Jermaine Pennant Interview with OLBG

Updated: 143 Football

Jermaine Pennant exclusive for OLBG: Jude Bellingham to be greater than Gerrard, Rooney and Gascoigne, Arsenal to beat Everton 2-0 but Arteta should stick with Ramsdale and snub David Raya

Jermaine Pennant Interview with OLBG
Steve Madgwick Editor-In-Chief

Editor-In-Chief with 20 years experience covering the betting angles to breaking news stories. Daily slots player, Portsmouth fan and League Snooker Player

Ex-Arsenal, Liverpool and Birmingham winger Jermaine Pennant has backed the Gunners to consider Irish hotshot Evan Ferguson and believes West Ham star Nayef Aguerd would be a good fit for the Reds in the Premier League.

The former Big Brother contestant also hit out at the returning show, but said he loved his time on SAS Who Dares Wins, which is yet to air. 


What did you think of the England game last night, Jermaine?

JP: “I thought England’s result was positive. Southgate seems to finally have got a bit about him. I was unsure when I saw Phillips in the line-up, but I assumed that Southgate was just testing him out as it was just a friendly, though a very competitive one. 

“I thought England were strong in all areas. It was a good performance, although Scotland weren't great, so we shouldn't read too much into it.”

As someone who played with the likes of Steven Gerrard, how good is Jude Bellingham right now?

JP: “Bellingham is just incredible. He's only 20, but he plays like he's in his prime. When he plays, he looks like someone who's 26 or 27. He's still a little kid! He's starting to show that he's up there with the best midfielders in the world. He dominated that game and if it wasn't for him, England wouldn't have walked out of Hampden with the win. He controlled the whole game.”

Do you think he's on his way to becoming a better player than Gerrard?

JP: Ability-wise, Bellingham is on his way to becoming better than Steven Gerrard. You can already see that he can change games, and that's what Steven did so many times. Gerrard used to push his team to the next level and score winners - for example, the 2006 FA Cup Final or the Champions League game against Olympiakos in 2005. 

“Jude looks like he has that knack to him, as well. In terms of ability, I'd say Bellingham is going to be better.”

Bellingham could be better than Rooney for England

Do you think Jude will be even better than Gascoigne or Rooney for England?

JP: “If Bellingham continues producing performances like that, then yes. If Jude continues to assist and score, then that conversation will take place. Gascoigne was quality for England and Rooney's goal-tally speaks for itself. Bellingham is on-track to be one of England's greats.

I get the impression that Bellingham is a bit mean on the field! He has that side to him?

JP: “You need a bit of nastiness and Bellingham has that. He's not scared to be tackled and have arguments on the pitch. He's a big lad, as well.

Do you think, based on his form, Bellingham is up there with Messi, Mbappe and Haaland for the Ballon d’Or?

JP: “I think it's a bit early for that conversation. If Bellingham was in this spotlight for the entire year, then he'd be in there without a doubt. He was amazing for Dortmund. Once he starts winning trophies for Real Madrid, then he'll get the plaudits. 

“If Real Madrid get to the Champions League final, as they always seem to do, then it'll boost his credentials. If he continues the way he's going, then he's in with a shout next year for sure.” 

The Premier League returns this weekend. Arsenal will play Everton at Goodison on Sunday, what are you predicting for that?

JP: “I'm predicting an Arsenal win, but Everton often give them a tough game. Arsenal lost at Goodison Park last season and it seems like they're a bit of a bogey side for Arsenal. If you look at where Everton are in the table, though, you can't see them getting a result. 

“Last year was different as Everton were battling to stay up, but the fixture is happening early into the season and they won't have that to motivate them. Arsenal look so strong, though they haven't been great on the road so far. There's a lot of trial and error when it comes to the players they've brought in. I do, however, expect an Arsenal win.”

An Arsenal Ascendancy Despite Road Hurdles

“I'd go 2-0 to Arsenal. I can't see Everton scoring. I don't think it'll be an easy game, but I'm going 2-0.” 

