On Manchester United v Manchester City
When you played in the Premier League, United were the team with a target on their back. United over the last few years have been in decline, but you could say that the win against City was their biggest statement victory under the guidance of their new manager and it feels like they are moving back in the right direction. How did you think United performed in the game and what are your thoughts on where they are at the moment?
United deserve everything that is happening at the club at the moment and it is down to one man: Erik ten Hag. He has made so many big decisions since being appointed and has dealt with all of the troubles that were affecting the club off the pitch.
It wasn’t easy for him to begin with, but he has made strong decisions and has put some discipline back into the United dressing room, which is exactly what the club lacked. You can see that, now, he has the support of the players. He sent a strong signal to the squad when he put Ronaldo on the bench and when he put Harry Maguire, his captain, on the bench.
He gave United exactly what they needed in terms of discipline. They lost their identity and their character for so many years - they were a shadow of the great club that Manchester United has been historically.
Ten Hag and his staff have made all the correct decisions and he has also found his first eleven now. I have the feeling that he has freed a couple of United’s players, who are delivering for him on the pitch. You can see that they are in a very different place to where they were last season. There is a joy and happiness with the players on the pitch and Ten Hag can take the credit for that.
Ten Hag is taking the first steps to rebuilding Manchester United and the players have responded well. The best example of this is Rashford. For the last two seasons, he has performed like a shadow of himself, but since Ronalso left the club, he can't stop scoring. Do you think that is a coincidence? I don’t think so.
This is not the same United team anymore. In the space of three or four months, Ten Hag has completely transformed United.
There was an element of controversy in the game with the first goal. I wondered what your thoughts were on the decision?
Listen, for me when I watched the game, in real-time you can see that the goal shouldn’t have stood. The authorities have changed so many rules in the game and even the players don’t understand what is going on. The rules are stupid.
When you look at the replay, you see Akanji stopping his run to make Rashford offside. Akanji did everything right in that decision. He was intelligent and held his position because he knew Rashford was offside. He expected the decision to be offside, but no. Fernandes was intelligent enough to keep playing because he knows the rules have changed.
If you follow the rules to the letter, some people will say this goal is OK, but for me, it’s not right. The goal shouldn’t have counted. Akanji stopped his run and if he had to run after Rashford, I’m certain that he would have stopped the goal.
I think the offside rules and the changes that the authorities have made are stupid. The one that annoys me the most is when a player is clearly ten yards offside but the referee allows them to run through and then calls the offside when he touches the ball. That is so wrong! Players will get injured because of this - the incident where van Dijk got injured against Everton was a typical example of this. The rules are stupid. When a player is offside, he is offside! Stop the action!
What do you think of the refereeing standards in the Premier League generally?
Not very good! You should also have a look at what is happening in the French league too. Some players don’t get it. Even myself, because the rules have changed so much, I’m not sure what is going on the pitch half the time now! I think the referees are not making the big decisions because of the safety net of VAR. They are the link between what is happening on the pitch and who is making the big calls monitoring VAR. I’m thinking, with all these rules in football, what do we want the game to become - it is getting ridiculous. Look at what happened with the time that was added during the World Cup - players were on the pitch for nearly two hours! Come on! How much extra time do you need? Come on! The authorities need to get back to making the rules a little bit more simple. All of these changes are not for the game. Even the penalty rules - these have changed so many times. I don’t know what the authorities want to do, but what they are doing at the moment is killing the passion of football.
After the game, Pep came out and said: “Manchester City can’t win the Premier League title”. Do you think he genuinely believes that or is he playing mind games with his rivals?
(Laughs). He doesn’t genuinely believe that and the mind games have started. Pep knows that he he can close an eight point lead - history tells us that. Of course, Arsenal having a lead at this stage of the season is very good for them, but when you know and have seen City winning so many Premier League titles by relentlessly hunting down the leader, then you know Pep is playing mind games.
