Speaking to Legal Sportsbooks, Emmanuel Petit gives his exclusive verdict on Kylian Mbappe & Lionel Messi’s future at PSG.
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- Mbappe has to leave PSG if he wants to win Ballon d’Or
- If I was Messi I would of left PSG straight away
Q: Arsenal have thrown away a two-goal lead twice in a week. Why does this keep happening?
Emmanuel Petit: “Well, maybe the fear of losing everything could be the reason. They have no experience in these situations as a team. When you look at Manchester City, they’re used to winning trophies over the last few years, so they have the experience and they can handle their emotions well. When you look at both games, they were leading 2-0 and playing very well but all of a sudden, they stopped playing and then their opponent came back into the game. Once they scored and put the pressure on then you didn’t recognise the Arsenal you saw on the pitch anymore. I hope this is the ringing of the bell for the game against Manchester City. But there is a big game against Southampton next and they’re going to be playing against a team that is fighting relegation. It won’t be easy. Every single game in the Premier League is not easy. If they lose against Manchester City (and they have beaten Southampton) they still have a four-point lead. However, the goal difference is not in their favour and Manchester City have two games in hand, so they have to get a result. There’s no joking anymore.”
Q: Is the pressure starting to get to Mikel Arteta?
EP: “Yes because this is something new for him. He’s a young manager and this is the first time for him that he’s fighting for the title. For all the young players at Arsenal it’s something new as well. Don’t forget that they’ve come a long way from where they were two years ago. They were fighting against relegation and things were really not going well! For the manager and for the players it’s big time pressure now and the players can feel it. Can they handle it? I think so, yes. During a difficult time like this, as a sportsman it’s a luxury to have your destiny in your own hands. I still believe that they have the power to win the title. They have to keep their emotions together and they have to learn from what has happened in the last two games. They were leading 2-0 and were playing very good football and then they just stopped playing. So they must learn from both games. In the Premier League there is no such thing as an easy game. Every team you come up against will be fighting for a target like a European place or to avoid relegation.”
Q: In 1998 Arsenal were chasing Man Utd rather than leading as they are now. Does that make a psychological difference?
EP: “It’s not the same scenario. When you’re chasing it’s not the same as when you are leading the table. Especially when you don’t have experience and especially when your main opponent is Manchester City. This City team has been tremendous for the last six or seven years. They’ve been winning titles, and except for Liverpool, they haven’t really been challenged for the title. So you can imagine that in terms of emotions and experience there’s a big difference and in the upcoming games you need that to win titles. But it’s not the same when you’re chasing someone. When you’re being chased you can feel the pressure on your back. Yes they have dropped important points but their destiny is still in their hands.”
Q: What did you think of Thomas Partey’s performance against West Ham?
EP: “Sometimes it happens that you just don’t have a good game. Since he joined Arsenal he has been brilliant. But it was a tough fight he was having up against Declan Rice in the middle of the park. And with all the speculation surrounding Rice possibly signing for Arsenal, that could be something that was playing on his mind. I think for me, this is the only reason I can see that Thomas Partey didn’t have a good game against West Ham.”
Q: After yesterday’s performance, should Arsenal pull out all the stops to sign Declan Rice?
EP: “Of course, definitely. Rice would be important to Arsenal. If he wants to play at the top level, with all due respect to West Ham, I think it’s time for him to leave the club. He has been linked with different clubs in England but if I was Rice I would go and play for Arsenal. If Arsenal want to stay at the top next season, Rice would be an important signing. But they need more players as well.”
Q: Who’s the best central midfielder in the world at the moment? Is Rodri up there?
EP: “Wow! It’s hard to say. Definitely in the Premier League Rodri is one of the best. I’ve been very impressed as well with Thomas Partey, except against West Ham he wasn’t good. I’m a big fan of Joshua Kimmich at Bayern Munich as well.”
Q: How much will missing another crucial penalty impact Bukayo Saka?
EP: “After missing at the Euros he came in for so much criticism on social media but he bounced back very well and became a different man and a different player on the pitch. He’s been brilliant for Arsenal so far and I appreciate what he said yesterday after the game. But the fact that he felt he had to apologise to the Arsenal fans at all… it’s a football game, things like missing a penalty happen sometimes – it happened with Salah at Liverpool. He’s been brilliant for the club for years now so we can forgive him for what happened on Sunday. It’s not missing the penalty that caused Arsenal to draw and drop two important points. For me, it is that the whole team was not good enough. So I can understand why Arteta I was saying that they were missing the killer instinct with the penalty. But when you lead 2-0 and you’re fighting for the title and at the end of the game you draw 2-2 it’s not simply down to missing a penalty.”
