Nigel Winterburn Exclusive Interviews with OLBG

Updated: 132 Football

Nigel Winterburn talks exclusively to OLBG about Arsenal's loss to title contenders Manchester City and reacts to the run of losses with reflection on what could have been and where they go now.

Nigel Winterburn Exclusive Interviews with OLBG

Chensiyuan, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

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

Nigel Winterburn was a long-time defender for Wimbledon, and had his most influential spell with Arsenal Football Club before playing also for West ham United. He played with Arsenal from 1987 to 2000 and was a key part of the renowned 'Back Four' that helped the club win multiple titles during this period in the Premier League. He was known for his robust tackling and attacking prowess going forward and his excellent positioning. 

16/05/2023

After two good results, what happened against Brighton?

It was a flat performance from Arsenal, I was at the Emirates, and it was a very bizarre game. The first 45 minutes, there were so many fouls and so many interruptions to the game., It wasn't a pleasant watch whether you were an Arsenal supporter or a Brighton supporter, it was just a poor game in that first half. Too many niggly fouls, the referee kept stopping it and it just didn't have any flow to it at all. You get in at half time and I felt Arsenal had to flip the switch in that second half to take the game to Brighton.

We know what Brighton are like, they're good at keeping the ball and moving the ball through the lines. I was talking with friends at half time, and I said this is one of those games where you need to take the lead because of how it was playing out. It was the sort of game you definitely don't want to fall behind in and Arsenal fell behind without a response.

In the end, it was a comprehensive defeat, and you can't hide away from that fact. It was pretty flat and non-descript from Arsenal all afternoon and it turned out to be pretty comfortable for Brighton in the end.

There are huge things for Mikel Arteta to look at, this was an unbelievable opportunity for Arsenal to win the league. It just shows that a couple of injuries, a loss of form and even the pressure of the situation is a factor. But when you step through the door, you've got to close it behind you so nobody else can follow you through it.

Arsenal left it ajar and unfortunately the team chasing them down has been the best team over the past five years. Manchester City have responded like champions and how you expect them to respond, they've seized on Arsenal faltering, and they've ploughed on. Over the last 15 games in all competitions, you have to say they've looked mightily impressive. 

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A lot of emphasis on Jakob Kiwior for the first goal. Is the criticism correct?

When you come into a team you analyse so much, you've got to remember he's a young man who's come in and done exceptionally well in the other games. If I'm honest, I haven't really studied the goal again to point the finger anywhere. It was just a game that Arsenal needed to win, and it was a game where the team who scored first would win.

That's the type of game I felt it was and unfortunately for Arsenal it was Brighton who got that goal.

I can't point the finger at Kiwior solely, there were a lot of flat performances throughout the team and even if you go a goal down, the response wasn't big enough from the team. I think Mikel Arteta will look at the group rather than a potential error from one of his centre backs. I won't go pointing the finger at any individual when there were a lot of flat performances from players in a team trying to keep pressure on the leaders to win a title.

Should Brighton's opener against Arsenal have been disallowed for a stamp on Kiwior?

Potentially, but I would have thought that VAR would have looked at it. Obviously, they've deemed the incident fair and there wasn't enough in it to change the decision. It's one of those subjective decisions, it depends on what side of the fence you sit on.

You can analyse one way or analyse the other, probably depending on who you support. For me, what you need to look at is the overall performance and you can't hide from the fact that it just wasn't good enough on the day, particularly in the second half.

Many fans and pundits have suggested that Arsenal have 'bottled' the title. Do you agree with this statement?

I think it's a big statement to make because it's an easy word to use. I understand why a lot of people have said that, but when you look back at the whole picture, although Arsenal were eight points clear, Manchester City still had games in hand. On the flip side, we've got the best team over the past five years chasing you down, so there's going to be pressure there when you're leading the league.

You prefer to be leading rather than chasing, when you're chasing you can't make any slip ups and quite simply Manchester City haven't. The pressure is what you put on yourself and maybe the fans expectations has added to some pressure. When you're top of the league, people will talk about you and Arsenal made a statement to the rest of the league for a very long time.

The simple fact is that they just weren't able to finish it off and it's something Mikel Arteta needs to look at.

It wasn't the same as last season because we lost a lot of games in that run in. For me, what is evident is that the squad as a whole in depth still needs a lot of work doing with it. The positives are that inside the stadium, the atmosphere has been electric and the performances for most of the season have been to a high level. There's a lot to be optimistic about, but we want to see that again next season.

