1. Arsenal chiefs are willing to break the bank for Dusan Vlahovic; what are your thoughts?
JP: Vlahovic is just what Arsenal needs just now and I do believe they 100% need to sign him – in fact, they should do pretty much whatever it takes to sign him. I’ve seen him and he’s an incredible striker, a great number nine with a big presence. And at the moment, Arsenal is lacking a good goal scorers, which is unusual as Arsenal, all through the years, have always had a great goal scorer; you’ve got Henry, van Persie and Ian Wright. They’ve always had a good goal scorer, that’s just one of Arsenal’s main points and I think this guy can be that. Like I said, he’s got good presence, he can hold up the ball, he’s good in the air, he’s a tall lad. And I think he would be the perfect fit with Arsenal because that’s what they’re missing. And it’d also mean that the main scorer is a young kid who plays it out wide which is Smith-Rowe, so he’s there and needing a goal scorer, so a good striker would definitely, definitely boost their places for a top four finish.
2. Does Alexandre Lacazette deserve a new deal because he has been in fine form recently?
JP: Yes, I do, to be fair, because he’s not always been a starter and he’s shown great attitude and grit and he always look like he wants to fight and work hard. And with the absence of Aubameyang, he has really proven what he can do for the team. He may not be the top goal scorer or always on the goal scoring sheet, but he does make it difficult for the other team, and he does do the runs in behind, so that the players have a space and he works his socks off. So, on based on that, and the fact that his form has been good, I’d say they should most definitely give him a new contract.
3. What can you tell me about Arsenal’s transfer policy and the thinking behind it? The club has spent the most money of any Premier League club, but do you think the Arsenal fans are underwhelmed?
JP: The recruitment side of things haven’t been great when it comes to brining in big name players. For example, they spent £77m on Pepe…that’s the same price as Virgil van Dijk.
And if you look at it like that the difference is chalk and cheese, it’s really, really bad. So, no it has not been great and I’m not surprised that fans are reacting accordingly; Arsenal is a bit club and loyal supporters are expecting more. No doubt there’s been discussions with the recruitment team and the manager on how to move forward to and to approach the transfer market to sign better players for better value.
If you look at a team like Arsenal, they’re up there with Liverpool, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man United and Man City. They’re a massive team who, not very long ago, was a team full of legends – you had Van Percy, Bergkamp, Henry and Ljungberg. It was one of the best team in the world at that time. And that’s what people are expecting to see.
However, having had the same manager for so many year, in a similar style to Manchester United, it takes time to get used to the new style of management. Being used to an old school approach, the tactics have changed as has so much else so it comes down to finding their feet again…but they need to do this pretty quickly.
But I think it’s good that they’re sticking with Arteta as one must remember that the grass isn’t always greener and sometimes you’ll have to ride it out.
4. It appears to have been a shift in Arsenal’s policy in terms of buying young players that have value in the future. Is this because previously, the transfer dealings have been poor as you’ve been left with players on high wages with no sell-on value.
JP: With Arsenal, you’ve got to look back throughout the years. They’ve never really sold players on to big clubs for large fees. It’s either their contracts ran down, Thierry Henry left because his contract ran down, he went out through to Barcelona. You’ve got a long list of players who have gone on for free including Mesut Özil, who they could have sold on should things have been dealt with differently.
It’s obvious that Arsenal isn’t one of those clubs who makes money in the transfer market, it’s always them spending. And therefore, they’ve got nothing to lose in going this way and snap up younger players as they’re rebuilding the team and set it up for the future. And as a team, they’re doing very well just now so perhaps this is the best approach. But when you look at the team, it’s absolutely unheard of that a team full of youngsters plays in the Arsenal team; they’ve gone from pure legends to kids, it’s crazy but it’s great.
5. Where do you think Arsenal could potentially end up at the end of the season? Is it top four, top six?
JP: On some of the promise I’ve seen, I’ve been really, really impressed with the youngsters and Mikel Arteta now, you know, seemed to got under his feet and the team now got an understanding. I really believe they can finish a top four. It’s going to be a battle obviously, Spurs and Man United but you know, but they’re definitely capable of being amongst them.
And in terms of team spirit and harmony amongst the players, and also the momentum, Arsenal is in a much better position than Man United at the moment; and also although Spurs have a very good manager, they’re still finding their feet under Conte, which all works in Arsenal’s favour this season.
But actually there are quite a few teams who are going through a bit of a transition just now which will allow Arsenal to obviously show what they can do, and hopefully that will continue for many more seasons too.
6. How difficult is it for the club to ask for patience, for understanding and also, for the supporters to buy into what you are doing here?
JP: It’s really difficult because when you support a team like Arsenal, you’re expecting every single season to be challenging for trophies, even though it’s a rebuilding phase to the point that they’re starting from scratch. You look at Liverpool. Even though they were on a five year Jurgen Klopp’s reign. They’re still changing and rebuilding but whilst doing so, they’re delivering. However, Arsenal has spent much for the last few years sustained by the promise of a brighter tomorrow so their supporters could be forgiven for feeling wary but there are reasons to believe they are much better positioned now than what they’ve been in a long time and it’ll be interesting to see what happens on Sunday in the North London Derby, which forms part of a wider battle for fourth place. And, with both Man United and West Ham also involved in the fight for 4th spot, it would be an amazing achievement by the young Arsenal team to get the team back playing in Champion’s League.
7. Does Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have a future at the club?
JP: I think it’s very black and white now. I don’t think he has a future at the club unfortunately. When you get a captaincy stripped, that’s a massive thing in football and is very rarely happens. So that’s very much it and he’ll have to move on.
But regardless of what happened, Aubameyang is still a great player so this could be a chance to get another big move off the back of this. As I said before, I do think he may end up at Newcastle, which would be a good move for him.
8. Romelu Lukaku following his bombshell interview… what are your thoughts…
JP: It was terribly naive and stupid from Lukaku’s part but we’ve all made mistakes in interviews and allowed emotions to run high and said things we really shouldn’t. And I must say that I think Tuchel handled the situation incredibly well and professional…I doubt that some of the previous Chelsea managers would that dealt with the situation in the same way…but pretty much the opposite. Leaving Romelu out for a game, and addressing the situation internally, to then move on meant that this ‘storm’ blew over very quickly and before you know it, people will have forgotten about it altogether. But, if Chelsea and Tuchel would have reacted really strongly, and publicly, and fuelling the fire, the whole situation would have grown arms and legs and as a result would have impacted on the actual game. Now, Lukaku has apologised and everyone has moved on. And I doubt he’ll do it again!