Guardiola is behaving like a politician when he makes those comments - there is absolutely no way he doesn’t want to win the Premier League title. He still has two games to play against Arsenal, which are worth six points. He knows and his players know that they are still in the title race. Don’t be mistaken by Guardiola’s comments. Arteta and his players will know that what Pep has said is nonsense.
On Brighton v Liverpool
Brighton really put on a show against Liverpool on Saturday. Alexis Mac Alister and Moises Caicado put in a wonderful performance and dominated that area of the park. Why are we seeing such a drop in performances from Liverpool’s midfield and why are Liverpool struggling so much this season?
I’ve heard many people say that Liverpool’s midfield has struggled this season, and I agree with that to a certain extent. Liverpool have played with such power and energy for five years - they’ve been tremendous - but some players look tired on the pitch and are not delivering the same levels as we’ve seen them before, but I think the main reason Liverpool are not the same is Mane.
Since Mane left, Liverpool are not playing the same way. Mane was such an important link between Liverpool’s midfield and attack. He played with so much energy on the pitch. He was decisive and always contributed with goals and assists. He led the Liverpool press and scared defenders when they had the ball. He set the tempo of the team and everyone else followed, Salah did the same job.
There was a big rivalry between Salah and Mane and they pushed each other, which helped the team. They used to play with a coordinated press, but that isn’t happening anymore. You could say they look tired, but they shouldn’t have let Mane leave and should have tried to do everything to keep him. They miss his mentality, leadership and of course his ability on the pitch. They have spent so much money on two different types of players up-front in Darwin and Gapko, but for me there is a gap in quality between these two and Mane - he hasn’t been replaced.
Some other players at Liverpool are also not performing at the level we’re used to seeing them. They are not doing the same things they used to do, the things that made the team so good.
Liverpool used to have one of the scariest defences in the Premier League, but I don’t recognise them anymore. Van Dijk, even Alisson , I don’t recognise them. Everyone has said a lot of critical things about Trent Alexander-Arnold and, it is a pity to see his defensive performances.
When it comes to player recruitment and selling, Brighton deserve credit. They are masters of succession planning. We can use the example of having Caicedo in the squad ready to step in for when they sold Bissouma.
I feel like a lot of teams in the Premier League could learn a lesson in the way Brighton recruit and sell. Why do you think they keep getting it right?
We all know that Graham Potter did a brilliant job at Brighton, but he was a coach within a structure that has a very clear idea and identity of what they want to do on and off the pitch.
They have recruited players to fit with a particular playing style. Arteta has done that at Arsenal and all the players want to play for him, the same thing is happening at Brighton and it shows because the performances have been just as good since De Zerbi has come into the club. It didn’t matter that Potter left, they found a manager that was the perfect fit for the system and the club.
Compare Chelsea to Brighton. Chelsea have so much more money than Brighton but they continue to spend it stupidly - they have no strategy.
If Brighton lose one, two or three important players, which has happened over the last few years, they already have the replacements. It is exactly the same at Brentford. Brentford can find players with the same ability and profile for smaller sums than a lot of the big clubs. They know what they want to do on the pitch and are looking for the players to fit this system. It is not the same as let's say Chelsea, who buy loads of quality players and then say to the manager, “do what you want with the players”. No. That is not how Brighton and Brentford do things. There is a strategy, there is an identity. It’s like with Barcelona, who develop players in the academy into the first team, there is a link and a progression route there.
Tottenham v Arsenal
Manu, what did you think of the game yesterday?
I think it was a brilliant performance from Arsenal. They controlled the game from the beginning until the end. They didn’t panic and they played with the character and personality that has defined their performances this season. They put the pressure on Tottenham from the first minute until the end of the match and after having some opportunities went in following a Lloris mistake. Then Odegaard scored a wonderful goal and it was pretty comfortable for them.
