Speaking exclusively to Lord Ping, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender has lifted the lid on who he thinks will and won’t win the Premier League this season, plus his latest take on his former teams.
- Ange Postecoglu should have changed his ‘crazy’ tactics against Chelsea
- Spurs won’t beat Man City without James Maddison or Micky van de Ven
- Lionel Messi is wrong on Cristian Romero - he can’t control his emotions
- Trevoh Chalobah may lack the ‘quality’ to play for Chelsea
- Arsenal won’t win the Premier League trophy
- Mikel Arteta won’t be sacked if he wins nothing - but he cannot finish third
What have you made of Tottenham’s decision to continue to attack and play a high line? Would you prefer to play a bit deeper in that situation?
WG - ''The game against Chelsea was crazy! Especially when you're playing with nine men, with Eric Dier at the back, who's not the fastest. I didn't understand the high-line tactic, especially with the counter-attacking style of play when Spurs were leading 1-0. It was crazy, and I don't know why the manager didn't change his tactics.
“I was watching the game and I knew Tottenham would concede. There were just too many opportunities for Chelsea - especially when you consider the players they've got, such as Sterling, Mudryk, and Jackson. They're all very fast, and when you're playing against those kinds of players, you can't play so high with 9 men. ''
Guglielmo Vicario was absolutely superb - has he been Spurs’ player of the season so far?
WG - ''Vicario is having a good season and I think he's surprised a lot of people. I didn't know of him before, and I've been wowed by what I've seen. That save he made from Cucurella was unbelievable! You have to give Guglielmo Vicario a lot of credit, particularly when you consider how well Tottenham have done since he came in. He's made some great saves this season, and not just last night.''
How will Spurs cope without James Maddison, can they beat Manchester City this weekend?
WG - ''I think, after last night, Spurs' will find it very difficult to respond with a victory in the next game. That game against Chelsea could put their hands down. They had two red cards, and lost 4-1, even if they fought for the whole game. I think that Spurs will be very disappointed as they had the opportunity to get three points. It didn't happen in the end.
“They also lost two players to injury, Maddison and Van de Ven. Van de Ven is particularly important for Tottenham, and it'll be hard for Tottenham over the next few weeks.''
Ledley King, your former teammate, is in the news after a great article recently. Just how good was he and where does he rank amongst your favourite centre-back partners?
WG - ''I had the chance to play with Ledley King, and he was almost always injured, and he couldn't play his best football. Before the injuries, though, he was one of the best centre-backs around. I didn't know him well, but I played against him, and he was just magnificent. He had everything - the technique, the physicality, and he could read the game very well.
“When I joined Tottenham, I started to learn about him and his injury issues. I know it was really hard for him, because we spoke to each other a lot. I know how down he felt. He missed out on some great years! When your mind is not fully free and you're worried about injuries, it can really affect your football. I know it was really difficult for him.
“He could've been one of the best defenders in the world. He had so much quality. What surprised me was seeing him play in midfield in Euro 2004, just in front of the centre-backs. He was magnificent. It's not easy to play in a different position, but his technique and quality made it easy for him. Ledley was, for me, a player of the highest quality, and it was a shame that he never fully showcased his ability.”
How far do you think Ledley could've gone? Could he have played for Real Madrid or Manchester United in his prime?
WG - ''There's no doubt that Ledley could've played for the elite clubs with his quality.”
Spurs have played some great football under Ange Postecoglu this season. Can they win the Premier League without the distraction of European football?
WG - “I said before the season started that Tottenham won't be champions, but they'll qualify for the Champions League. They play attractive football, but with the loss against Chelsea, Spurs can't take too much damage. They have to go back onto the pitch and get back to winning ways. That'll be so important. If they don't, they will drop points and lose confidence.”
Cristian Romero was sent-off last night. What do you think of his performances so far? Would you have enjoyed playing with him in defence?
WG - ''It's very difficult for me to understand how a player like Romero, a World Champion, can get a red card like that. He was on the red-line 10 minutes before his sending-off and he was making silly fouls. Romero was lucky not to have been sent off earlier, and then I don't know what happened to him with the challenge he made.
“He touched the ball first, but he didn't control his movement. He deserved the red card. I think Tottenham were in a bad situation after that. It's difficult to understand why Romero couldn't control himself. He's the most experienced defender at Tottenham, and you need players like that in these big games. Perhaps Romero's mind switched off, but that shouldn't be the case. It's not the first time.”
Lionel Messi says Cristian Romero is ‘one of the best in the world’. Do you agree or is he too rash?
WG - ''The world's best defenders control their emotions, and a player like Romero has the talent to be one of the best defenders in the world, but he has to control his emotions. He's not doing that right now. He's a very important player, and Spurs needed him to beat Chelsea, but he made two mistakes in the game, including that silly challenge in the box.”
Where do Tottenham need to strengthen in January to push for the title?
WG - ''Spurs can give Manchester City, Arsenal, and the other top sides problems if they stay injury-free. Spurs play very high and they like to put pressure on the opponent, and it's always good to see a team play like this. Tottenham need to continue playing like this, and they'll need all of their players. There's no guarantee that new signings would settle, and I'd say Spurs' squad is already good enough as it is.''