Hopefully if Arsenal are in a similar position, then they'll have a stronger squad and that added experience to get over the line. But we will see, there will be a lot of questions asked and people will continue to claim that Arsenal 'bottled it'.

Arsenal lost one or two key players at the wrong time, individual performances dropped at the wrong time and that combination as a squad proved to be too much to repel Manchester City.

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Was this season Arsenal's best chance to win the league considering how many of the other top teams have been struggling?

It was a big opportunity and I've said this in the past. It's not very often, with the exception in the season Leicester City won it, that so many of the bigger teams have a drop off in a season.

This season the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool haven't really been in the title race, it's been Arsenal out in front with Manchester City chasing for much of the season. That's pretty much been it since the resumption after Christmas following the World Cup.

I think inside the Arsenal dressing room there will be some regret and they will realise that this was a big opportunity for them which they haven't taken. Hopefully they can draw from the negative side of that and turn it into a positive going into next season.

They also need to realise the positives from this season, they've produced a lot of quality performances this season and top four has never been in doubt for large parts of the season. Obviously, the negative is that they haven't got over the line, so there will be some regret there from the players.

It's not very often that you get the chance to win a Premier League so you've got to seize the opportunity, although this current Manchester City team might reject that statement.

Looking back, was Granit Xhaka's clash with Alexander-Arnold during the 2-2 draw with Liverpool the moment Arsenal lost the title or what, in your mind, has caused Arsenal's downfall in the last few weeks?

I don't agree with the Granit Xhaka comments at Liverpool, a lot of people have made that something more than what it was. For me, when you're playing there are big moments in games where you've got to handle the situation better.

When you're 2-0 up at Anfield and 2-0 up at West Ham, the first thing you have to do is get into half time at 2-0. The team talk from both managers is huge at 2-0, but at 2-1 it switches.

If Arsenal went into that game at Liverpool 2-0 up, for as well as Liverpool played in the second half, it may have been a completely different result. It was the same at West Ham as well, the attitude and the confidence doesn't change, but that pressure mounts when a home side gets the crowd involved.

The biggest games that people will look back on are West Ham and then the Southampton game at home. People might flip it and say Arsenal shouldn't have got anything from the Bournemouth fixture, but those two games were a missed opportunity. I'll always look at those two games and think that they stopped the momentum enough to allow Manchester City back into it.

Those are the two games I will look back on this season and thought if we took six points then it's a different story. 2-0 up at West Ham you expect to take the three points and playing bottom of the league at home you expect to win those games. In the end Arsenal did well to get a point out of Southampton, but those are the games that proved costly I believe.

Is there a mentality problem at Arsenal with the club throwing away the title and top four last season towards the end of the campaign?

Well, if it were to happen next season, then you might hit onto something. I think there's an element of that, people can and will question that because Arsenal had a really poor finish to last season.

It's not been so bad towards the end of this season, but when you're in a title race then it still isn't good enough. People will look at that, but I think we need to look at it next season if Arsenal are in a similar position, which I hope they will be.

If it happens again, then people will rightly question why in those big moments do the team underperform.

First of all, let's get the season finished and see how Arsenal get on next year before you make that judgement. I don't want to be thinking as an Arsenal supporter that this was just a one-off, I want to be thinking we're going to be in a similar position and how we can handle it better next time around.

I think Arsenal are making huge strides, but that would make a huge statement of Arsenal getting back to where they need to be.

Arsenal are a young team, how do you think the players will handle this collapse over the past three months? Will it scar them?

I hope they bounce back from this; they should use the experience as a positive and use it for when they come under pressure in games next season.

Across a season you'll have games where the pressure is put on you and they can learn from previous mistakes in those matches.

The mentality should be we've experienced this before, and this is how we handle it better next time around. They're young players, a lot of them go out and play without thinking about external factors too much but they will learn. Even the older players can use the experience to drive you on and make sure it doesn't happen again.

Personally, I don't think it will be an issue at all and there will be additions to the squad that will help the team develop.

Sitting back, what's your assessment of where it went wrong? Roy Keane says they need five new players - is it as bad as that?

He's probably not far off the mark with that assessment, whether Arsenal would bring in that many first team quality players remain to be seen. These would be players who can challenge or step into a team if needed if there's injuries or suspensions. I think it's difficult to bring added quality into the squad, but Arsenal will be a more attractive club because they're back in the Champions League.

