888sport recently spoke with former Arsenal striker Jérémie Aliadière, who played under Arsene Wenger for six years and was touted to be the next wonderkid of his generation. Aliadière provided his thoughts on Arsenal’s transfer activity (or lack of) this summer and commented on the development of some of their young talent such as Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Mattéo Guendouzi, offering advice on how they can develop in to world class players.
Gunners Town would like to thank 888sport for allowing us to share this article with our readers.
Jérémie Aliadière, speaking exclusively to 888sport
Arsenal’s summer transfer business baffles me
“Defensively is where Arsenal need to strengthen the most and they are pretty close to signing the French Under-20 international William Saliba. But I have heard they’re going to sign him then loan him back to France for a season so I’m a bit surprised by that: spending thirty million on a defender and giving him back straight away. I don’t understand that type of business. I’m not sure if right now we can afford to buy a player for the future, we need players to come in and improve the team right now because that’s where we struggled last year.”
“Now we have Koscielny looking like he may leave the club, that’s another centre-back – and the captain – that could be going. Arsenal signing a centre-back is really important and yet I keep seeing us linked with a lot of forwards such as Zaha and Everton Soares but they are not what we need for the moment.”
Arsenal cannot rely only on their ‘massive assets’ Lacazette and Aubameyang to get top four
“If Arsenal can get stronger defensively they can surely get in to the top four. We saw last season with Lacazette and Aubameyang how strong they are together and their ability to score crucial goals, yet we still missed out. Their partnership is a massive asset and how close they are off the field means they do a lot of work for each other on it. They always look for each other because they’re friends.”
“Arsenal’s problems are not up front. It’s the lack of quality at the back and in midfield. If we don’t get stronger and tighter at the back then we could see Lacazette and Aubameyang continue to score goals for fun but for what? You cannot expect them to score two or three goals every game and last season it felt like to reach the top four that needed to happen. Obviously that is too much to ask because they are bound to have off days and that’s when you rely on your defence to save the game.”
Maitland-Niles is priceless to The Gunners
“I rate Maitland-Niles really highly. With his injuries last season it’s was tough for him on that level but he’s got all the attributes to become a top player. I think this season could be really big for him because it looks like Arsenal don’t have a lot of money to spend so I’m sure they will be counting on him. I like the fact that he’s so versatile and technically he’s very good and confident on the ball.”
“The fact that he can play anywhere makes him priceless to the team. We saw last season at right-back or left-back he was there doing a good job. I’m excited to see him and just hope he avoids further injuries because I know how tough it is myself when you’re young and trying to prove yourself but then having to take a step back. I just want to see him in the starting eleven and then staying there.”
Maitland-Niles needs the belief to take his game to the next level
“Obviously when you play for a big club then people expect a lot from you and Maitland-Niles has been around the first team for a while now so he knows what the Arsenal fans and those at the club expect from him. Can he believe in himself and take that pressure? If you can’t believe in yourself then you won’t be able to make it as a top world class player because that is part of the game. Players like Rooney and Ronaldo were doing it at a younger age than him – he turns 22 next month – so he knows by now what is needed and he has to believe in himself.”
Arsenal’s limited transfer budget is ‘ridiculous’
“I’m an Arsenal fan. I retired some years ago and Arsenal is my team. I may do some commentary and media but I’m a fan at the end of the day. It’s frustrating when you see a club like Leicester, who with all respect to them are a smaller club, spending £75m so far this summer yet Arsenal can’t seemingly afford to spend the money that Leicester can. It’s difficult to understand where the money goes.”
“I remember when we moved to the Emirates and Arsene telling us that money will be tied up in the stadium for the next ten years or so and that transfer fees will be a bit limited. But that has passed and the stadium has been paid off. Given that, you can understand the frustrations of the supporters when it’s reported that there is only a transfer budget of £45m.
“These days in the market if you want a top international player it’s going to cost a lot. There has been talk that Arsenal want Wilfried Zaha who Crystal Palace supposedly value at £80m and we were reported to have offered them half the money – £40m. If that’s true, it seems a bit ridiculous and could be seen as disrespectful to Crystal Palace.”
“We understand there are high salaries going on Ozil and Mkhitaryan but surely there is still some money to spend on transfers? It’s very frustrating and I just don’t understand it really.”
