Football Insights - Kevin Campbell And Danny Mills
With another international window now closed, the attention turns back onto the Premier League and some massive games headlined by the Merseyside Derby and Manchester City v Arsenal. Former Arsenal and Everton striker Kevin Campbell and former Man City and Leeds defender Danny Mills chat exclusively to GentingBet about all things their former clubs ahead of week five.
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Kevin Campbell On Arsenal
Arsenal face Manchester City at the weekend. Can Arteta get one over Pep Guardiola again and how much do they need to win to prove how far they have come this season?
Kevin Campbell: The game against Manchester City is a really important game for Arsenal, especially with the acquisition of Thomas Partey for that midfield role. This is hopefully going to be the game that will sine the light on what Arteta wants to do with his team and how things will shape up moving forward.
Interestingly, Mikel Arteta probably knows the Man City players better than he knows his own Arsenal players because he has spent more time with them over the years – he will be able to set up his team correctly but as always, it comes down to execution. The way that Arsenal executed the game plan in the FA Cup semi-final was fantastic, but having that key piece in Thomas Partey in midfield can really help because he can do it all.
Everyone knows what Man City will bring to the table, even if Kevin De Bruyne isn’t there but Arsenal need to perform as it is a key game for them.
Arsenal completed the deadline day signing of Thomas Partey. Was he the signing of the transfer window?
Kevin Campbell: Thomas Partey was the signing of the transfer window. For Arsenal to get him for £45 million is tremendous business – Arsenal almost went in with balaclavas on and stole him! Atletico Madrid dropped the ball by only having a £45 million release clause, he is a player that is a lot better than £45 million in this current market. But that was the release cause and Arsenal met it and they have their man. It is a key position for the club, he is moving into his prime and he will spend those years at the football club, so he is someone that the club can build around in midfield.
With Partey added to the mix, should Arsenal expect to finish in the Top Four this season?
Kevin Campbell: With Partey added to the mix, Arsenal need to be looking at finishing in the Top Four. Having that key figure defensively, someone who can protect the back is so important in modern day football and Arsenal haven’t had that in years – they’ve had players there who haven’t really liked playing there that have done a job but this is a level above. If they don’t get Top Four that will be disappointing - it needs to be the focus of the team this year
There is talk of William Saliba joining a Championship club on loan – how much of a blow will that be for Arsenal who might have expected him to slot straight in at Centre Back?
Kevin Campbell: Mikel Arteta needs to asses where William Saliba is in terms of his development, it wouldn’t be considered a blow to Arsenal if he does go on loan to the Championship if Arteta thinks that is what is best for him. He’s played a season or two for Saint-Étienne but he is still a very young man.
If it was up to me, I would keep him at the football club, let him pick up some minutes here and there and get him up to speed but as we know, nothing beats playing games. So, I would understand if he does go out on loan but if he doesn’t then that is fine as well. Ultimately, it will be down to Mikel Arteta to decide but Saliba has so much talent, I would like to see him stay at the club this season.
Aubameyang hasn’t scored since he signed his new contract, how much will he want a goal and a big performance against Man City?
Kevin Campbell: The game against Manchester City is a very important game for Aubameyang for a number of reasons. Aubameyang is a form player who hasn’t been on form [since he signed his new contract] but Arsenal haven’t created too many chances for him of late. I’m sure Arteta will recognise that and will be looking at opportunities to get him those chances.
At the end of the day, winning is the key. Aubameyang is the captain and will know that. There is never an easy game at the Etihad so as long as they win, it doesn’t matter who scores but being the main man, Aubameyang will want to be the difference maker.
Nicholas Pepe has shown flashes of brilliance this season – should he be starting every game for Arsenal?
Kevin Campbell: Nicholas Pepe has been unfortunate at Arsenal – Mikel Arteta is his third manager in just over a year. He has shown flashes of his brilliance but Mikel Arteta will be looking for consistency in his game. He came off the bench and really made an impact against Sheffield United, scoring a great goal but Arteta will be working on aspects of his game on the training pitch to help keep him consistent.