As the seasons gone on, it's become apparent that Arsenal potentially need a centre-back and a right-back. You can possibly get away without a centre-back because if a right-back comes in then you can simply move Ben White to his preferred position anyway.

The problem Arsenal have had is that they haven't been able to switch the back four around because of the injuries. So, they're two potential areas, I think central midfield is definitely an area, at least one needs to come in.

Then you're looking at a wide player or a centre forward, so I don't think Roy Keane is off the mark there when you look at the potential areas that need improving. But to bring in five top quality players in one window is going to cost you a huge amount of money.

Can this season still be counted as a huge success for Arsenal?

I think in terms of the league performance and where Arsenal were last season, then I would say yes But I've always believed that a team is judged on the number of trophies it wins  I don't think the cup performances were brilliant this season if I'm being honest.

Arsenal were knocked out way too early in the domestic cup competitions, I know they got to the round of 16 in the Europa League and people thought it was a positive they out went in terms of the league, but Arsenal should have won that tie. They were expected to go through and ultimately that didn't happen. So, in terms of the league this season has been a positive, but I will say in brackets with some regret. But the cups for me were not a positive and because of the Champions League next season, Arsenal have to improve the squad.

This young team as it is in this moment will always be judged on the trophies they win. That's where the gauge is, like it or not teams and players are judged on trophies. Take Harry Kane for example, he's such a quality striker but he's opted to stay at Tottenham for so long without a trophy and they are the questions constantly asked of him.

Arsenal now have to make sure they keep hold of their young players but start delivering trophies whether it's the cup or the league.

Mikel Arteta has done it once and I think he knows he will need to do it again in the future.

Should Arsenal 'expect' to challenge for the title next season?

Yes, I don't see any reason why not.

They've proved that they can do it this season, so why shouldn't they be able to go again and do it next season. They've built up so much confidence and another season of similar results and experience gained by the younger players I think will serve the team well.

There's going to be some rotation in the squad, so in my eyes I don't see any reason why Arsenal would be outside of the top four and not amongst the title race. We all know that some of the other teams are going to improve, but Arsenal have the quality to beat them which they've proved.

It's only Manchester City out of the top teams who have looked stronger than Arsenal, so absolutely they should be looking into being in a similar position next season.

Can you see any future for Kieran Tierney at the Emirates?

I hope so, but it depends on the player and the amount of game time he's going to get.

I would imagine he'd be more involved with the Champions League, but is that enough for him? What does he want to do and what does the manager think of him, these are the questions you've got to ask. He's an out-and-out left-back; he isn't like Zinchenko and in my eyes he's stronger defensively, but Zinchenko is better at controlling games that Arsenal are on top of.

That's the conundrum you have, but if you're trying to build a squad that's going to challenge for competitions then you need players like Tierney and Zinchenko going against each other for a spot. It's not good feeling like Arsenal can let Tierney go and bring in somebody who is simply going to be back up.

Zinchenko would know that he's going to play every game even if his form drops because someone has been brought in simply as cover. That's not what you need when you're in a team challenging for the title, trophies or even top four.

If your form drops, then you're out and the guy taking your spot has the right to keep it until their form drops. That's the competition I think you now need at the very top, so in an ideal world Tierney needs to stay at Arsenal, but I think it'll be down to the player and what he wants because he'll certainly have suiters if he wants to leave.

Do you agree with Martin Keown that broadcasters and their commentators/pundits are biased towards Arsenal?

It's difficult for me to answer this because I was at the Emirates, so I didn't listen to the commentary. But even when I'm at home watching the games, I very rarely listen to it and I tend to have the sound off.

I think that might sum up my answer in all honesty.

I can't actually comment on that particular game because I wasn't listening to it, so I don't know what was said. But even without listening you have to say that there's a little bit of bias there because there has to be. Even if you're a true professional, Gary Neville is Manchester United through and through.

As professional as you think somebody is, there's that element of bias, especially if you've gone toe-to-toe with a club in your playing career. I'm not sure who Martin Tyler supports, and I'm not particularly interested in finding out, but I wouldn't just say it's Arsenal with some of the comments commentators make.

They're very good at what they do, but they do make some strange comments from time to time and it does make you question whether they like a certain team.

If I watch a game on my computer, I tend to have headphones plugged in but they're not usually in my ears. If anything controversial happens then I'll pop them in to have a listen, but majority of the time I prefer to watch the game in silence.

I just want to enjoy what's going on rather than listen to two guys rattling on about the game. I think it may be aimed at the Martinelli incident; I don't think they did anything because his arms were by his side.