It was a brilliant performance. If I’m being honest, I was a little bit scared because of what happened the last time they played at Tottenham. I was worried because it was the perfect game for Tottenham to kick-start their season - winning the derby would have given them a massive boost going forward - I thought they would put pressure on Arsenal and turn it into a physical game to try and stop them from playing their football, like what they did when they won last season.
I was surprised by how badly Spurs played, but they looked powerless against an Arsenal team that controlled the tempo and rhythm. Arsenal played without fear and dominated the game with their football.
It was a great performance. Arsenal thoroughly deserved to win. With City losing, they have increased the gap at the top, but there is a long way to go. It is only the halfway point and a lot can happen, but you can see that this is a confident and happy team. There is a joy in the way Arsenal are playing their football. You can see that Arteta has the support of all the players.
Arsenal dominated proceedings. You know what it takes to win a Premier League title in red. I know you mentioned that we’re only half way through the season, but can this team go on and repeat that trick? Can they win the title?
Yes Arsenal can win the title, but they need to avoid injuries. They have been so lucky so far with injuries, which is new for them, because, when you look back, Arsenal have always suffered with injury problems as a team.
Gabriel Jesus is the only main player that is out now that Emile Smith-Rowe has come back. Fingers crossed that Arsenal can stay like this. I hope they don’t get any injuries, but soon they will be playing European football again and also they will compete in the FA Cup, so it will be hard for all of Arsenal’s players to stay injury free if they are playing every three days. You also have to think about the players that went to the World Cup - it will be a long season for a lot of Arsenal’s players.
I fear Arsenal could be in trouble with injuries and that trouble will come sooner rather than later as the games start to add up. They need players in the transfer window, we know they are looking to add to the squad and they need to if they want to win the title. I think they need to add a couple of players to the dressing room.
A game with two contrasting performances from the goalkeepers. Ramsdale made some excellent saves, while Hugo Lloris made a couple of mistakes. There were a lot of doubts about Ramsdale before he joined Arsenal - I thought this was his best performance since joining the club - how do you think he has got on?
I think he is doing great. I was a fan of Leno before he left for Fulham. I’ve always thought that Ramsdale was a very good goalkeeper, and playing for a club like Arsenal is not the same as playing for Sheffield United or Bournemouth. When you play for these clubs, you know that you’re going to be under pressure for the entire game, but when you play for Arsenal it is completely different - you’re called upon for maybe five or six occasions - which is what happened against Tottenham.
He made some great saves during the game. If you want to win titles, you need to have a great goalkeeper and a great striker, but more importantly, you need to have a great spirit. I think Ramsdale is performing like so many of Arsenal’s players right now; with a great fighting spirit and they have been developing this attitude since Arteta was appointed as manager.
Ramsdale is improving a lot. I’m not surprised by his performances because I think he showed the ability he had playing for Sheffield United and Bournemouth. The main difference is that at those clubs, he had to stop so many shots in a game, whereas at Arsenal you need to concentrate in a different way. At the end of the game it looked like he was ready to fight with some of the Tottenham fans, so you can see that he has the personality and temper that big clubs need their goalkeepers to have.
Did David Seaman have that bit of devil in him?
David wasn’t the biggest talker in the dressing room, but because of his size, he always had a major presence on the pitch. He had a booming voice! On the pitch you could hear his voice all the time. The relationship he had with the Arsenal defence, all English guys who knew each other so well, he could instruct them brilliantly.
He had such quality but he was very humble. He was completely dedicated to the team and was a real leader for Arsenal on the pitch. His size scared opponents. That entire defence of warriors scared every opponent. We needed that mentality at the back to become champions, with the European guys in the midfield and attack, It was a team that had a perfect balance.
There’s a level of maturity from the Premier League’s youngest team, optimised by Martin Odegaard who plays with such calmness. How have you rated his performances so far and his role as a captain?
He is so important both on and off the pitch. All of the players look to him, he has their support because he is so highly respected at Arsenal, not just as a footballer, but as a human. He has values and he is so humble. He works so hard and you can see that he hates losing games.
