Former England international Shaun Wright-Phillips spoke exclusively to Best Of Bets about the fortunes of his former clubs Chelsea and Man City, as well as Frank Lampard’s situation at Everton.
Wright-Phillips believes both his former teammate Lampard and Chelsea boss Graham Potter need time to turn their clubs around; he also assessed the transfer policy at Stamford Bridge under Todd Boehly. Find his exclusive interview here:
What do you make of the situation facing Graham Potter right now?
“It’s tough. Of course, I still love the club, still love the fans there and it’s tough to see them go through it. But I think in general, with everything that’s happened at Chelsea in the last two years, obviously with the situation with Roman [Abramovich] and somebody finally coming in, [Thomas] Tuchel getting sacked and the new manager coming in, I think it’s going to take time to change.
“And it’s not just a change at manager level, it’s a change for the whole club. All of those things take time, it’s not something that happens overnight. I think if Chelsea want the success they once had, they need to give a manager like Graham Potter that time. You don’t become a bad coach overnight. In general, he’s proven in the last few years with Brighton how capable a manager he is, with the players he improved and the position he left them in. Once he gets 11 first team players fit and the squad playing the way he wants, I think Chelsea are going to become a massive problem in the Premier League.”
What have you made of Chelsea’s transfer policy under Todd Boehly?
“It’s a bit fire off the hip if I’m honest! You can see what they’re trying to do. A lot of the players they are signing are very young, which goes back to a model that City had, Liverpool and Arsenal have done it, and Newcastle are going down that route too. At the minute because it’s an emergency with the injuries, a lot of the signings are a bit panic buy.
“But in general, the players they have signed – especially Joao Felix – and the centre back Benoit Badiashile who played the other night, he was outstanding as well, are good. So it’s just a matter of gelling them and Potter getting his head together for them to play the way he wants them to play.”
What do you make of new Chelsea signing Mykhailo Mudryk?
“I’ve seen him in the Champions League. I think he’s something that Chelsea have needed. If you go back to the days of [Arjen] Robben, [Damien] Duff, partly myself, Joe Cole – Chelsea could play direct with those wingers. They would get the ball down and take people on. There’s a guarantee that Mudryk will do that, he will get at defenders and get to the byline and put a ball in, or get shots off.
“And when Joao Felix started against Fulham, I thought he brought something to that team that we hadn’t seen in a long while, going past people and trying to create chances. He was a catalyst in that first half against Fulham – Chelsea had 18 shots in the first half, which I don’t think they’ve had in a full season or longer. That’s the part of Chelsea I’ve thought was missing. You can only defend for so long, you have to give something at the top end and I think he [Mudryk] will do that.”
What about your former Chelsea teammate Frank Lampard, can he turn things around at Everton?
“He’s having a tough one. But the thing at the moment is the fans are more focussed at the board, which in a sense takes a little pressure off Frank. The fans are realising it’s not just the manager, because they’ve changed the manager so many times in the last two years. It’s not the manager, it’s not the players, it’s starting from the top.
“We know Everton have got the nice stadium coming, but they need investment, in coaching staff, physios, extra players – and the fans want the owners to put their hands in their pockets. Everton is a massive club; they’re one of two clubs that have never been relegated and nobody wants to see that happen. I think Frank can turn things around, but one thing that’s so hard for a coach to stop is individual errors around the pitch, those lapses of concentration. Everton need to nip that in the bud, play like they did against Man City for example, and you’ll be surprised how many points they can pick up.”
What about Manchester City? How did you assess their performance in the Manchester derby?
“I thought the performance was good, to be honest. They possessed the ball, they created chances and they controlled the game. It was good in a way and for the neutral, to see Man United on the verge of coming back, because we always want a derby to be feisty, end-to-end and not one team dominating.
“The turning point was that bizarre offside decision that wasn’t given because once that happened, in a way it spoiled the game. I just thought it was offside. I couldn’t get my head around it, for the officials to say [Marcus] Rashford is not attempting to play the ball, yet what he’s done changed the decision of the two centre-backs and the goalkeeper, because they’re assuming he’s offside. To be fair, I was raging! But that’s football and that one game doesn’t define anything in my opinion.”
What do you think of where Man City are at right now and why things haven’t quite gone to plan?
“See, I don’t actually think it’s gone that wrong. People are starting to question a lot of things that, in my view, don’t need to be questioned. The only thing I can say is that we’re used to see City score a lot of goals away from home. That’s tailed off a little bit from earlier in the season. But otherwise they’re dominating games and scoring goals. You’ve got [Erling] Haaland on 21 goals – that’s two goals away from what the golden boot has been in previous seasons.
“Ultimately the Premier League is the toughest league in the world, there are no easy games, and you’ve got a team like Arsenal who are absolutely flying right now and playing at 100 per cent every game. Whether they can carry that on until the end of the season, remains to be seen. All it takes is for Arsenal to draw a couple of games and City to win a couple and the table looks completely different again. Anything can change even within the next month.”
Should Man City consider going into the January market to help them?
“Where would you buy? In defence, you’ve had [John] Stones with a little niggle, you’ve got [Ruben] Dias on the way back, [Aymeric] Laporte on the verge of coming back. At full-back, you’ve got [Joao] Cancelo, Sergio Gomez and [Kyle] Walker and then you’ve got Rico Lewis. At the moment, not everyone’s fit, so I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. City have got brilliant and elite talents double in every position.
“I personally don’t think there’s a rush to buy players or a reason to go into the January market. They’ve had that transfer philosophy for some time and it’s been working. The players they buy have to suit the way they play, like Akanji and Gomez slotting in from the summer. The recruitment is so perfect and tailor-made to the City foundations, it’s almost like they’ve come through the academy. The only difference is Haaland, but they’ve adapted to the way he plays and he’s adapted to City.”
What’s your prediction for how the top four will finish?
“Just to wind my dad up I’m going to say City first, Arsenal second, and I actually think Newcastle are going to finish in the top four. The way they’re playing, especially defensively with I think 11 clean sheets this season, is phenomenal. The last one is the hardest but I’m gonna say United, I think they’ll sneak in there, saying that through gritted teeth!”