“The best teams can win without playing well. Look at Manchester United back in the day - they'd often not play well for a whole game and score late on. They were renowned for that and won multiple titles on the back of that. You'll be in good company if you're the kind of team who can win without playing well - it shows you've got the right spirit.”

Everton vs Arsenal Betting Odds

These odds will be removed post kick off

Peter Bosz's PSV will face Arsenal in the Champions League. What are you predicting for that game?

JP: “PSV are no mugs - look at how they dispatched Rangers. You've got to take them seriously. The Champions League is new territory for most of Arsenal's players, so it'll be tough. However, the Premier League is a lot stronger than the Eredivisie. 

“I'd go 2-1 to Arsenal.” 

Arsenal vs PSV Betting Odds

These odds will be removed post game

How far do you think Arsenal will go in the Champions League? 

JP: “I think they can get out of the group stages, but I can't see them winning it. The other teams are simply too strong. There are some very experienced teams in there - Man City, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and so on. I can see Arsenal reaching the quarter-finals but not the semis. If they get a good draw, then who knows? They could perhaps reach the latter-stages.”

Champions League Betting Odds

These odds will be removed at kick-off of the final

UEFA Champions League 2023/24 11 Apr @ 12:14 - Win Tournament
Man City 2.63
Arsenal 7.00
Bayern Munich 8.00
Real Madrid 8.00
Barcelona 9.00
Atletico Madrid 11.00

Are you seeing any evidence that Arsenal can compete with Man City again in the league?

JP: “The fact Arsenal are not playing well and winning is a good sign. They did it last season, so there's no reason why they can't do it again - especially when you factor in their £200 million spend. They have to challenge for the title after spending that money and coming so close last year. I don't think Man City are as strong as last year - still a juggernaut - but not as strong. They've lost Gundogan and a few others. They also have a few injuries. Arsenal have to take advantage and challenge.” 

Areta has come under fire for his decisions in defence this season. Most notably shifting Thomas Partey to right-back and putting Gabriel on the bench. What do you make of that?

JP: “Arteta is trying to find a formula that works. Trying to include Havertz, Odegaard, Rice, and Partey is difficult, and he's simply trying to work out a way to feature them. He wants a hybrid right-back who's comfortable on the ball, and Partey, being a midfielder, is used to being on the ball. 

“He's not a strong defender, though, and I don't think it's working too well at the moment. If you go back to last season, you'll notice how settled the team looked. They almost won a title with that squad, so I don't see why he'd want to change it. They needed to strengthen, but that doesn't mean they needed to change the whole system.”

Did Arsenal need David Raya?

JP: “It was a head scratcher, for sure. You've got Ramsdale, an England international, in goal, and they went and signed another international goalkeeper. Perhaps it was to motivate Ramsdale and keep the competition open. It's a strange signing. 

“Arteta hasn't come and explained why Raya was signed. I'm not sure if a goalkeeper of Raya's quality will be comfortable sitting on the bench and playing in the League Cup or a Champions League group game. Let's see how it plays out.”

Do you think Arteta should stick with Ramsdale?

JP: So far, Arteta should stick with Ramsdale. I can't recall Ramsdale making any mistakes, and the points Arsenal have dropped were not due to him. He's put in some good performances this season, and he'll be very frustrated to be dropped when he's playing well. Things like that can bother a player. It's fair enough if you know you're not playing well, but when you are, it's frustrating.” 

Do you remember players feuding because they were competing for the same position? 

JP: “Certainly - but it was never personal. You can't blame the other player, but you may be frustrated with the manager. You've just got to keep working harder than them. We're pawns on a chessboard, at the end of the day. 

“If you're constantly angry at the manager and other players, you'll find yourself on a downward spiral.” 

Did that ever happen to you in your career?

