Emery will take the Europa League seriously this season
Your old side Arsenal travel to Newcastle on Saturday, what are you expecting from that one?
Its so important Arsenal get a good result up there. Obviously last time out at Cardiff they made hard work of it, but they came away with the three points. Their away record hasn’t been great, but if they are going to get into the Top 4 that has to improve massively.
With Aubameyang and Lacazette and the way they played at Cardiff, it’s hard to see Arsenal not scoring. If they can get the win there, suddenly people might be looking at it and thinking things are going in the right direction.
Investment is always going to the the problem at Newcastle. They’ve got a great fan base, a fantastic stadium and a terrific manager in Rafa Benitez. He’s the sort of man you want in charge if you come under pressure, he’s been there and done it. I think there are worse teams than Newcastle and I don’t see them going down, but they do need to get points on the board. And they’ll look at this match, have seen that Arsenal conceded twice to Cardiff, and be thinking ‘lets have a go and put them on the ropes a little’. Benitez will know that Arsenal are pretty vulnerable from set-plays and to balls arriving into the box from out wide. There will be spells in the game where Newcastle are on top. It should be an entertaining match.
European football returns next week, how do you see Arsenal approaching the Europa League this season?
In the early stages I think they’ll be rotating their squad. They know they’ve got to do the best they can in the Premier League, but the good thing about the Europa League is that if you qualify for the latter stages, you’ve got that bit of a break before the knockouts begin. In that time you wait and see where you are in the league. If Arsenal are sixth and a bit adrift of the top four by February, then they’ve got to put all their eggs in one basket like they did last season.
Emery’s got a terrific record in the competition and I think he’ll take it seriously. I think it could be a very important competition for the club. Not only would it mean getting a trophy, and trophies are hard to come by these days, but of course you also get back into the Champions League.
And speaking of the Champions League, how do you see the English teams getting on and who’s going to win it?
I think Man City are the ones. The Champions League is the trophy they really want and Pep will be desperate for. They were brilliant in the Premier League last season getting the 100 points, now they want to prove they’re the best in Europe. They’re the favourites with the bookmakers and I think that’s right, they are the ones to beat.
But then you’ve got Real Madrid of course and Juventus now with Ronaldo. And you can never look past Barcelona. That’s before you’ve even talked about Bayern Munich or PSG. So many big-hitters.
Liverpool will take a lot of confidence from making the Final last season, but they’ve got a really tough group. As have Spurs. But I’d expect them both to come through those and then it’s really about who’s waiting in the knockout rounds.
With Man United it’s hard to judge because they’ve been so up and down in the league already this season but they should get through their group as well.
But I’m backing City overall. I think it could be a really special year for them. If they can win the Champions League and retain their Premier League title, which will be a bit more difficult this season I expect, then Pep and the owners will be delighted. They’ve certainly got the squad to do it.