Emery needs a good start or Arsenal fans will turn on him
“I think Emery can be a success but I was a bit disappointed last year because they started so well once they got over the defeats to City and Chelsea. After that we went on a very good run and seemed to be playing in a different way, looking physically much stronger than they were the previous season. I thought that we were gaining momentum and witnessing a change that was down to the Unai Emery touch, but we lost that throughout the season and ended up having a terrible spell that cost us the top four, before we lost in the Europa League final to Chelsea.”
“This is a massive season for Emery and he needs to start well straight away. Especially because if we don’t sign any big players the fans won’t be best pleased. Emery needs to be successful straight away and get the fans behind him. If they start slowly it is going to be very difficult for Unai Emery and the club and the fans will turn on the manager. He has got a big task in that opening month.”
Ozil needs to move on so Arsenal can start anew
“I can understand that if Emery is not a fan of Ozil he needs to move on so that Arsenal can get somebody else, but that is very difficult with the five-year deal he has. How do you expect Ozil to settle for somewhere else? That is difficult in this market.”
“It’s a tough one because I feel when Ozil plays he does bring something different to the team and Lacazette and Aubameyang clearly enjoy playing with him. Obviously Unai Emery sees things we don’t see and maybe in training his work-rate is not there and work-rate is really important to Emery. I think they have a different philosophy on how to play the game. Last year we missed him when he wasn’t there even if he didn’t perform in some games where he started.”
“It’s a difficult situation and I can see both sides. Arsenal right now need to sell in order to bring in other players and when you look at the supposed breakdown between player and manager last year, if they get an opportunity to sell him I would understand if they decided to do that.”
It’s ‘scary’ how far behind Arsenal are to City and Liverpool
“The problem I have got is that Arsenal were far behind Manchester City and Liverpool last season and they have carried on spending and improving whereas we can’t. I worry that Arsenal will be even further behind this season and that is scary.”
“When we were close to finishing in the top four last season you felt we were only two players short maybe defensively from really pushing on. But now the others are getting even stronger so the top four is possible – but difficult again – but the top two is impossible. “
Guendouzi can help Arsenal get top four
“I think the move to Arsenal has worked out really well for Matteo and if he had gone to the other club interested in him he wouldn’t have played that much. He has had to adapt to playing for a bigger club and in the Premier League which is the fastest in the world and he’s done really well. Obviously there were periods last season that were difficult for him but the same can be said of the team and he is only a young lad. He was expected to do a lot for a young lad but he is confident and that helps.”
“This season his team-mates, the coach and the fans can expect a lot from him with a season under his belt and I’m sure Matteo will be up for the challenge and passionate about taking Arsenal into the top four. I’m excited for him.”
Everton Soares is terrific, just not what Arsenal need right now
“I really like Everton Soares. I saw him play at the Copa America and he was terrific. He was quick and sharp and skilful but he wasn’t very strong and in the Premier League you need to be. I am not so sure that a winger is an area where Arsenal need to buy at the moment.
“If you can bring in a top player on the cheap then great, that should be done. But at the moment when I’m seeing the kids in pre-season and I think they deserve a chance. We then also have Mkhitaryan, Ozil and Maitland-Niles – these are top players who need to play. With the budget that we have I’d rather we spent all of that on defenders and a central midfielder than Everton Soares.”
City or Liverpool can be Invincible this season
“At one point last season I was convinced that either City or Liverpool were going to go the whole season without being beaten. It went very close. I remember being shocked when City lost to Newcastle. I didn’t see that coming. The same goes for Liverpool.”
“Before last season I used to think that it could never be done again because the Premier League is so tough and there are so many big clubs. Also losing one game is nothing: all it takes is a silly mistake from a defender or goalkeeper. There are so many small details that can cost you a game which makes it so, so tough.
But City and Liverpool are well above every other team in terms of quality so it is now definitely something they can achieve. Because they came close to doing it last year and are now looking to improve on that…it is possible.”
Jérémie Aliadière’s quick-fire questions
Who will win the Premier league in 2019/20?
Who will win the Premier League Golden Boot?
Who will win the Champions League?
Read the full 888sport interview with Jérémie Aliadière, including his thoughts on why Maitland-Niles is priceless to The Gunners.