JP: “It did with Tony Pulis at Stoke City. It'd also happen with Rafa Benitez when Dirk Kuyt played ahead of me. Dirk was a great player and a great worker, but I was more suitable for the system we played - putting crosses in and so on. 

“Dirk was more of a goalscorer. Rafa and I used to feud about that from time to time.” 

Did that ever get resolved?

JP: “It did. At the end of the day, there's only one winner in these situations - the manager. All you can do is keep trying. It's hard when you don't see the fruits of your labour blossom, and when you don't get it, it can affect your attitude.” 

Do you think Arteta is risking a situation like that with his goalkeepers?

JP: “Potentially. I'd say with the game the way it is now, I'm sure he'd have approached Ramsdale and talked him through why Raya was signed. There might be some understanding and the player is on board with it. We don't know. I'm sure Raya didn't just arrive and Arteta failed to mention it.

Declan Rice has hit the ground running for Arsenal. Do you think he's on his way to establishing a Viera-like legacy?

JP: I don't think he'll get to the heights Viera did - they're different players. I'm sure Declan will establish his own legacy - he's a good leader and he's very vocal. He's also got bags of experience and I think Arsenal needed that. Rice is showing why the club splashed out the money to bring him in. The team look more solid.

“Arsenal shouldn't be shipping three goals at home to Southampton, and I'm sure that wouldn't have happened if Rice was there. He's got some way to go to compete with Viera, though. If Arsenal win the league this season, then perhaps we can discuss that more.”

Are you seeing any evidence that Kai Havertz can turn his form around?

JP: I’m not seeing any evidence Havertz can turn this around. I wasn't totally impressed with his spell at Chelsea. I know they struggled last season, but I'm not sure how long you have to give a player to impress you. Havertz is a good player, for sure, but I don't see him being a better option than what Arsenal already have.

“I'd say Smith-Rowe, when fit, is a better player who contributes more. Is he a good squad player? Yes. However, I wouldn't say Havertz isn't a go-to number 10 or number 9.” 

Speaking on number 9s, the general consensus is that Arsenal need one to compete with Gabriel Jesus. Should Arsenal consider Evan Ferguson in the future?

JP: “When a player is scoring hat tricks, then people start to talk. Ferguson is still very young, and if he continues on that trajectory until January, then he's in for a shout. I'm sure the big teams will come calling. You can't just go on one game, though, strikers need to deliver consistently. 

“I'd say Arsenal should sign Ivan Toney as he'll be back in January. He's a lot more consistent and a proven Premier League goalscorer. He's like a modern Ian Wright!”

Should Liverpool consider Ferguson or Toney?

JP: “Liverpool are already very good in the final-third and have five top-class attackers. There's more than enough there even if two of them get injured. I wouldn't say there's a need for any more attackers at Liverpool. If Salah leaves next year, then perhaps they'll reconsider.”

Could Toney or Ferguson replace Salah if he leaves Liverpool next year? -
Image: Kevin Walsh from Preston Brook, England/Wikimedia Commons

Is there anyone else you'd like to see Arsenal or Liverpool sign?

JP: “Toney would be my main pick for Arsenal. I can't imagine Toney has lost any of his instincts. As far as Liverpool are concerned, I'd say they need another good centre-back. Konate seems a bit injury-prone and if Van Dijk gets injured, then they'll need to rely on Gomez and Matip - and that seems like a weak partnership. I'd like to see a bit more depth in that area.

West Ham's Nayef Aguerd has been linked to Liverpool. Do you think he'd add some strength to Liverpool?

JP: “Aguerd looks good and has plenty in his locker. West Ham are looking strong this season, especially at the back. He's a good option for Liverpool and I wouldn't complain if he joined Liverpool in January.” 

There've been reports that Evan Ferguson could switch his international allegiance to England, though perhaps those reports are born out of mere optimism. If Ferguson did join England, though, would he be an ideal replacement for Harry Kane?