He controls the way that Arsenal play and directs the tempo for the team. I never see him lose the ball. He makes the right decision with the ball every single time. His vision and technical skill is perfect. The way that Arteta wants his team to play fits perfectly with Odegaard and we’re starting to see that promise that made Real Madrid sign him at 15.
He is developing as a footballer in the perfect environment. All of the young players at Arsenal are progressing rapidly and this is a credit to Arteta and his staff.
Odegaard is one of the best players in the Premier League. He has been one of the best players in England this season and he can still improve. I’m really happy for him after what happened to him at Real Madrid - he didn’t get a chance to develop and play there because they had so many stars in the midfield and the dressing room. The politics at Real Madrid and Arsenal are totally different. At Arsenal you can give time to younger players to develop and this is exactly what Odegaard needed; an environment where everyone has the confidence in his ability where he is with players that have the same mentality and goals.
To create a perfect team is very hard, but the first step is to find the perfect player that can carry out the vision of the manager both as a player and as human. Odegaard is that man in Arteta’s team. There are so many humble players in the Arsenal team, Saka too, but Odegaard is the main man.
My main concern would be if he was to get injured because Arsenal do not have the depth to handle his absence. I hope he can keep going until the end of the season.
On the other side of the coin, another defeat for Tottenham and another passive performance at home. What did you make of their approach to the game?
There wasn’t an approach to be honest with you. I’ve been watching Sours for years and years and, after some good signings in the summer, I was thinking they would be fighting for the top four and possibly the title. I was very disappointed with the way that they played and I don’t think Conte’s strategy for this game was right at all.
If I was a Spurs fan, I would have been disgusted with the way they approached the game because there is no intention to play. They look for the occasional counter attack and to try and take advantage of set-pieces. You don’t see any patterns of play or a style on the pitch. When you look at Arsenal you can see they have a precise idea of what they want to do and how they want to play - they control the tempo, they control the ball - they keep possession of the ball and move it quickly. The players let the ball do the work, which is the difference between them and Spurs. When I watch Tottenham play, there is no connection between the players. There is no creativity. There is no inspiration. Tottenham’s game is based on individuals and they cross their fingers and hope that maybe Kane or Son will make the difference but you can’t play like this when you’re Tottenham, especially when you play at home!
Look at how they played when they beat Arsenal last season, with character, with their quality. That performance was only eight or nine months ago but feels like it could have come in a different lifetime because when I see Tottenham now, there is no strategy on the pitch. It was easy for Arsenal to go and win. Even Villa went there, played a little bit and won 0-2. What has happened to the team that showed great fighting spirit when they were losing a game? Not so long ago Tottenham were an aggressive team with personality. It is a pity for them.
How did you feel as someone that is so close to Arsene Wenger and has shared so many experiences with him, and as someone that knows the pain of what he went through in those latter years at the club, to see him back at The Emirates Stadium recently?
I think it was emotional for him to go back to The Emirates for the first time since leaving. It is the same as when you’ve spent more than 20 years with a woman, you have children together and then you get divorced. Seeing her for the first time after two or three years is emotional. That is normal.
I think Arteta is following in his footsteps. The DNA at Arsenal is back and that is because of Arteta and his staff’s work. I was happy to see him back in the stadium and I was happy to see the reaction from the Arsenal fans. I still remember what happened with Arsene before he left the club, the way he was booed, all of the messages in the Emirates Stadium, the protests.
This is one of the worst faces a human can show. You love someone and then all of a sudden you hate them and then after a couple of years you love them again. I am happy that some Arsenal fans rediscovered their sight again and their emotions.
The most important thing is to remember what Arsene did with Arsenal and what Arsenal did to Arsene too. You can’t dismiss his achievements over a twenty year period, how he transformed the club, modernised the club’s infrastructure with a new training ground and stadium. The DNA of the club. Arsenal were called the ‘Little Barcelona’ and I think this is something that the fans should never forget.