He is a dribbler, who sometimes holds on to the ball too long but Arteta won’t coach that out of him, he’ll focus on making him more productive. It may take a little bit of time but Arsenal have players who can step in whenever needed. However, if Pepe can perform as he did against Sheffield United then he needs to start.
Mesut Ozil was left out of Arsenal's Europa League squad. Is there any chance that he will feature at all this season?
Kevin Campbell: Mesut Ozil is yesterday’s news at the club. There is no chance that he will feature for Arsenal again this season, or ever again. There have been certain things that have gone on, instances where he has gone against the club, so I don’t see where there is any room for him to come back.
Bukayo Saka made his international debut last week – is he one of the most exciting young talents in the league?
Kevin Campbell: Saka is one of the most exciting young talents in the league. For someone so young to have so much confidence and ability is brilliant. And he’s a left footer which gives a great sense of balance to the team when you have a naturally left-footed player operating from the left-hand side. I’m really excited about Saka – he is only going to get better and improve and he has a great manager to develop under in Mikel Arteta.
Kevin Campbell On Everton
Is this the best or worse time for Everton to face Liverpool after the humiliation they suffered against Aston Villa?
Kevin Campbell: There is never an easy time to face Liverpool but after the humiliation of conceding 7 goals to Aston Villa, this has to be a good time. There are going to be some doubts in Liverpool’s heads – Allison isn’t there, they’ve shown inconsistency with Adrian in goal. They didn’t look right against Aston Villa – Virgil Van Dijk, who has been a colossus at the back, and Joe Gomez and all the others, they didn’t look right. Everton will look to put them under serious pressure to unsettle Liverpool’s Back Five. If Everton can get their noses in front, that will be the key. That will put huge pressure on this Liverpool team.
How impressed are you with the job Carlo Ancelotti has already done at Everton? Can he get this Everton side to finish in the Top Four this season?
Kevin Campbell: I’m very impressed by the job Carlo Ancelotti has done at Everton but I’m not surprised. In terms of recruitment, he’s fixed some of the problems that the team have had, namely the engine room in the middle of the pitch by bringing in three absolute quality players – and you can see Everton look like a completely different team with them in.
However, I don’t think that they can make the Top Four purely because of the lack of squad depth. When you look past the new additions in midfield, there aren’t many other midfielders in the squad that can pick up the slack and can come in for them. That is where Everton can become unstuck. I’d like Everton to prove me wrong but I think Everton should be looking to finish in the Top Eight.
Both Ancelotti and Arteta started at similar times last season – who do you think has done a better job so far?
Kevin Campbell: Mikel Arteta has done a better job than Carlo Ancelotti so far because he has won silverware and that’s the way these managers will be judged.
Ancelotti has done a fantastic job – he recognised what he needed and recruited well, especially in the midst of difficult circumstances with the lockdown. Starting this season, Everton have been the form team so based on this season alone, you could argue Ancelotti has done a slightly better job. However, Arteta has also recruited very well – you can see what he is trying to do and the Partey signing could prove to be a masterstroke.
Both managers have got off to a great start but Arteta has done the better job so far as a result of the silverware last season.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been in inspired form this year. Can he go on to establish himself as one of the top strikers in Europe?
Kevin Campbell: There is no reason why Dominic Calvert-Lewin can’t go on to establish himself as one of the top strikers in Europe. He’s a young man who has done marvellously well – he is willing to learn, he is a sponge. He’s taken to Carlo Ancelotti’s system like a duck to water and now that he has even better players around him, his goal ratio has gone up, unsurprisingly.
If Everton can keep their midfield fit and suppling chances - Dominic Calvert-Lewin will keep scoring goals. He’ll face a barren spell at one time or another but with the quality around him – he’s going to score goals.
He’ll be challenging for the Golden Boot come the end of the season. With the quality around him, he should be looking at 20 goals at least this season.