Those incidents come with reputation as well, if it was Vinnie Jones or Granit Xhaka then they may have gone off. It looked bad, but Martinelli isn't that sort of player and his arms were by his side rather than it being an elbow. Occasionally players come together, and it can look a bit naughty.

I would also say they should have looked at the tackle on Martinelli from Caicedo which wasn't punished, that's just football sometimes. But if a commentator is annoying you, then you're going to think that they're biased, but I don't tend to listen to them.

How big would it be for West Ham to reach a European final? What did you make of the first-leg and do you think they'll go through?

It would be massive, and I think they have the quality to get there as well, I wouldn't see any reason why they shouldn't. I know they went behind but to me they looked the stronger team by far.

I'm expecting them to get to the final and for West Ham, it doesn't matter what the competition is, to get to a final is a huge achievement. If it's not important, then they would have played weaker teams throughout the competition.

They're in there by right because of how they've performed in previous seasons and now they've got to make sure they get to the final because they'll have a good chance of winning it. If you ask West Ham supporters, I think they would say it was probably the biggest game of the season.

In my eyes they're safe, so although they've struggled in the league, this competition has been a welcomed relief for them, so make sure you get to the final. It's a massive game for them for sure and with European competitions now there's always an added bonus by winning them. That's the next step up the ladder for the club, they've been in the Europa League before and competed very well in the competition.

First of all, make sure you get to the final and then if you win it you'll have Europa League football despite the troubling league season. It's a big evening for West Ham, but I'm sure they'll see it through now.

Do you think David Sullivan will sell his controlling stake to Daniel Kretinsky? Kretinsky owns Sparta Prague and is worth $9bn - would him being owner transform West Ham?

It all depends on how much a new potential owner is going to put in. There will be many supporters who will tell you about their owners who are very wealthy but feel like they need more investment. It's because you want to see your team performing at the top, people complain at the money Manchester City spend, but I don't think you'd hear one of their supporters complaining.

It could potentially transform West Ham and take them to the next level with a potential new ownership if they inject some money into the club.

I would see that as a major positive for the club, but as we've seen time and time again, new owners don't always come to fruition about what they're going to do before they get in there. They make promises about what they're going to do and where they want to take the club before leaving them in a fair bit of trouble. Obviously, that doesn't happen every time there's a change of ownership and for me this takeover from Daniel Kretinsky sounds like a positive step in the right direction.

It'll certainly be interesting to see if the takeover does happen and if we see some more investment into the club. At that point it will become a positive.

Should Moyes carry on next season?

I think if you look at his overall time at the club, he's done a fantastic job. Yes, this season they have performed lower than the expectations in the league, but they're potentially going to play in a European cup final. If they win that competition, it'll hugely enhance his reputation as well. It would be a huge statement to relieve him of his duties after winning a European cup.

Some people might argue they aren't overly keen on his style of play, but in the two seasons before that he did an unbelievable job. I said earlier in the season that he would come under pressure if West Ham didn't perform to these expectations built up which has happened. I'm just looking from the outside, but I think David Moyes would be hugely disappointed if he won a European cup and was relieved of his job.

There's a lot of clubs in the market for a new manager as well, we've seen what stability can bring you at a team, so for me it would be strange to let him go. But let's see what happens over the upcoming weeks and months, but I can't see him going at this stage.Maybe earlier in the season there was a case, but he's guided them away from trouble and into a potential European final.

Declan Rice has been quoted at £120 million and for the first time David Moyes has admitted he could leave – can you see anyone paying that price with just a year left on his contract?

Well, he's contracted for another year at least, but it seems like he's indicating that he wants to move on, I think it becomes very difficult to manage the situation. I personally don't see West Ham getting £120 million. He's still a young player so there's a resale value there, but £120 million to sell him on in the future doesn't seem like it'll have the same value.

I think they would get something in the region of £80 or £90 million, I think £120 million is a bit unrealistic considering the situation. But I've been wrong before, I said Harry Kane wouldn't go for £120 million and he hasn't ended up at Manchester City because Erling Haaland had a £50 million release clause.

Declan Rice is a terrific player, I like him a lot but for £120 million I don't see it, especially with a year left on his contract. Maybe a club will match that valuation, I'd be amazed if it was Arsenal in all honesty. But let's see, it'll be the talk of the summer, I'm sure.

If he doesn't sign a new contract, then obviously somebody is getting a top player on a free transfer if he isn't sold this summer. Rice out of loyalty may tell West Ham he wants to go now because the club will get some money back for him.