I’ve been told that he will get a statue at The Emirates Stadium, but what is more important is to remain in people's hearts.
On Arsenal Transfers
Where do you think Arsenal need to strengthen their squad?
Arsenal doesn’t have that many options off the bench. I think they need to add quality to the midfield area, both centrally and on the flanks. Martinelli and Saka are still young and are fit enough to play in most of the games, but I have a feeling that sooner or later they will pick up injuries. If that happens, who is going to step up and play in their positions?
Arsenal need competition for every position. The players at Arsenal shouldn’t be assured of a starting place, they need sleepless nights and to create a more competitive environment by challenging each other.
I think they need a left and right winger, a midfielder and a striker. Partey and Xhaka have impressed me a lot since the beginning of the season, last season too, but if they get injured that will be a big concern for Arteta. For me, they need to sign at least three players, but in the January window, it is very hard to get the right players.
On missing out on Mudryk
I was very happy that Arsenal didn’t play Chelsea’s game when it came to Mudryk. When I look at the money that Chelsea have spent on Mudryk. Oh my goodness. Who is pressing the button on these deals at Chelsea? Is it the owner? Is there anyone in the club that can tell him to stop spending so much money without a strategy?
It looks like that whenever a big club puts a bid in for a player, Chelsea get on the phone and make an offer as well! Come on! Where is the strategy?!?
Let’s talk about this transfer then, Manu.
To be honest with you, I was surprised. When you saw all of the comments that Mudryk was making on social media about Arsenal, sharing pictures of himself in the kit and everything else he was doing. When I saw him at Stamford Bridge, he didn’t look happy.
Chelsea spent £100 million on a player that was telling the world he wanted to play for Arsenal and then all of a sudden you go to Chelsea? OK, you signed an eight-year deal. Good luck to you.
It was a transfer that was played out so publicly. I’ve never seen a player before that has practically begged for a move like that.
If he was honest, and we know that he wouldn't say this because the Chelsea fans would be very unhappy, but I’m pretty sure that Chelsea was not the club he wanted to join.
Why do you think he has gone to Chelsea?
I think there was too much money on the table, it’s as simple as that. His club was asking so much money for him, and there are offers that you can’t refuse as a club, but the player should also have a say. If he said to Shakhtar, “I don’t want to go to Chelsea. I’ll wait until the summer or the end of my contract and make my decision.” He had the power to put pressure on both clubs and he didn’t do it. Maybe money talks.
I think there are a lot of factors at play, obviously with what is happening in the Ukraine. He was desperate to come and play in the Premier League.
I understand the player's desire to come play in the Premier League and what is happening with his country, but can you imagine the partnership he could have created with Zinchenko at Arsenal, playing on the same flank? That was the perfect fit for him and the perfect fit for Ukraine.
Is there a player in the Premier League you would like to see Arsenal go for having missed out on Mykhailo Mudryk?
I have a player in mind, but I’m not sure he can fit in Arteta’s system in terms of the player’s mentality. Alan Saint-Maximin at Newcastle. Since Eddie Howe has changed his system, he prefers to play Joelinton in his position at the moment and he is playing well - he is a much better midfield player than a striker. He has benched Saint-Maximin.
If Saint-Maximin can improve his decision-making and do the right things at the right moments, just like Martinelli, I can imagine him being a revelation at Arsenal. He has so much pace and makes the difference with the ball at his feet. One against one, he is fearless when he faces defenders.
How will he respond to being on the bench at Newcastle? I’m pretty sure at the end of the season if his situation is the same, there will be some big talks between him and Newcastle. Maybe there is an opportunity for Arsenal if he is unhappy or unsettled. He is not the first name on the team sheet anymore and he was the star at the club before everything changed. Now he is on the bench. Football moves fast.
