure but you are still learning and John likes to learn. Once he has all the information, he’ll be ready to be a manager.
Are Chelsea too inconsistent to challenge for the league?
In football you have to kill your opponent. At the start of the season, Liverpool were killing their opponents because they just kept winning games and the other clubs knew it would be difficult to beat them, but after they lost a few games, they left the door open. A few months ago, everyone was saying Manchester United were finished, but right now, because Liverpool let them in, they could win the Premier League. Chelsea right now are not in a good position, they’re a little bit behind the leaders and confidence is low, but if they show a strong mentality, like United have been recently and they remain in and around the top position – they could finish top. I think it is going to be a very tight end to the season.
Chelsea have been linked with England starlet Declan Rice – do you think Chelsea should make the investment?
He’s a good player,for his age, he’s unbelievable. Very strong and technically, he’s almost got everything. For me, he has to leave West Ham to get to the next level because he could be a top-class player. To be a top-class player, he has to train everyday alongside top-class players which is why for me he has to leave West Ham next season. He looks like he has a strong personality, I think he would be a good signing for Chelsea.
Can Tottenham end their trophy draught in the EFL cup final? Pep and Mourinho will go head to head again, how do you rate them both against the all-time top managers in football?
We know Mourinho has the winners mentality and to play the final of the League Cup, I’m sure he will go to Wembley and do everything to make sure the players understand they must win the final. It’s been thirteen years since Tottenham won a final so it will be very important for the club, players and Mourinho.
Do you think Dele Alli needs to move on to get more game time? Who could you see Alli playing for if he were to move on? Could he join Pochettino at PSG?
Dele Alli has to play because he’s still young, so if he doesn’t play for Tottenham he has to move. For him it will be good to be back on the pitch, playing 90 minutes. I’m sure he’s very frustrated that he isn’t playing. He had a great season two years ago but for young players, they have to be consistent every game. Sometimes when you have a great season, the next season you put in less effort because you expect to play the same and slowly your form begins to drop. This is what is most difficult for young players to handle. OK, he had one good season but the next season he has to work harder to stay on top. I don’t think he would make the starting eleven at PSG as there are many top players. He needs to find a club where he will make the starting eleven.
If Tottenham were to not win any trophies this season. Do you think Kane might start to consider if his future could be elsewhere?
It all depends what Harry Kane wants for his future – does he want to lift trophies or stay at Tottenham and become a legend? For the fans, it would be great for Kane to stay but as a player, you have to know what you want. Yes, he might have some individual accolades but as a player you want to lift trophies like the Premier League, the FA cup to understand what it feels like to the lift the trophy. That’s why it’s very important for Tottenham to win something, to keep Harry Kane.