It looks to me that's the way everybody wants it to play out, but we'll have to see who is willing to pay a huge chuck of money to take him away from West Ham.

It does look as if he's going to move though and I'm sure some of the big clubs in the Premier League will be monitoring the situation.

I could be wide of the mark and a club actually matches the value, it's a huge amount of money though, but I have been wrong before and I could be again.

The Bounce Back from the City Defeat

Here we ask some questions following the bounce back from the City defeat.

Was it the perfect response from Arsenal to get those 3 points at Aston Villa after 4 games without a win?

It wasn't the perfect performance, but Arsenal certainly stepped it up after half time. Arsenal showed that desire and character to go on and win the game after that little drop in form.  I've discussed the games before, Everton was a poor performance, Brentford we don't need to discuss because a certain person didn't do their job correctly. The Manchester City performance was pretty decent, it was just those defining moments at either end of the pitch that went against Arsenal. We can call it a mini slump from Arsenal, but in terms of points picked up there was only a small percentage drop in performance.

It was a little bit of a carry over into the first half against Aston Villa, but they showed grit and determination to come back. The first goal was an early setback, but Arsenal came back into it and managed to come again after going 2-1 down. I think the team showed what I've believed this season, it's different from last year and there's a new belief in this squad. The quality of performances overall have been on a different level from last season.

Does Gabriel Martinelli need to be taken out of the starting XI for Leandro Trossard? (Did Martinelli respond to that dropping well?)

Nobody wants to be dropped or rested; however you want to call it, but not being in the starting XI can be frustrating for a player.  People were questioning Mikel Arteta for leaving Ben White out against Manchester City. Tomiyasu, unfortunately, made a mistake that day, but these things happen. There's no way I'm going to question a manager's decision when I haven't been a manager myself. Managers assess everything, the physical aspect of the player, the mental side and what they see on a training pitch. This is why managers are there to make these decisions.

Martinelli had been quieter in the recent games, but Arteta just decided to take him out and give Trossard a start. The switch happened again in the second half, Martinelli's pace coming on and I'm pleased that he got that goal in the end. But that's because he was willing to make that run beyond the defence, yes you can say the goalkeeper came up, but that's the choice of the opposing team whether to do that or not. It was the desire from Martinelli to get into that position to kill the game off, so I'm pleased he responded in the right way.

You have to do that as a professional because it's disrespectful to the rest of the squad if you don't. He then responds with a goal from the bench, so it was the perfect attitude from Martinelli.

Why do you believe that Arsenal are suddenly struggling in front of goal?

It was probably a mixture of confidence and the movement of the ball in the final third. If I'm honest, I didn't see that Everton performance coming because Arsenal were playing so well up until that point.

I think when you lose a game it just shakes you up again and you have to make sure you win the next game as quick as possible. Unfortunately for Arsenal they didn't do that, and I think that just brings your confidence down slightly.

There were some hesitancies as well in the passing, it wasn't as sharp or crisp as it has been this season. Rather than instinctively going into their passage of play, it just seemed the players were thinking about it for a bit longer than they normally would.

It just slows everything down in terms of creating those chances, it's just a combination of things which means you aren't creating those chances in a game. Human nature is to look at individual players and point out what they're doing or not doing. It's just natural, but I'm pleased in the end Arsenal created those chances on Saturday and with the quality that Arsenal have, if they keep creating chances then eventually, they'll score.

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Should Arsenal be looking over their shoulder with Manchester United picking up points?

Manchester United are there because they're showing a lot of consistency at the minute. They're only five points behind Arsenal, albeit Arsenal have a game in hand still. You just don't know what will happen with those games, but they are there.

Everyone is still looking at Arsenal and Manchester City, but you have to be respectful of the teams that are behind you especially if they're showing the levels of consistency like Manchester United are doing right now. There are going to be games where teams drop points when you least expect it, it's already happened many times this season already. Those games will define who wins the title.

Everybody at this minute in time is playing catch up to Arsenal and as long as Arsenal maintains their own consistency then it puts pressure on the chasing teams. It allows you to keep picking up points to keep that little bit of a gap between you and the teams behind. I think it's going to be an intriguing end to the season.

Could Arsenal finish outside the top four this season?

No, not a chance whatsoever based on what I've seen this season. Let's be honest, I didn't think there was any chance last season with the run Arsenal were on, but it happened.