I’ve also been told that Raphinha is on the club’s radar, but I also like Zaha as an option. The way Arsenal play, Arteta wants wingers that can make the difference with their pace and dribbling skills. These types of players would be very good additions for Arsenal.
I also really like Pascal Gross at Brighton. I think he is a very good player. He is very intelligent and is a proper team player. He is dedicated to the team performance and sacrifices himself. He can offer a lot of different tactical options too.
All of the signs pointed to the player coming to Arsenal. Mikel Arteta is a guy that holds his cards close to his chest, you don’t see him in a press conference smiling about players when asked questions about them. I was surprised that Arsenal didn’t sign Mudryk and I think a lot of Arsenal fans are disappointed that they have missed out on the player.
I completely understand Arsenal’s decision not to match Chelsea’s bid. How can Chelsea make an offer of £100 million, it is ridiculous. Let Chelsea spend the money. It is clever for Arsenal to stay out of these silly games.
I agree. Arsenal had a price in mind and didn’t want to go beyond it - I have no problem with that. What this failed transfer does is show the world that the club has money to spend and everyone knows how much. Do you think that will drive the prices up for the players they target?
Listen, Chelsea have spent so much money and how many of them have been a success? If Arsenal wait one year, maybe they will be able to get the same players but at a lower fee. Let Chelsea spend their money like they want to. If they want to splash out, if they want to throw their money out of the window, that is up to them. I can understand why they didn’t (match Chelsea’s bid for Mudryk) and I want to congratulate Arsenal for making that decision. The fans must understand it (the decision not to match Chelsea’s bid for Mudryk). They have money but they don’t want to splash it around, they want to sign the right players.
What type of player have Chelsea signed in Benoît Badiashile?
He is a really good defender with a big future. He still has to learn a lot of things, especially with his maturity, personality and his concentration. He has so much quality.
He started playing in the first team at Monaco when he was sixteen. Sixteen years-old! As soon as he got into the team, he played every single game. Recently he has been knocking on the door of the French national team and for someone that is so young, he already has three or four full seasons under his belt and experience of playing in European competition. He has improved so much. He is a player for the future, just like all the buying that Chelsea have done.
There are so many young defenders at Chelsea. They have Chalobah and Fofana, but my main concern is that Potter plays with three central defenders and Kalidou Koulibaly doesn’t like this system. He is used to playing in a back four at Napoli and this is something that is totally different for him, so he is struggling. On top of that, he is playing in a league that is much faster than Serie A and, within weeks of joining the club, Tuchel was sacked. Chelsea have made so many bad decisions.
Badiashile is a very good defender with a lot to learn, but he is getting better with experience. He will be a good buy for Chelsea, but, again, his performances will be affected by the confidence of the team. There are so many quality players at Chelsea, but sometimes I feel they don’t know what to do on the pitch. I have no idea what they want to do. Potter doesn’t know his first eleven and if Chelsea play two big games in a week, I don’t know who he would pick in his team. I don’t think this has helped his players' confidence. Sometimes you need to stick with your team even if you don’t play well or lose a game - the players need time on the pitch to build a connection and develop relationships. This is what Ten Hag did. This is what Arteta did. As a manager, you need time to convince players that you have the right ideas on the pitch and for the team. There are so many problems at Chelsea since Abramovich left the club. This is a transitional season for Chelsea. I can’t see the strategy at the moment. What is the long-term future of the club? Is Graham Potter signing these players? I don’t know.
Badiashile is a great prospect for the future, but I don’t want him to be one of these players that joins Chelsea for huge money and becomes a shadow of himself within six months.
Premier League Previews
Crystal Palace vs Man United
Your great friend Patrcik Vieira is in charge of Palace. I think it would be fair to say that he is finding life a bit more difficult this season. Can he do his former clubs in Arsenal and Manchester City a favour and pinch some points from United?
