Mikaël Silvestre on the Premier League title race, goal celebrations, and more

Mikaël Silvestre on the Premier League title race, goal celebrations, and more
Image via Shutterstock

Written by 

Lloyd Coombes

Published 

20th Mar 2024 11:15

Mikael Silvestre has played for some of the biggest clubs in world football, including appearances for Premier League mainstays Manchester United and Arsenal.

We sat down with the former France defender to talk about the current three-horse Premier League title race, Arsenal's chances against Bayern Munich, and much, much more.

EA Sports recently added Jude Bellingham's celebration to EA FC 24. What was the best celebration you’ve ever seen and why?

“My favourite celebration ever was Ronaldo’s when he was playing for Inter Milan. When he scored, he’d sometimes run over to Francesco Moriero and put his boot on his knee and Moriero pretended to clean his boots. For me, that’s the best celebration I’ve ever seen.”

Do you believe Arsenal’s Premier League title ambitions are over if they lose away to Manchester City in their next league game on March 31st?

“I don’t think so because, for me, it’s not the title decider as there’s still plenty of games to go. If Manchester City drop three points, then it could be a turning point for Arsenal, but there’s too many games to go to say that either team would be out of the race if they lost.”

Do you believe Arsenal will be the favourites for the title if they beat Manchester City next Sunday?

“No. The one thing I can envision is that the game will be really tight, so much so that it could end as a draw. If Arsenal win, then it’s a big statement but it will be a big challenge for them. All the three teams involved in the title race are still in Europe, so it’s a busy period for them all.”

How do you expect Arsenal to get on in their two-legged encounter against Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals?

“Arsenal have a chance, but even if Bayern Munich are having a difficult season by their standards in the Bundesliga, they will be a difficult proposition for Arsenal over two legs. I would still back Arsenal to go through but Bayern Munich have such an experienced squad, so it could go either way.

"Arsenal’s form is great, but the experience Bayern Munich have in this stage of the Champions League is huge and they have that to rely on. Most of the time they show up when it gets to this stage of the competition.

"It will be a difficult test to come through and if they do, they will have to face one of Manchester City or Real Madrid in the semi-final. It’s certainly a hard road to the final for them but if they can make it, then it would be amazing.”

Do you believe that Kai Havertz has shown enough signs in recent weeks to suggest he could be Arsenal’s main man up top going forward?

“He’s been in great form recently, but he’s not a target man. He’s not an out-and-out number nine. He drifts around the forward line and he offers something different. He’s playing with more confidence at the right time in the season and that’s fantastic for himself and the team.

"He’s been influential in some wins for Arsenal and that’s been very important for the team. However, I still expect the club to be active in the summer transfer window by looking for an out-and-out number nine.”

If Arsenal do pursue a move for a striker this summer, then who do you believe they should sign?

“There’s not many top-quality strikers available this summer it seems. The main one that comes to mind is Victor Osimhen because I can’t see anybody else at the moment of a similar calibre that could realistically be available this summer. However, it’s still not definite that Osimhen will leave Napoli.” 

After his performance against Porto last week in the Champions League, do you believe David Raya has justified Mikel Arteta’s decision to make him Arsenal’s first choice goalkeeper?

“Over time I believe it’s a decision that’s been justified and David’s played well enough to secure his position as the club’s number one. Goalkeepers need continuity as they need to have a relationship with their defence, so it makes sense for Mikel Arteta to keep faith in David.”

Do you believe Aaron Ramsdale has any chance of winning his place back at any point and if not, do you believe he needs to leave the club this summer for the good of his career?

“I don’t believe now is the time to have a debate over this situation because many of the best clubs have two top goalkeepers. Aaron will have to make a decision about whether he wants to challenge David Raya and regain his number one spot or whether he wants to look for a new opportunity.”

Sky Sports Germany has claimed that Bayern Munich are prepared to sell Joshua Kimmich this summer, rather than risk losing him for free in 2025. Arsenal are said to be one of his suitors, so how excited would you be if he made the move to the Emirates this summer?

“He’s a top player and surely the Premier League should be on his radar. He will want to find the right project for him and I’m not sure if Arsenal would be the move he wants, but he could be a player that the club is looking at.

“Kimmich is a player that I like a lot. He’s very technically gifted, he’s a true professional and he would add a lot of quality to any team.”