How impressed have you been with Micky Van de Ven and how much will Spurs miss him?
WG - “I'm not sure if Spurs will continue playing their high defensive line as Van de Ven is the quickest defender they have. With him injured, I think Spurs would be in trouble if they continued to play this way. You can already see how important Van de Ven is, and perhaps the manager needs to change his tactics and not play as high.”
Wilfried Ndidi has been linked with a move, what do you make of this potential transfer?
WG - ''I don't know if Tottenham need more midfielders as they already have plenty. I don't think they need another. Maybe they need to look for another winger. I wouldn't say midfield is an area of concern.''
Levi Colwill started the game at left-back, but does he deserve to start in his preferred position of centre-back?
WG - ''I like Colwill and it was interesting to see him play at left-back. He's strong, quick, and has a good left foot. He's not afraid to go forward, either. I think Colwill needs to control his emotions, and perhaps that's why Pochettino played Cucurella. I could see an argument with Sarr at half-time, and Colwill received a yellow card.
“I think it was a smart move by Pochettino. I think Colwill is a good player, but he has to improve in this aspect. He can give other options at either left-back or a centre-back in a back-three. He's a good player.”
What did you think of Mauricio Pochettino's return to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium?
WG - ''I think it was a very emotional game for Pochettino and it couldn't have been easy for him to sit on the other side. It's never easy to come back to your former club and you need to control your emotions and focus on coaching your team. Only the result can speak for the coach, and Pochettino left his old home with the three points.''
Reece James survived a VAR check for an elbow. Did you think he was lucky to escape and what did you make of his return to the team?
WG- ''We can spend hours talking about VAR, and it can be very difficult to understand the reaction of the players, especially with the VAR. Players have to be careful. I know some players are very passionate and they want to give everything for the shirt they're wearing, but they have to be careful. Reece James was very close to getting a red, or even orange, card! I think he'll learn from this, as he may not be so lucky next time.''
What will Nicolas Jackson's hat trick do for his confidence?
WG - ''Scoring goals will always boost the confidence of a striker, and Jackson's hat trick will definitely boost him, and we'll see that confidence carry over into his next games. Chelsea need a striker who'll score at least 20 goals a season. I don't know if Jackson will do that, but at least he's scoring. I hope more goals come for him.”
Who should Chelsea look to bring in to support Nicholas Jackson?
WG - ''I think Chelsea should stick with the squad they have. They've bought so many players, and the squad needs to get to know each other. It's looking like Chelsea are slowly starting to improve. I said a few months ago that the Chelsea squad isn't ready to fight for the title or qualify for the Champions League. They will, however, improve from last season. I'm sure that they'll be very strong next season and the one after.''
Romelu Lukaku's 2021 move to Chelsea was one of the biggest disasters in Premier League history. Do you think there's any way back for him in this side?
WG- ''I think Lukaku is better-off not coming back and I don't think he'll want to come back to Chelsea. He felt, for some reason, that Chelsea aren't the club for him and he has to move on.''
Where does Lukaku rank among the most disappointing Premier League transfers?
WG - ''I don't know, to be honest. I know Lukaku was very happy to come back to Chelsea at the time and he wanted to show how good he was. It didn't happen for him. Perhaps he had too much pressure on his shoulders and perhaps the system didn't fit him. That would explain why he didn't score many goals. I think we all have to move on from Lukaku and wish him all the best in his career. He needs to focus on his football.''
Victor Osimhen has been linked, what do you make of that potential signing?
WG - ''Victor Osimhen joining Chelsea would harm the confidence of players like Nicolas Jackson. You have to be careful and really think about bringing in a new striker. As I said before, I think Chelsea should finish the season with Jackson and see how many goals he gets. We also need to see how he improves. He has the quality to do so. Chelsea need to let Jackson get to work.''
Trevoh Chalobah is the latest academy player to be linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge. Is this a mistake to let him go? We've seen Mason Mount also leave this season.
WG - ''In my opinion, Chablobah leaving Chelsea wouldn't be a mistake. He's played a lot of games for Chelsea, but he had the chance to cement himself in the starting 11, and I don't think he gave what the board or manager would have expected. That's why he's been in and out of the starting 11.
“Perhaps Chalobah doesn't have the quality for a club like Chelsea, and the club letting him go would be a completely different context to someone like Mason Mount. I think people understand why Mount left, even if his transfer to Man United was a mistake. His performances haven't been great. Mount was a Chelsea boy, but they couldn't find a solution. It was a mistake.”
Should Chelsea do more to keep their young players?
WG - ''Chelsea need to give their youth players more chances to be in the first team and improve their football by bringing them into the squad slowly. Football is very dangerous sometimes, especially when you're dealing with young players. If you give them everything at the beginning, players can feel lost. They can play five or six games in the Premier League and think they don't need to improve any more because they've achieved their goal.
“Footballers play so many games during their career, and they have to work hard to stay in the starting 11. I think Chelsea have to work on this and keep their young players and slowly work on them.''