Everton striker Moise Kean has moved to PSG on loan. Do you think this is the end of his Everton career?
Kevin Campbell: Moise Keen heading out on loan to PSG doesn’t necessarily signal the end of his Everton career, it depends on what type of year he has at PSG. He’s a young man with talent and coming off the bench didn’t give him the best opportunity to show what he can do so he wasn’t able to hit the ground running. But going to France, going to PSG, I’m sure he will get his confidence going again and will come back a different player. If he has a great season, Everton will want to keep him, if he doesn’t then he’ll look for a move away.
How important of a signing is Ben Godfrey for Everton – in some ways, is he Everton's most important signing of the window?
Kevin Campbell: Ben Godfrey’s versatility makes him a really good signing for Everton. He can play multiple positions, and to have a young player who can come in and fill in a number of positions and do a good job, that is worth your weight in gold. He is a very good signing but not the most important one, given the signings Everton have made in midfield.
Does the arrival of Robin Olsen signal the end of Pickford's reign as Everton Number One?
Kevin Campbell: The arrival of Robin Olsen doesn’t signal the end of Pickford’s reign as Everton’s Number One but it does put extra pressure on him. I’ve long championed Pickford but even I have questioned him on some of the goals that he has been conceding. At the end of the day, he needs to be consistent. When it comes to a place where he is starting to cost Everton, then Ancelotti knows that he will have a decision to make. Ancelotti was smart – he bought in a more than capable keeper who can step into the role and be a very good replacement. It’s a very smart transfer.
Danny Mills On Manchester City
Man City have secured just 4 points from their opening three games. Should they lose to Arsenal this weekend, is that the end of their title race already?
Danny Mills: I wouldn't say that a loss to Arsenal would be the end of Manchester City’s title race, but it starts to make it very, very difficult for the team. Teams can probably afford to lose four games and still go on and win the Premier League, if they have a fantastic season after that, but to lose two very, very early on, does make it difficult. Having said this, Liverpool have also already lost one and they've got a Merseyside Derby at the weekend with Everton in great form this season.
I think this year's title race is going to be tighter than we've seen previously and there might be more teams involved. Teams won't want to lose any games, especially to those teams that you expect to be around in the top six. I think if City were to lose another game this early in the season, questions will start to be asked about the way their season is heading.
Kevin De Bruyne & Raheem Sterling are potential doubts for the game against Arsenal – with them missing, do Arsenal have a better chance than ever to take a win?
Danny Mills: Without a doubt, Arsenal have a better chance to beat Manchester City with De Bruyne, Sterling and Aguero missing from the Manchester City squad.
Manchester City's defence is starting to sort itself out, but that's still fairly new. They've got to work out that understanding and with lots of players away on international duty, there’s a question of whether they’ll come back fit and what issues may arise with COVID and selection problems.
But, if you’re Arsenal and De Bruyne, Sterling and Aguero aren’t in the side, suddenly you start to get a little bit more belief about a result and it gives you a little bit more confidence.
What is missing at Man City this season – have they lost their sense of invincibility?
Danny Mills: Once upon a time, teams used to go to the likes of Old Trafford and they’d think they’d be lucky to get away with a draw but then suddenly teams start to win and believe they can go there and get a result. That’s exactly what’s happened with Manchester City at the Etihad.
It’s given everyone else a little bit more confidence. Look at how Leeds played against Manchester City in their last game, they really took the game, especially in the second half.
City are such a great side, and they’re working on the defensive problems that cost them last season, but you’ve got to remember that, they still scored more goals than anybody else last season. They probably also created more chances than anybody else but oddly enough, they weren't overly clinical and some of the chances they missed, were unbelievable at times. So, City are a magnificent side but they've just lost that X Factor at the moment and Guardiola will be absolutely desperate to regain that as quick as possible.
Did Man City do enough in the transfer window to put them in good stead for the season ahead? Will they regret not signing another out and out striker?