With reports claiming that Manchester United are considering England’s Gareth Southgate as their next manager, do you believe he would be a success at Old Trafford if Erik ten Hag leaves this summer?

“I don’t believe it would be a big step for Gareth moving from international football back into club football, but it’s a completely different scenario. You can’t rule out any potential candidate, but it would be a bit of a gamble because he doesn’t have much of a track record at club level.”

If Erik ten Hag does leave Manchester United at the end of the season, then who would be your ideal choice to replace him?

“I would like Erik ten Hag to go into next season as Manchester United manager. I would like him to have the opportunity to showcase his ideas with a full squad at his disposal because this season’s been challenging for him and the team has struggled to progress.

"It’s been impossible to maintain the momentum they gained last season because a lot of key players haven’t been fit at various points of the season. I would definitely give him a third season if the decision was mine.”

Your former teammate Roy Keane recently urged Manchester United to move for Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins, stating that the England international could play for a “top team.” Is this something that you agree with?

“I do agree with that, yes. He’s made good enough progress to play for an even bigger club in the Premier League and Manchester United are a huge name, but they’re not at the same level as Arsenal, Liverpool or Manchester City at this moment. However, I do believe he’s good enough to play for Manchester United at this point in their transition.”

Reports are circulating claiming that Paris Saint-Germain are prepared to make a £75 million to sign Marcus Rashford this summer and in your opinion, do you believe Marcus would thrive in the French capital?

“It would be great for PSG, and Ligue 1 in general, if Marcus made the move to Paris and I’m sure he would be successful there if the transfer came to fruition. He would thrive in Ligue 1 if he made the switch and he would play in an exciting team full of young, talented players.

"PSG are a club that are hungry for trophies and they’ve got ambitions of not only winning the league and the cup, but the Champions League most importantly.”

Do you believe Marcus could potentially push for the move?

“I believe Marcus would only want to leave if he feels as if he’s being pushed away and not being considered by the manager and the senior management at the club. Otherwise, I can’t see him leaving this summer because he came through the ranks at Manchester United and he’s a Manchester lad.

"If he feels considered and he’s shown the love, then I don’t believe he will be interested in leaving Old Trafford.”

With speculation suggesting that Manchester United are prioritising a move for a centre-back this summer, who do you realistically want them to pursue?

“I would move for Jarrad Branthwaite. He’s the player I’d want to come to the club and challenge Raphaël Varane and Lisandro Martínez. Hopefully, he can come and win himself some gametime.”

Do you believe Branthwaite could struggle for gametime if he moved to Manchester United when Lisandro Martínez is fit considering that they’re both left-footed centre-backs?

“I believe you can have two left-footed centre-backs in a defensive pairing. Obviously both of them would ideally like to play on the left-side of the two, but it’s possible for one of them to move over to the right and still do a good job.

"Both of them could play in a back three because we’ve seen it in the past when Luke Shaw has tucked into that role, so I’d still consider this move for Manchester United. You don’t even know if Martínez will be fit as he’s been injured at times since arriving at the club last season.”

Who do you believe has been Manchester United’s best player this season?

“For me, Diogo Dalot has been Manchester United’s best player this season. He’s remained fit, and consistent and we’re watching him come into the peak of his career at 25 years old. He’s improved defensively and I’ve been very happy with him this season. He’s been the best player for Manchester United this campaign.”

Reports have suggested that Newcastle United may have to sell their talisman Bruno Guimarães to fund their summer spending spree. If there’s any truth in this rumour, do you believe either of your former clubs, Arsenal and Manchester United, should be in the fight for his signature?

“He’s a player that should definitely be attracting the top teams in the Premier League. He’s got a great engine and great passion for the game. During his time in Europe, his progression has been evident and it would be a huge shame for Newcastle to lose their best player to help them finance their summer spending. If they are prepared to sell him, then I’m sure they will find the right suitors for Bruno.”

Who do you believe has been the best player in the Premier League this season?

“I believe Declan Rice has been the best player in the Premier League this season. He’s shown quality, consistency, leadership and he’s one of the main reasons why Arsenal are pushing for the Premier League title this season.”

Lloyd is GGRecon's Editor-in-Chief, having previously worked at Dexerto and Gfinity, and occasionally appears in The Daily Star newspaper. A big fan of loot-based games including Destiny 2 and Diablo 4, when he's not working you'll find him at the gym or trying to play Magic The Gathering.

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