JP: “Harry Kane and Evan Ferguson are similar players - they both like to drop deep and link the play. However, England already have a wealth of strikers. Callum Wilson and Ivan Toney have much better numbers than Ferguson, so he wouldn't be a guaranteed striker. 

“It's a bit early to compare Ferguson to Kane - he needs a good couple of seasons. If he can match Harry's numbers, then we'll see.” 

Too early to compare Ferguson to Harry Kane -
Photo: Shutterstock/Cosmin Iftode

Paul Pogba's return to Juventus has been a nightmare. This week, he was suspended for allegedly testing positive for testosterone. If he gets banned, should he retire?

JP: “It depends on the ban. Pogba could be banned for a year or even four years. We don't know if he's guilty, though, but if the worst happens and he gets a lengthy ban, then he'll be 34. Not many people would take Pogba then. Four years is a long time in football. If he doesn't retire, then he certainly won't be playing at the highest level. Maybe Saudi Arabia would take him.”

Sprinting and cycling have been riddled with positive drug tests. So has boxing. It is, however, rare in football - why do you think that is?

JP: Players do get random drug tests, sometimes it'll be before a match or sometimes it'll be at training. The authorities will pick three random players and 99% of the time, those tests are negative. I think Pogba was randomly selected and he's been caught on the wrong side of things. We're not sure if it was accidental or not. Getting tested is just a part of football. It's a very rare thing to see a player caught. 

Have you ever played with or against anyone you suspected was using performance-enhancing drugs?

JP: “Whenever I played against a left-back I couldn't get past! On a serious note, I'd say no. In football, it's not a risk worth taking. You don't really hear about players getting banned for things like that. I can only think of Rio Ferdinand getting banned, but that was because he didn't take the test, not because of him taking anything. 

“I don't think that ever crosses players' minds. Football isn't really a sport where drugs are at the forefront.” 

Do you think part of the reason is because football is still such a skill-based game, whereas sprinting and cycling are much more explosive?

JP: “Cycling and sprinting have so many demands. Athletes need to be in top form in terms of cardio and strength, whereas great footballers don't have to be strong. Look at Lionel Messi, he must be 11 or 12 stone, and his ability is amazing. The demands of football are different in that regard.” 

Liverpool face Wolves this weekend. What are you predicting for that?

JP: Wolves don't look strong at the moment, though they played very well against Manchester United. They did, however, lose. They've picked up some bad results in their other games, and I'm expecting Liverpool to win. I'm going for 3-1. Liverpool look like they're starting to gel and play some really great football. The midfield looks great.” 

Liverpool are in the Europa League, a competition they don't really want to be in, and they'll face LASK. Would you say Liverpool are favourites to win the competition outright?

JP: “They're up there. However, favourites don't always go on to win. It depends on the teams Klopp selects as I'd imagine there will be some squad rotation. I think we'll see some young players feature - players like Ben Doak, and so on.” 

Europe League Betting Odds

UEFA Champions League 2023/24 11 Apr @ 12:14 - Win Tournament
Man City 2.63
Arsenal 7.00
Bayern Munich 8.00
Real Madrid 8.00
Barcelona 9.00
Atletico Madrid 11.00

Dominik Szoboszlai has really impressed. Is he looking like one of the leading midfielders in the Premier League?

JP: “Szoboszlai has massive potential to be one of the best. His workrate is unbelievable and he can go past players. He also has great passing range. He's doing everything you want a number 8 to do. 

“He's a little bit Gerrard-esque! If he continues to play like he is now, then he can be one of the league's best signings for sure. You can see why Jurgen was so keen to bring him in.”

Liverpool seem like they've got their mojo back in the transfer market with Mac Allister and Szoboszlai?

JP: I think the key thing is to get those deals done early and not mess about. Endo has also come in, but he's only played a few minutes and Liverpool were a man down in both games. He looks like a good enforcer and he could be a great addition once he settles. 

If you were the Liverpool manager, who would you put in your front three? Who starts and who misses out?

