William Gallas talks Arsenal's title chances, Sadio Mané and the next Spurs manager
William Gallas has made over 300 Premier League appearances, turning out for the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham Hotspur.
He's also made over 80 appearances for France, as well as playing top-level football in France and Australia to bookend an impressive career. We sat down with the former centre-half to talk about the title tilt, transfer rumours, and who he believes should be the next Spurs manager.
Are you, or were you, an avid gamer yourself? If so, what’s your console of choice and what’s your game of choice?
“My console of choice was the PlayStation and when I was by myself I would play the Formula 1 games. I’m a big fan of F1 and I usually opted against playing FIFA or any football-related games.”
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Now onto the football, do you believe that Arsenal have blown their chance of winning the Premier League title after dropping six points from a possible nine? What’s your prediction for Manchester City vs Arsenal tomorrow evening?
“I believe it will be really difficult for Arsenal to win the Premier League now. I believe the players are affected by their recent run of draws, despite the fact they’ve not lost. They led 2-0 against West Ham United and ended up conceding two goals, they then went and played Southampton and they were 2-0 down after 15 minutes. That’s not acceptable to be honest, especially when you’re fighting for the Premier League table. They may have drawn the game, but they had to use a lot of their energy when they were fighting to come back.
“They now go to Manchester City against players with title-winning experience and players that have the ability to do a lot of damage to their opponents. Arsenal have to be very strong and compact. They have to fight otherwise Manchester City are going to be champions.”
How affected do you believe Arsenal have been in the title run-in by William Saliba’s injury?
“The answer is very simple, since Saliba has been injured, Arsenal have been worse defensively and have conceded goals that they shouldn’t have. It’s difficult for me to understand because when you play at the back, you need to have a leader. You need one player who can lead that line and I don’t believe Gabriel has done that properly in Saliba’s absence. Young centre-backs need to play alongside an experienced player and I don’t believe Arsenal have an experienced centre-back in their squad.
“Saliba and Gabriel understand each other and that’s why they’re strong together, but now Saliba is injured, Gabriel needs to be the leader of that defensive line and we haven’t seen him do that and in fact, we’ve seen him make errors that have led to goals. It’s been a big blow to Arsenal to not have Saliba.”
If Arsenal fail to win the Premier League title this season, then will the campaign be deemed as a failure in your opinion?
“Yes, definitely. It will be a failure because they’ve been very, very close to being champions. It’s been in their own hands for a long time, so if it doesn’t happen, they will have a lot of regret. “Next season they will be playing in the Champions League and this season they will finish second if they’re not champions, but they will deeply regret missing the opportunity to be a champion and letting the title slip in the final few games of the season. I’m sure all the players and everybody at the club will regret when they’ve dropped points and I believe to win the title from this position will be hard for them.
“If they don’t end up winning the title then it’s going to be very difficult for this squad to move on. Nobody knows what’s going to happen next season and as a former player, I know exactly how difficult it is when you’re trying to win games, remain on top of the table and win the Premier League title. You need to make a lot of sacrifices. You have to play every two or three days and you have to be at the very top of your performance levels, so that’s why if they don’t win the Premier League title this season, I believe it should be seen as a failure.”
Do you believe Arsenal will compete for the Premier League again next season?
“They will challenge for the title next season. Arsenal is Arsenal and Arsenal is one of the best clubs in England. Big clubs are always challenging for the title, so I’m not worried about them failing to do that next season. The only thing I’m worried about is whether they’re going to win it because some of the clubs that have not performed this season, the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United, will be competing next season along with Arsenal. It’s going to be more difficult for Arsenal to win the Premier League next season.”
Manchester City are said to be open to selling centre-back Aymeric Laporte this summer. If he was to become available, then would you advise any of your former Premier League clubs to attempt to sign him?
“I believe that Aymeric is a good player, but I don’t know if the Premier League suits him. With the quality he has, I believe he would suit La Liga more. He’s the type of player that doesn’t like the physical side of the game and the Premier League is very physical. It’s not the same in Spain or other countries across Europe and I’m sure if he went to Spain he would do very well there, but at Manchester City, he’s currently sitting on the bench. Perhaps Pep Guardiola has seen some weakness in his game and that’s why he decides to not play him in Manchester City’s starting eleven.”
After a reported bust-up with his teammate Leroy Sané, Sadio Mané could be on his way out of Bayern Munich this summer. Would you encourage any of your former Premier League clubs to try and bring him back to England?
“We all know about the quality of Sadio Mané. He was magnificent when he played for Liverpool in the Premier League and unfortunately, it looks like something’s happened at Bayern Munich where they’re prepared to let him go.