This season though I feel as if I'm watching a different Arsenal, I see a different team, a different unity and the levels of performances are so much stronger than last campaign.

The desire, the belief and the character is starting to come through. I'm not saying Arsenal won't lose another game, but there is absolutely no chance that they'll finish outside the top four.

Would Arsenal have beaten Man City with Mudryk and Caicedo in the team?

Arsenal have and will keep trying to bring in more players.

We saw it with both Mudryk and Caicedo, Arsenal are looking at targets that will be an upgrade on squad depth. There's no doubt in my mind that Arsenal will continue to do that, but what does help that is if you're Premier League winners or playing Champions League football. That entices players to your football club, they want to be a part of a successful team.

Arsenal will keep trying to do that and I'm pretty sure come the end of the season that there will be a couple of more changes within the squad. You have to keep doing that, you have to keep building and evolving.

It's fair to say that everyone thinks that at this moment in time that Arsenal's squad depth isn't enough, but it's stronger than last season. Emile Smith-Rowe has been out for a long time and he's on his way back. There were a few additions in January as well, so Arsenal will definitely do that again next season.  

Marcus Rashford is in the form of his life, players get compared all the time but how would you compare two young English talents in Saka and Rashford? And who would you prefer in your side?

I think it's a bit disrespectful to say which one you would rather pick. But I'm an Arsenal man, so I'm going to take Saka because I've seen his development and what he can do. There were questions over Rashford at the start of the season whether he could be the main man for Manchester United. Just in that centre forward role, but since the World Cup we are seeing a player who is on a hot streak.

He is super confident right now, he can go left, he can go right and he appears through the middle at times. But what we're seeing is every opportunity that comes his way, he's taking those chances.

He's up there with the in-form players, if not the most in-form player in the world right now. It depends how long you want to judge it over, but there's no disputing what Marcus Rashford has done since the World Cup.

For me it's not a case of choosing which one I would want because one is at my club and the other isn't.

I know what I watch when I see Saka, I've always said since he came into the team that his levels of performances do not drop too much even if he has a quiet game.

Rashford is currently showing that he's capable of being the main person at Manchester United, whether that be as a centre forward or off either side. My gut feeling is when Manchester United sort out the ownership, that they will go for an additional centre forward and a big player in that position. There will be targets who they believe will help them in terms of going forward next season. But there's no doubts that Rashford at the moment is right up there on form with the very best players.

You just cannot dispute that because he's been absolutely incredible.

Should both be starting for England in next month's internationals?

I would, absolutely I would on current form. I'd go Saka right and Rashford left. I don't see who would command a position over those two at this moment in time. I don't see why they both wouldn't play for England in those games.

Do you think Pep's speech earlier in the week defending the club against the Premier League FFP charges rallied City's players? Could that have made a difference?

I don't think the players will worry about financial fair play, it's not their issue. It's certainly a little bit more of a problem for the manager because he's going to be asked those questions until that's resolved. But that could be way off, I don't know how legally this will work.

One thing we do know is Manchester City will be near the top of the league and will be competing for the cups. They've got so many talented players and the biggest squad depth in the Premier League and these players know how to win titles.

They wasted an opportunity at the weekend, you don't need Pep or the players to tell you that with the chances they missed. They created so many chances which were missed, and they dominated possession, but you always know that the other team will create one or two opportunities of their own.

Manchester City just didn't kill them off and that second goal would have completely settled it. There's no doubt in this team though, they might not be as consistent as last season right now, but the talent is there, and they are a very dangerous team.

Why isn’t it clicking at West Ham, are they in real danger of going down?

Yes, they are.  I was in that West Ham team that went down in 2003 and it's no good thinking you're too good to go down because you're not.

When you're down there the pressure mounts unbelievably and as the games tick by and you don't get yourself out of that bottom three with a cushion, then you're never quite sure how players are going to react. You can talk about it all you like, but you need to get results on the board.

It's looking as if West Ham would start to pull away a little bit, but the results below them over the weekend and that performance at Tottenham wasn't ideal. I just thought for the first time it looked a bit negative.

David Moyes has done a super job with West Ham, and I've said that on many occasions, but it obviously looks like the confidence has been sucked out of the team.

Image: westhamworld


They now need to try and dig out a couple of wins very quickly which they're struggling to do. Whilst they sit down there, pressure will mount on David Moyes because of what he's achieved in the past couple of seasons.

But you can never say you're too good to go down because you'll look at it one day and it'll be too late to change things. West Ham have just got to make sure they aren't one of the three teams in that relegation zone.