Q: Is it a fair criticism of Mikel Arteta that has he has not rotated his players enough this season?
EP: “Recently yes. I think it was the same against Liverpool. He took some time to make substitutions and some players should have been involved earlier. The likes of Trossard for example, who I think has been brilliant since he signed for Arsenal. So yes and that relates to your earlier question about the pressure Arteta is feeling because for me, he has his first XI in his mind and he wants to stay with them until the end because he thinks they have been unbelievable since the beginning of the season. He’s probably thinking, ‘Why should I change them?’ Because they were winning game after game? I can understand, but in the meantime, as he’s such a young manager, maybe he has to learn as well from that.”
Q: How much have Arsenal missed William Saliba since he got injured against Sporting?
EP: “Saliba has been tremendous, as has been the partnership he’s forming with Gabriel. You can see Gabriel is not the same defender when he’s playing with Holding. He doesn’t get the same assurance or have the same serenity on the pitch. He gave away a penalty yesterday but was it a penalty? No, but that’s another question. I watched both games and I remember against Liverpool Gabriel didn’t show the same composure. With all due respect to Holding, he is not Saliba. When they are struggling, when they are under pressure and are fighting for every single ball one-against-one near the danger zone, they don’t have the same composure or serenity without Saliba. So yes, Saliba is missed and I hope he’s going to come back very soon.”
Q: How can Arsenal stop Erling Haaland from scoring against them next week?
EP: “Do you know any defenders that can stop Haaland?! He’s been amazing this season, scoring goal after goal. I think if you want to stop Haaland you should stop the link between him and City’s midfielders, specifically Kevin De Bruyne and that means trying to avoid playing in your penalty area most of the time. That means you have to defend a little bit higher up on the pitch. You have to be very good all together, technically as well. You know how good Manchester City are with the ball in small spaces between the lines. If you can manage to collectively block the midfield players, that would be something very important for Arsenal. You have to put pressure on them away from the penalty area because this guy [Haaland] is a monster in the penalty area and he’s eating every single defender. f you want to stop Erling Haaland you have to stop the ball coming inside the penalty area. Grealish has been tremendous. Kevin De Bruyne is coming back at his best. So those guys definitely have to be stopped.”
Q: Can you see Manchester City dropping any points?
EP: “Yes and against Arsenal to start with. I still believe Arsenal can do something. They lost the last two meetings against Manchester City, one in the FA Cup and at home in the Premier League. But I remember the game in the Premier League when they lost 3-1 to City and he [Pep Guardiola] started with Bernado Silva at left back and at half time he completely changed his tactics. He took off Riyad Mahrez and put Bernado Silva in his position and the game changed completely. But for the first 45 minutes I remember Arsenal were the best team on the pitch just as they were when they met last season too. They are improving, and I still believe they can do something at the Etihad Stadium. City are still playing in the Champions League and they can expect a big reaction from Bayern Munich in the second leg of their match and they are still in the FA Cup as well. Somewhere along the line, I do think City will drop points, not many, but they will drop points. My question is, if Arsenal are waiting for our Manchester City to drop points this is the wrong mindset. They have to focus on themselves, and they have to do everything they can to avoid situations just like what happened the last two games.”
Q: Arteta has only beaten Guardiola once from 8 attempts as manager. How much will that record play on his mind when they meet next week?
Q: “That could play a part mentally, definitely. But Arsenal haven’t been leading the league just since last week, they’ve been top of the table for months and months now. That could be something important in their mind. But they are a young team with a young manager and they have improved a lot. The team to beat is not actually Arsenal, it is Manchester City. They’ve been tremendous for the last few years, so I think that could play a little bit on their mind. Arsenal have to go back to the way they were playing a couple of weeks ago. They have to show much more maturity and serenity altogether. But if you think that you’re going to lose the title just against Manchester City, again for me this is the wrong answer. If I am an Arsenal player, I would think okay, this game is very important but even if we lose we still have a one point advantage.”
Q: What areas of the squad do Arsenal need to strengthen in the summer transfer window?