JP: “I don't think Gakpo has started the season very well. If I were in charge, I'd go for Diaz on the left, Salah on the right, and Darwin in the middle. You don't know what you're going to get with him! You can get the Darwin we saw at Newcastle, or you can get the Darwin who misses a lot of chances. He's looking a lot more confident now, though. That Newcastle game did him a world of good. I'd say that would be my front three.”

You also played for Birmingham. Their manager, John Eustace, has been linked with a move to Rangers. Do you think that would be a good fit?

JP: “It's difficult because Rangers are one of two good teams in the Scottish league. Eustace hasn't been amazing at Birmingham, but we've seen managers like Steven Gerrard go to Rangers and win the league. Things didn't go so well for him at Aston Villa, though. Rangers fans are not too happy with Michael Beale at the moment. The expectations at Rangers are high as you're always expected to challenge for the title.”

Wayne Rooney has been linked with Birmingham. Would you like to see that happen?

JP: “I thought Wayne did a good job at Derby and he obviously knows the Championship. I think he'd be a good fit for Birmingham because the players will respect him. He might get a good reaction from the players. It could be a good fit.”

How do you feel about the Tom Brady link? Are celebrity owners good for football?

JP: It's certainly not bad, Brady at Birmingham. If it wasn't for Ryan Reynolds and Rob Mcelhenney, not many people would know about Wrexham! They've brought Wrexham to the Football League and attracted a lot of headlines. Brady would definitely bring in more attention. If he can replicate what's happened at Wrexham, then I'm sure Birmingham fans would be licking their lips.

Jadon Sancho and Erik ten Hag are feuding. The player got dropped and then took to social media to air his frustration. Who do you think is in the wrong? Are they both in the wrong?

Erik Ten Hag -
Editorial credit: kivnl / Shutterstock.com

JP: “Jadon wasn't picked due to his training performances, and he felt the need to address that. Could he have gone to the manager and had that discussion? Yes. He has the right to do that.

“However, coming out and saying it on social media makes it look like Sancho is just trying to save face - proving Ten Hag right in the process. However, a reputation as a bad trainer could affect Sancho's future. He has the right to disagree. Ten Hag is in the wrong for criticising him in public, but Jadon could've handled it better.” 

Do you think Twitter would have got you into trouble if it was around when you were playing?

JP: “Twitter would have got me in trouble when I was playing, 100%! I didn't always have the patience to not bite back when things weren't going well. I could see myself addressing an elephant in the room, and that'd cause you and the manager to be at loggerheads. Like I said before, there's only one winner there.” 

Do you remember a manager ever publicly criticising you?

JP: “I can't remember if it ever happened publicly. I certainly fell out with managers and was made to train with the kids sometimes, but I don't think that ever reached the public.

“That happened under Tony Pulis at Stoke, it was during my last years at Stoke. The manager and I didn't always see things eye-to-eye.”

Big Brother returns to our screens soon. Is it safe to say you won't be watching it?

JP: I think it's safe to say I won't be watching Big Brother. Big Brother is not for me. I can see what it can do to people and how the show can be manipulated. I don't think it's healthy. My SAS show will be out soon!

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What would your advice be for people going into the BB house?

JP: “You've got to be mentally strong in the BB house. The show will find ways to create an atmosphere for fallouts and confrontations. They'll put you in a situation where you either look like the villain or the hero. You've got to be clever. It's a hard slog!

Is your SAS program completed?

JP: “My appearance on SAS Who Dares Wins is out in October. I've already seen some clips.

“It was an amazing experience. Torture, but a great experience. It's crazy what those guys go through, and we only went through about 25% of what they go through. There were many times when I thought I couldn't do it.” 

What was the hardest drill?

JP: “I'd say it was the one where we tried to copy a battlefield scenario - dragging ammunition boxes, and so on. You're going up hills with 25kgs on your back. You're running through swamps in the heat. It was gruesome. You're also being shouted at constantly.” 

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