At this moment in time, they're in real danger and you can't hide from that fact.

All the teams down there will be fearing they will be relegated, and you've got to do something about it. The onus is on the manager and the players to change things because they're the only ones that can.

After the Loss to Manchester City

What did you make of Arsenal's performance against City?

I actually thought it wasn't a bad performance from Arsenal.

But when you are coming up against the best team consistently with the squad depth and talent that Manchester City have got which has been proved for the last three or four seasons.

Those crucial moments can win you a game or absolutely destroy you. From Arsenal's point of view, Tomiyasu's mistake turned out to be a disaster for them.

They worked their way back into the game nicely and created some chances, but unfortunately when Manchester City got their chances, they took them.

Arsenal didn't defend as best as they could have done, but the execution from Manchester City was tremendously good as well.

People will be very disappointed, but the fine line in a big game can be decided by those moments.

Unfortunately for Arsenal, they didn't get those key moments right throughout.

After last night, what are thoughts today after the title race? Is it still Arsenal's to lose given the game in hand?

Are Arsenal still in the title race?

I believe it's still in Arsenal's hands, but I said at the start of the season I was enjoying what I was seeing from this Arsenal team.

I was worried about the squad depth, and you're always worried throughout a season about injuries to key players.

You're also worried that there could be a drop off in form and when you get two or three players dropping off in form, then the performance level drops overall. It could be less than 10%, but you give teams a chance to take something from you.

Unfortunately, over the past couple of weeks that's happened to Arsenal.

We can dispute the Brentford goal which should have been ruled out but wasn't. But I think there's been a feeling from the Everton and Brentford games that there's been a slight drop in form. Although the performance against Manchester City was decent, the key moments cost Arsenal.

What Arsenal need to do is not as huge as people think, yes, they've let Manchester City back in and probably Manchester United as well. But Arsenal just need to regroup and go again, show people that this is a new Arsenal.

This is what I'm looking forward to seeing from this group, I'm confident in the team because they've made huge strides since last season. They've just got to come again and show everyone why they've been spoken about so strongly. This is going to be their biggest test so far now that Manchester City have taken over top spot.

Arsenal have that game in hand, but we're going to see a lot about these players' characters and how much faith Mikel Arteta has in his squad.

Arteta has plenty of belief, there's no doubt about that, but they've just got to come again.

Was Arteta wrong to pick Tomiyasu over Ben White, given how Arsenal conceded the first goal?

The manager is there to make tough choices, he made that decision and the last thing he would have wanted is for the player coming in to make a mistake like that.

It was just an error, you can't get away from that, but there was nothing Mikel Arteta could do to prevent it. You don't expect to bring somebody into the team, and they make an error like that. It's football and it does happen as we've seen plenty of times in the past.

Arteta has to stick by that decision and maybe he believed Ben White's performances had dipped a little. If Tomiyasu produces a cross or a pass that Arsenal score from, then people would be calling Arteta a genius. If he doesn't and he makes a mistake, then everyone questions why the Arsenal manager made a change.

I wouldn't worry about it, Tomiyasu knows he made a mistake, Arteta will know that, so you move on from it.

It's always good in hindsight to question decisions but a manager will always stand by the decision they make. You just have to go with it and hopefully Tomiyasu comes back stronger from the mistake.

Credit: MDI / Shutterstock.com

What would the message be to the players from Arteta this morning? Have you ever been in a similar situation? What do you want to hear from the manager?

What they will be doing is analysing the game, but what we've seen from Mikel Arteta is his pride in his players. We saw that after the Everton game, the level of performances achieved so far by Arsenal are remarkable.

He just needs his players to go again, show them the aspects of the game where Arsenal were good and created chances and then show them the times where maybe the team rushed things a little bit.

Defensively they'll look at things and give his feedback on those moments where they got things wrong. Given the situation he may have preferred if his players just knocked the ball out or maybe clipped it away. Defending is about risk assessment, no matter how you play or how you're told to play, when you're out on the pitch you're the man in charge.

You have to be big enough and brave enough to make those decisions and you can always discuss with the manager afterwards. If you feel like you need to just clear the danger, then you do it and deal with the consequences afterwards. The issue the manager might have is you had time to bring it down and play the ball out from the back again.

There were moments where Arsenal came under pressure and Tomiyasu looked particularly uncomfortable. Let's not forget how good Manchester City's movement is as well, they just got caught out a couple of times. Those are the things Arteta will look at individually and collectively, especially at the back where Arsenal need to be better.