“He’s a world-class player in my eyes and If he wants to come back to the Premier League, I believe Arsenal have to jump at the opportunity to sign him. Chelsea have too many players at the club already, so I don’t believe they will pursue a move for him.”
Arsenal are said to have made a shock enquiry to sign Chelsea’s N'Golo Kanté. He’s potentially available on a free transfer this summer, so in your opinion, should Arsenal do all they possibly can to sign N’Golo?
“We all know the quality of N’Golo and what he can do. He’s a player that any manager would like to have, so if Arsenal has the opportunity to sign him then yes, why not? If you’re playing in the Champions League next season, then you’re going to need more quality players in the squad and N’Golo Kanté can bring different things. He already knows what it takes to play in the Premier League and it’s not too far from Chelsea, so it would be nice to see him remain in London and the Premier League.
“Unfortunately he’s been injured for a lot of this season, so everybody wants to see him back on the pitch with his big smile and if Arsenal can give him the opportunity to play in the Champions League, then it’s a good move for both parties.”
Two other soon-to-be free agents that Arsenal are suggested to have an interest in are Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha and Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans. Now they’re clearly value-for-money signings if either sign on a free, but do you believe either player is good enough to be a part of this current Arsenal squad?
“I like the quality of Youri Tielemans and I watched him when he played for Monaco before his move to Leicester City. He’s a player that can provide Arsenal with different qualities and as next season could be a long one for Arsenal, considering they’re in the Champions League and other competitions, then Tielemans could be a useful member of that squad. I don’t know whether Arsenal wants to sign Tielemans, but I believe he would be a good signing for them as they could do with a few more midfielders in his position.”
Mason Mount is heavily linked with a move to Arsenal and Liverpool at present. Firstly, which move do you believe will be best for Mason and secondly, do you believe he will depart Stamford Bridge believing he could have done more during his time with the club?
“I don’t know what’s happened to Mason Mount at Chelsea. I don’t know why he’s in a situation where it looks as if he’s going to leave the club. It’s very difficult to understand because a few years ago, he was one of Chelsea’s best players and now he’s disappeared. I believe it will be difficult for him to leave Chelsea, even if he has to do it. I don’t know where he will go, but if he signs for either Arsenal or Liverpool, he’s going to have to fight to get in either club’s starting eleven. It won’t be easy for him wherever he goes.
“Regardless of whether his contract situation is the reason behind his loss of form, you still need to do everything you can to be out there on the pitch and to try and be Chelsea’s best midfielder.”
France international Christopher Nkunku is joining Chelsea this summer from RB Leipzig, if reports are to be believed. How big of an impact do you predict Nkunku will have at Chelsea and do you believe he’s a player that’s built to be a success in the Premier League? Do you believe Nkunku will be regretting his decision to join the club so early on in the year?
“The problem for Nkunku is that he doesn’t know who’s going to be the next Chelsea manager. He needs to have an answer about whether the new manager of Chelsea requires a player of his profile. Chelsea represents a new start, a new league, new teammates and a new lifestyle for Christopher. There’s a chance that the new manager will not like Christopher and as Chelsea is a bigger club than RB Leipzig, he’s going to have to show everybody what he can do.
“It’s a better situation when you arrive at a new club and you know who the manager is because it’s more likely to give you confidence when you have a manager that admires your abilities and it can be easier for you to adapt. In one sense, I believe Christopher is very excited to move to Chelsea but in another sense, he’s going to be completely unaware of what’s going to happen and who’s going to be the manager, so he needs to be patient.”
Chelsea are reported to be one of the numerous Premier League clubs that have an interest in Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister. The World Cup winner has been mighty impressive for his club this season and in your opinion, would he be a welcome addition to Chelsea’s midfield or do you believe they have enough players in that department already?
“It was Thiago Silva that said recently that Chelsea has too many players, so they have to deal with the players that they already have. This is why they need to find the right manager that’s capable of working with the specific players already at Chelsea. Chelsea do need a striker, but they don’t need any additional players elsewhere unless they sell a few of them.”
Out of all the managers who’ve been linked with the Tottenham manager’s job, who would you like to see be appointed in the role?
“I don’t know who’s going to be the manager at Tottenham, but whoever it is, they have to deal with Daniel Levy. That’s what I know. I don’t know who’s strong enough to take this job because they’ve had so many managers and every single one of them has had issues with Daniel Levy for whatever reason. The new manager just has to accept whatever Daniel Levy gives them.
“Any new manager is going to want the opportunity to buy new players and buy players that fit their philosophy of how football should be played. The problem is that sometimes Daniel Levy will refuse to get them the players they require and he will make them deal with the players that are already at the club. If you're a manager that enjoys playing under pressure, then go to Tottenham.”