Palace are struggling this season. I know that they really want to bring Gallagher back to the club. To be honest with you, I can't understand why he went back to Chelsea. Under Patrick, he was developing so well. If I was at Chelsea, I would have left him at Palace for one more season and then made a decision. He is not the same player that he was at Palace and he has been a massive loss for them.
I’m jot sure if he will go back there on loan, or if Chelsea will; even consider letting him go, but he was so important for Palace. Palace are lacking goals in the team and they miss him being able to link the midfield to the attack, his assists and his goals. This is the difference between Palace this season and last season - it is not the same. One key player missing can have a massive effect on a club - it is like with Mane at Liverpool.
Man City vs Spurs
Both of these teams go into this game off the back of a couple of disappointing results - how do you think it will go? Is this a game that City need to win if they want to stay in the title race?
Of course Manchester City needed to win. They have had a poor record recently. They dropped points before the World Cup and have dropped points after. The same thing has happened in France, PSG lost to Renne’s yesterday and they didn’t have their two best players playing for them. It will take time for some of their players to recover their form, but City need to start winning games, it's as simple as that. I don’;t think they deserved to lose against Manchester United, but they dropped points.
They have also dropped too many points at home this season. Guardiola knows that if you want to win the title, you have to be a killer at home. They need to get back on track by winning games for the mentality of the team. They have to win this game.
Liverpool vs Chelsea
How do you expect this game to play out and what do you think of both teams going into this game cemented firmly in the middle of the table?
The two teams have appeared in the Champions League final very recently as well, so this shows you how quickly things can change in football.
What are your thoughts on these two giants trading blows in the middle of the table?
The strategy at Chelsea is not good. This is a transitional season for the club. They must try and do as much as they can to get into the Champions League, but, I think it will be very, very difficult for either Chelsea or Liverpool to do that. Whoever loses this game, is in big trouble.
Both teams are lacking in confidence. Liverpool are regaining form at home, away from home they have been poor, but at Anfield, performances are starting to improve slowly.
A draw is not a good result for either team. Picking up points against your top rivals is essential to qualifying for the Champions League. This is a huge game for both teams who will be desperate to win, because it is very important for the managers and the confidence of the players.
Chelsea deserved to win their last game, but there are so many parts of their game that they need to improve. Liverpool are exactly the same - both clubs' form have been peaks and troughs. Successful teams need to be consistent, and this is missing at both clubs.
Arsenal vs Manchester United
If Arsenal win this match, they will take a massive step towards the title. How do you see this one going and are you pleased to see Arsenal and United renewing hostilities at the top end of the table after both teams have suffered baron periods in recent years?
I’m really pleased to see Arsenal and United towards the top. To have a strong league you need to have the biggest clubs fighting for the title. I’m very happy to see United coming back and they are starting to find their way under ten Hag.
The last time that Arsenal lost a game was against Manchester United, a match they didn’t deserve to lose. They were the better team on the pitch, but United were clinical. I think it will be an open game between the two most dangerous teams in the Premier League at the moment. Both teams are confident and the players are enjoying their football.
Both managers know who they will pick in their first eleven. That is really important for players - they will know there are no surprises; who will pay and who will be on the bench. Both teams have a good understanding of their tactics and the players have relationships on the pitch. This is very important for the players and the confidence of the team.
Both teams are on very good runs at the moment. If there is a team right now that can give Arsenal trouble, it is Manchester United. It is a very important game for both clubs, but if Arsenal can win this game, it will be massive for their players' confidence and send another message to the rest of the teams in the league. This has been a major difference with Arsenal this season - they have beaten all of the top clubs. In previous seasons, they didn’t beat any of them.
I think this game is a revenge opportunity for Arsenal. If I’m an Arsenal player, thinking about that defeat at Old Trafford where they were the much better team, I want to take my revenge.
They have already put the fear into every other club in the league. If you can win against Manchester United and break their unbeaten strength, I don’t think anyone will be able to stop Arsenal (from winning the title).