Cardiff will be tough, but these are the games Arsenal have to win
Arsenal got their first League victory under Unai Emery last weekend, what impressed you most about their display?
Well first half, West Ham had some chances which was a little worrying. On another day they could have scored three goals, their finishing wasn’t great.
But Arsenal showed a bit of character. And I do believe that Lacazette coming on changed the game. With Aubameyang then playing a little bit deeper and coming in from the left-hand flank it was more effective. Because Lacazette runs in behind when he plays up top, there’s not many others that do that at the club.
Whether Emery looks at playing them both together moving forward we’ll have to wait and see. In certain games, where Arsenal are expected to win, like at the weekend, I think we might see him starting with them both.
But in general, the team showed good character, obviously going behind, to come back and win the game quite comfortably in the end.
Next up it’s Cardiff City away, how do you see that one going?
It’ll be a tricky game. We know Neil Warnock sides make it really difficult. They’re always physical. I’m sure Neil will be saying to his team ‘Win those first tackles and get in their faces”. Set plays might be an important part from Cardiff’s point of view too.
But you’d expect Arsenal to win it. They’ll be firm favourites with the bookmakers and rightly so. These are games they have to win. After a tricky start with Manchester City and Chelsea, they’ve got that first victory, so Emery will be relieved. But these are the sort of games where you’ve got to go away and grind out a result sometimes. They might not be brilliant to watch but as a player you’ve got to dig it out and get a result. And by five, six o’clock when you’re getting on that team bus you need to be thinking ‘yeah that was a tough game but we managed to get the three points’ and that’s what these Arsenal players have got to do.
If they’re going to have any chance of getting into the top 4, which looks difficult anyway, these are the games they have to win.
Another of your former team’s Middlesbrough have made a great start to their Championship campaign. How do you rate their promotion chances?
I don’t think anyone takes anything for granted in the Championship these days. I mean the line-up in that division this season is amazing. Games come thick and fast and you’re talking about a real grind for the whole season. The most consistent teams always end up at the top of the league.
Middlesbrough have started really well. I think Tony Pulis is one of those managers who tries to take the pressure off his players by saying ‘I don’t think we’re quite good enough to go up this season’, while behind the scenes they’ll definitely be targeting promotion.
It’s the top two in the Championship tomorrow night, Leeds vs. Middlesbrough. Looking forward to that one?
It should be a cracking game. Leeds United under their new manager have started brilliantly as well. I watched them against Swansea and it was one of their poorer performances, but they still got a result. As much as I’d love to see one of my old teams Middlesbrough or Hull City back in the Premier League, another club that I’d be thrilled to see back in the big time is Leeds United. I had some wonderful games at Elland Road. When it’s a full house there, it’s a fantastic atmosphere. They’re had their problems obviously, going down to League One but hopefully they can be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.
I see both Middlesbrough and Leeds mounting a challenge for those top spots come the end of the season.
As ever, Manchester United are dominating the back pages, what do you make of the current situation at Old Trafford?
It was a really strange game on Monday night. Spurs were excellent, there’s no doubting that. A fantastic performance and great win for Pochettino’s men. But at times in the game I thought Man United played really well. Lukaku obviously missed that big chance to put Man United 1-0 up and had he scored then, it might have been a different story.
I know it was 3-0 and that looks like a very poor result from Man United’s perspective. But if you watch the game it probably wasn’t a reflection of the match itself.
They’ve got Burnley away next up, who themselves haven’t started great. And I think, if they can play like they did against Spurs, they will definitely get three points from that one. They just need to try and click and get that bit of belief back in. They were always playing against a very good side in Tottenham, a team in great form and high on confidence. But I don’t think the performance was as bad as the result. I think Mourinho will look back on the game and know that it was a poor result, they’ve conceded three goals at home, but on the positive side some of their play was very good and he’ll know if they can play like that week in week out they’ll pick up plenty of points.
Mourinho’s the current favourite to be first managerial casualty of the Premier League season. Do you think he will be?
I don’t think he’ll walk away. He’s not the type to do that, so he’ll have to get pushed out the door. The spotlight is always on Manchester United, it’s a massive club with a big, big expectation. But I think Jose is a manager who will keep working hard to change it around.
There’s a lot of managers who will be worrying about their position and I think the odds will change every week. A couple of bad results and suddenly you’re under pressure. Take Pellegrini at West Ham, after just two games this season we’ve heard West Ham fans wanting him out of the club already. You don’t get a lot of time in modern football management these days.
But Jose will be staying strong in this tricky situation. And I think they will bounce back and get a result against Burnley. Then suddenly you’re looking at it and saying, ‘yeah we’ve had a bad result against Spurs but we’ve bounced back and now we’ll kick on’. A lot can change in a couple of weeks in football.