EP: “In midfield I think they need to add at least two players. Someone who can play in Odegaard’s position. We’ve got Smith-Rowe but he hasn’t had much playing time in the last few months. A central defender as well. When you look at the big teams in Europe they’ve got four strong defenders to choose from. You need to have some competition for players to earn their place. They’ve got two right backs but Tomiyasu has been injured for such a long time. Ben White has been tremendous but you cannot expect players not to be injured during the season, so I think that we need probably four or five new players in the team, especially in midfield, central defenders and upfront. I don’t know if they will continue with the strikers they have. They’ve got Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Jesus. Florian Balogun I think will be put on the market to be sold. There are so many clubs in France, and not just in France, who are very interested in him. Martinelli has been tremendous and Saka as well, but you can feel, especially with Saka, that he’s been tired recently. Trossard can play as a right winger or as a left winger but you probably need one more player that can play on the wings.”
Q: PSG said to be big admirers of Arteta, do you think that would be a good move for him at some point?
EP: “No. For the interest of both parties Arteta has to stay at Arsenal. If they qualify for the Champions League for me, the story is not over yet with Arteta and Arsenal. There’s been some rumours about him in Spain as well. If I was close to Arteta I would say “listen Mikel you’ve done a great job for the last three years. Look where the team was when you took over and look how much they have improved collectively and individually. You’re going to play in the Champions League next season. It would be a mistake for you to leave the club right now.” Paris St-Germain, with all the mistakes they’ve made in the transfer market, do you think they’re going to have an inexperienced manager on the bench? I don’t think so.”
Q: Chelsea have reportedly held face-to-face talks with Julian Nagelsmann. Would he be the right appointment in your view?
EP: “There are so many managers linked with Chelsea. Every day you open the newspapers, then you hear it on the radio and the television that there are five or six different managers in the frame. I would love to see Carlo Ancelotti apply for the Chelsea job, but he said last week that he won’t come back to England, he won’t come back to Chelsea. Maybe he’s a bit tired. He has won everything. Maybe he’s very close to retirement, I have no idea.”
Q: Was it the correct decision to sack Graham Potter or should he have been given more time?
EP: “I wish he could have had more time. You can put any manager in the world, Guardiola, Ancelotti, whoever you want [and they will struggle]. How many players are in their squad? 35? Can you imagine going on a training camp and you have 35 players in front of you. All internationals. You’d be a genius to know exactly what would be your first XI.
It was a very difficult season for Graham Potter. And the owner… I don’t want to be disrespectful, but you can’t manage your club like it’s Football Manager [the computer game] you need to do something else. You need to have a good vision of what you want to do because football is different from American sports. Look at the money they’ve spent on new players coming in. Some players are not even registered to play in Champions League for them. I have no idea how you can manage that. They definitely need to clean up the dressing room at the end of the season.”
Q: Is the owner Todd Boehly too involved in the management side of the club?
EP: “I heard what he said when he left the restaurant, he said ‘tonight we’re going to win 3-0.’ I appreciate his optimism but you’re playing Real Madrid. I know that when they lost against Brighton at home last Saturday he had a [verbal] fight with some fans in the ground. It’s a really difficult time for him and for the team. I think there is no need to talk anymore. I think some players need to show composure, to show maturity and to show character and personality and try to save what can be saved until the end of the season. But they will play the return game against Madrid and you never know what could happen. If things turn out very good in the first 15 or 20 minutes, but even still, it’s Real Madrid. They have so much experience in the Champions league. Look at last season in the quarter-final, in the semi-final, even the final! They were not the best team on the pitch but they still won. They know what they have to do, at least to get to extra-time. It will be so difficult. But who knows? Miracles can happen in football, but with everything we’ve seen so far with Chelsea, the link between the players, the body language, everything. There’s no good news. There’s no positives with Chelsea that I can see, so this season could be a transition season for them. They need to make the right decisions at the end of the season.”
Q: Do you think it’s strange that Mason Mount has not signed a new contract?
EP: ”Yes definitely. He’s one of their few homegrown players from the Chelsea academy. Mason Mount is not stupid. He’s been tremendous for Chelsea the last couple of years. He has the DNA of the club and the fans love him. Can you imagine what the mindset of the fans could be at the end of the season if they see Mason Mount leave the club? He has seen the club splash millions on new players and wages and he’s probably thinking ‘ok you can spend millions on new players who have no link with Chelsea, whilst I’ve been here for years and years shown loyalty to the club and done everything I can on the pitch. I deserve a proper contract now.’ I can understand his frustration.”