After the controversy at Newcastle, do you think football still needs VAR?
WG - ''We can spend an hour talking about VAR decisions this season! It was brought in to help the referees with how football is changed. The game is a lot faster now; it's not easy for the refs or the linesmen to see everything. Decisions like the Newcastle one are difficult to understand, and it wasn't just the goal. Two players should have been sent-off, and we don't know why they weren't. VAR is starting to make people angry, and that is not good.''
What was your reaction to Anthony Gordon's goal being given?
WG - ''The first situation was one when the ball was out of play and we don't understand why they didn't cancel that goal. The second situation was when Joelinton pushed Gabriel, and there were too many situations to rule-out the goal. I'm a football fan who wore the Arsenal jersey, and I know Arsenal are fighting to stay on City's back, and situations like this can be very difficult to accept. It's not easy for the players as they have to hold in their frustration, and the people behind VAR need to be careful about the decisions they make.''
Are Arsenal title contenders this season, or are they still missing something?
WG - ''I think Arsenal are missing something this season. That's why I don't think they will be champions this season. That's my opinion. Arsenal and Tottenham's results have given City the chance to go top of the league.
Especially with Liverpool's draw against Luton!
WG - ''We all know how good Manchester City are and you have to put pressure on them. That means staying on their tails or even being in front of them. Arsenal and Spurs dropped points, and now City are in front and they'll be full of confidence. They have Pep Guardiola in charge! The season may be long, but the door was briefly open before City slammed it shut! If Arsenal or Spurs were still in front, it would put pressure on City. It's going to be hard for the London teams to be champions, unfortunately.’’
Is there anything, in particular, you feel Arsenal are missing?
WG - ''I think Arsenal are capable of winning important games, such as the one against City, but we expect them to drop points, and we don't know why. The Newcastle game was what it was. We all know how tough it is to play against Newcastle, but Arsenal had to leave with the three points. That's the difference between a team with a lot of character and a team without it. Man City have a lot of character and we saw that in their wins over Manchester United and Sheffield United, and that one was in the last minute!
“We know how tough the Premier League is, and you need to have players who will give the team security. You need to have the right strikers and right defenders. Arsenal have a good squad, but they need that player who will drag them out of tough situations. They don't have that player at the moment.’’
“Arsenal need an influential player who can change games.'’
Declan Rice has been superb since joining the club, are you surprised at how good he has been?
WG - ''I wasn't surprised with how well Declan Rice has started at Arsenal - I was just waiting for him to sign! He can help take Arsenal to another level, and what he's doing is great. He has to keep performing as he is and keep hitting new levels, with more responsibility. He's very important in the midfield department. He's really great, but he needs to score more goals - we know he's capable of that. He'll be very important for both Arsenal and the English national team. He has the quality to keep hitting new levels.’’
Conversely, some of Arsenal’s summer signings haven’t quite clicked. Have the likes of Kai Havertz and David Raya disappointed you?
WG - ''I can't really give too much insight into the goalkeeper - you'd have to speak to someone who knows that position well. It's such a unique position. I've talked about Havertz before as I knew him from his Chelsea days. I'm watching how the attacking players move and their overall quality. I used to play against them every week!
“It's a different situation for the goalkeeper, though, and that's why I can't speak about David Raya too much. I do, however, think it was very difficult for people to understand why Arsenal changed their goalkeeper. Only Arteta can explain that one!''
Will Mikel Arteta’s job be under scrutiny if the club fails to win anything this season?
WG - ''I don't think Arteta's job will be under scrutiny if Arsenal fail to win anything this season. He's been very positive for the club. It wasn't easy at the beginning, but he slowly explained his outlook to his players. Arsenal finished second last season, and they're fighting for the title again this season. It looks as if Arsenal are slowly coming back. We know managers want to lift trophies, and Arteta has already done that this season with the Community Shield. I don't think he'll be under pressure if he doesn't win anything else.’’
What do you think is the highest position Arsenal can finish in this season?
WG - ''Arsenal have to finish second this season. Anything else, including third, will be a failure.''
Who else would make up your top four at the end of the season?
WG - ''I'd go for Man City, Arsenal, Tottenham, and Liverpool in my top four.’’
No room for Man United or Chelsea?
WG - ''I don't think Chelsea will make the top four. If they do, it means that Tottenham will have collapsed. That's the only way it can happen.''
We've also seen Aston Villa and Newcastle have impressive seasons. Is the top four a bridge too far for them?
WG - ''I watched Villa lose to Nottingham Forest, and I don't think they'll reach the top four. Newcastle will drop points in the second half of the season, I think. The top four will finish with Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Tottenham - in that order.’’
Bukayo Saka has played five games without a goal or assist. Has he simply played too much football recently and needs a rest?
WG - ''I think Buyako Saka could be a bit tired, and perhaps he needs a little rest to come back fresh. A winger who doesn't score or assist for five games isn't at his best and isn't playing with full energy. Perhaps he needs some rest, but the question will be when that rest will occur. He's such an important player for Arsenal and it'll be tough to leave him on the bench, or even on the stand!''
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