Given their back-to-back defeats to City, are Arsenal mentally tough enough to win the league?

Let's see what happens in the next couple of games, there's two tough away games coming up for Arsenal at Aston Villa and Leicester.

That will tell us everything we need to know, but it's always disappointing when you're top and you lose against the team that's chasing you. The take from that game is that Arsenal did a lot of good things, and they need to eradicate the things that didn't go so well.

They need to pick themselves up between now and the end of the season because that will show us how ready Arsenal are to challenge for the title.

The players will know that and Arteta will know that but these next two games will show us the character of the team. From my point of view, I hope it's a positive aspect and can drive Arsenal on again.

With Manchester City now being level on points with Arsenal, do you believe Artea and the Gunners have the quality and experience to go toe-toe with Pep Guardiola's side for the rest of the season?

They've got a lot of international experience, but they haven't got that experience of going for Premier League titles. It depends on what way you look at it. Sometimes we look at sport and young athletes and say they're playing with no fear because they haven't experienced it before in their careers. Then you can flip it around and say players have been in this position before and it's just built into the memory.

This Arsenal team hasn't been there before, they've got to learn very quickly how to cope with the pressures and there's no better time than to start at the weekend. They need to learn from their mistakes, but also their good passages of play and kill teams off when they're on top in a game.

Arsenal have been doing that up until the last couple of weeks.

Is there cause for concern after a fourth game in a row without a win?

It's always a concern when you want to be a successful club and you're going through a blip like this. If you want to be challenging for titles and cup competitions, then you can't let a non-winning run last for too long.

Arsenal might get away with losing another game in the season, but I would suggest they can't afford to lose another game quickly after this run.

It's the three league games Arsenal will be more bothered about; they need to put in a winning performance in the league to get that confidence back if it's dropped.

They're professional players, they will understand that in their careers they'll go through disappointment as does everyone else, including Manchester City. The beauty of it is, teams like Manchester City know how to respond and Arsenal need to learn that quickly.

Did Pep outcoach Arteta in the second-half?

I think what we all know is that Manchester City have more options off the bench than Arsenal. Manchester City have the ability to change things if someone isn't performing, Arsenal are improving their squad to have options as we've seen in the recent transfer windows.

I believe Arsenal will buy again to make themselves stronger, but there isn't a comparison right now because Manchester City have an unbelievable amount of strength in the squad. You could say that Pep should be able to change games more regularly than Mikel Arteta can do.

Arteta has made good changes, he has Trossard to lean on who came off the bench to score against Brentford. It didn't turn out to be the winning goal, but Arsenal are starting to get players in who can come on and change things. It's a squad now challenging for positions week in week out, but it still needs adding to.

Mikel Arteta will know that and if you ask him at the end of the season he would agree with that statement.

Man City had their lowest possession percentage in 11 years on the night. Why couldn't Arsenal take advantage? Should we be talking more about City's defence rather than the errors Arsenal made?

Manchester City did defend well because Arsenal only scored once. But I could name you a couple of opportunities that Arsenal had where on another night they would take them.

Eddie Nketiah had at least two chances where he could have done better, so if they go in you can say Manchester City don't defend as well as people think. But because Manchester City took their chances, we're now saying Arsenal didn't defend as well as they have been doing. It comes down to those fine lines, what we know about this Manchester City team is that if you switch off for a second, then they score.

Usually, they have more possession of the ball then anyone which gives them more opportunities, obviously last night they didn't but still managed to score three goals themselves. That's what Manchester City can do to teams. 

Erling Haaland once again proved how lethal he is against Arsenal, do you think if he stayed at Manchester City for the rest of his career he could beat Alan Shearer's goal record?

Image: sportingnews

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Well, I would have thought so. It's ridiculous the number of goals he scores and the fact he's still a young man and still developing is a scary thought. He's still learning the game but scoring a huge number of goals.

The compliment you can give Haaland is that every time he doesn't score a goal, people will criticise him as if he can't have the odd off performance. It can happen to anybody, especially goal scorers. But Haaland is someone that if you give him an opportunity then he will score goals.

I don't know how long he's going to stay, but the way he's going right now and the way he looks then you would say he will break all the records in the Premier League.

If it continues in this form and stays in the Premier League long enough, then he will break Alan Sherer's record. We just don't know how long he's going to stay or if he picks up any injuries. The one thing we can say at the moment is, that man is a beast.

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