Q: Now Liverpool have stepped aside, could Chelsea go for Bellingham?
EP: “Another player?! Of course, Belingham is a very good player, he plays different positions in midfield and on top of that this guy has the character and personality. He has shown so much maturity and now he has improved a lot in Germany. But again, before thinking about bringing in Rice, Bellingham we can still only play with 11 players on the pitch.”
Q: Which players do you expect to leave Chelsea in the summer?
EP: “I’ve heard that N’Golo Kante is probably going to leave the club! He’s a brilliant player but he’s been injured for the last two seasons. I would be sad to see Kante leaving the club because you need players with his amount of experience. He’s got a great heart as well and a good personality. Those kinds of players are very rare on the market and even if he can’t play every single game, you can manage him. With their squad they can rotate and make sure he plays in the big games. But there are so many players that need to leave. They need to go somewhere where they can find happiness again, and they can play every single game. Ziyech is one and Aubameyang as well.”
Q: What do you put Barcelona’s amazing defensive record down to?
EP: “The manager Xavi has brought back some confidence into the dressing room. I remember last season they were so far away from the usual standards of Barcelona. When you look at the troubles off the pitch as well, they’re still under intense pressure with the refereeing committee for example. But I like the way that Xavi is managing his team. I like the way he has put confidence into the players. Some players have come back strongly like Frenkie De Jong, who has been linked with Manchester United. It looks like they’re going to win La Liga. There’s always big pressure on Barcelona, not just in terms of results but also politically, but overall I think Xavi has been doing a tremendous job.”
Q: If you were playing now would you rather play for Arteta or Xavi?
EP: “I think last season was a transition season for Barcelona, so I have a big respect for what Xavi has done with the club. But I think what Arteta is doing with Arsenal… I remember three years ago he had a big, big fight with the captain Aubameyang. They were in mid-table and things were going so wrong. All of a sudden he put his vision to the players and implemented rules on and off the pitch and things started to change. Look how they have improved altogether? I’ve been very, very impressed with his work at Arsenal, and I have been supporting him from the beginning. I’m very happy that the board gave him the time he needed. Can you name one manager in modern football that has had the courage to take their captain out of the squad?”
Q: Should Lionel Messi leave Paris St-Germain after being booed by their fans recently?
EP: “I work on French radio every single week and two weeks ago we had a big, big fight because of that issue. Former players saying ‘we are tired with Messi’ and that ‘he should leave the club’. I said on the radio ‘how can you criticise Messi? Do you think Messi is the problem at Paris St-Germain?’ Messi just won the World Cup with Argentina. Did you see how Argentina played with Messi? He had 10 soldiers, 15 soldiers surrounding him. They were helping him, and he was happy and they won the World Cup. You can see his stats since he arrived at PSG are really good. Some people are saying in France that the problem is Neymar and Messi. How can you say that? When you look at the team, when you look at how much money is splashed in the transfer market on the wrong players. How can you play with Messi if you don’t build the team around him? You can build a team with Mbappe, Messi and Neymar but if you don’t have the proper players behind them… So I disagree. I’m sorry for all those people who have the courage to criticise Messi. But for me this guy is football. When he left Barcelona it was a big, big decision for him and his family. It took months for him to get set up in Paris, in the city and the club. But with everything that happened during the season with the fans and with the press and what happened at the end of last season when he was booed, along with Neymar, they were insulting his family. If I was Messi I would have left the club straight away. I’m not staying, thank you very much. No.”
Q: If you could sign either Mbappe or Haaland for your team, who would you chose?
EP: “Can I take both?! It’s very hard to say but because I’m French I’m going to say Kylian Mbappe. Also because this guy has been a rocket since he was 17 years old. He’s broken every single record in France. But if he wants to win the Champions League and become the best player in the world and win the Ballon d’Or, I think he has to leave PSG. I think the door is still open for him at Real Madrid, maybe not as wide as it was two years ago. I think Florentino Perez said recently that if he wants to come to Madrid he is still welcome but he must think twice about his wages. He signed a three-year contract at PSG last time, but I think the last season of that is negotiable. So this coming season could be a turning point for him.”