Danny Mills: Replacing Aguero has always been an issue for Manchester City, because how do you replace him? Jesus is a very good player who works very hard but he’s not Aguero and if Aguero is missing for any length of time, you do worry a little bit about Manchester City.
However, I think the fact that they've tried to address their defensive issues more than anything else with Dias coming in, that was where they had to sort themselves out because that's what cost them last season, especially in the Champions League. I think they've got enough strength in depth and enough quality going forward. Then Guardiola will always find a way to work that out whether he plays a False Nine or however he plays it, it’s just defensively where they need to tie it up.
Is Ruben Dias good enough to finally replace Vincent Kompany and solve the defensive issues at Man City?
Danny Mills: Dias isn’t as good as Kompany, who was just magnificent, as a person, as a player, as a leader and as a captain. He was absolutely outstanding, with his mindset, he was Manchester City’s answer to John Terry. I think the Dias can build a relationship with Laporte and if they can build a really solid foundation, which I think they will do, City will have a much better chance of winning more trophies this season.
Man City kick off their Champions League campaign next week. Is this the final chance that Pep will get to win the competition before he moves or is moved on?
Danny Mills: Pep Guardiola will be absolutely desperate to win the Champions League this season. People say now that he only won at Barcelona because of Messi and he also admits that Messi was so integral to that Barcelona side and to the way that they played and a lot of their success.
Then he went to Bayern Munich, who were treble winners and he didn't manage to win it, and now he's come to Manchester City and hasn’t won it yet. He’s brought in some incredible talent, he’s spent an awful lot of money, and he still hasn't made the Champions League Final with Manchester City. That will be something that he wants to put right, because he wants to be up there with the likes of Mourinho and Ancelotti as managers that have won it with different clubs, that sets you apart from other managers.
It will be interesting to see if Manchester City don't do well in the Champions League this season because surely there will become a point where they start to ask questions.
Danny Mills On Leeds United
How surprised were you with the Leeds result against Man City?
Danny Mills: I was very surprised with how Leeds played against Manchester City. Honestly, I thought after 20 minutes, it could have ended up being 5-0, to City. I thought Manchester City in the opening 20 minutes of the game were absolutely outstanding and Leeds were really struggling to get to grips with them. Then Manchester City scored and I think they just almost eased back a little bit, after they’d got their goal, and put their feet up. They just took the foot off the gas a little bit too much and that allowed Leeds to come back into it. It just goes to show you get those momentum shifts in games, and Leeds got a foothold in the game up to halftime, changed a couple of things, during the break, and they came out storming in the second half, and were unlucky not to win the game in the end.
But I think that just goes to show that, Manchester City are not at 100%, if they ease off in any way, shape or form, they are still very, very vulnerable. As are, Liverpool we see now.
Leeds had a very busy transfer window – what do you make of their signings? How much will Raphinha improve their current squad?
Danny Mills: Leeds have made a lot more signings than I ever thought they were going to make.
With the number of players that they brought in, I think Rodrigo will be a very, very good signing, whether he plays as a 10, or whether he plays out wide. You've now got Raphinha coming in, alongside Helder Costa and Jack Harrison who have been doing very, very well, and adds more competition for places.
Defensively, they brought in players as well. The difficulty for Bielsa is to blend all these plays together very, very quickly. Bielsa has an incredible way of playing and it's not easy to get to grips with. I've seen players coming in the past and he says it's going to take them three months to understand what he wants them to do to get up to the fitness levels that he desires. So how quickly he can get all of these players integrated into the current squad, that's going to be the tricky situation but when he does, I think Leeds will be a much better side for it.
Can Leeds go one better than their result against Man City and beat Wolves this weekend?
Danny Mills: Leeds could beat Wolves this weekend, but equally, they could lose the game against Wolves. Wolves are a very, very good side with some very talented players in their side and both teams have had indifferent results so far this season but Nuno Espirito Santos is a fantastic coach.
It'll be a real sort of tactical battle against two teams that want to play free flowing football, want to get the ball down and pass and want to close each other down. I think this game will be very, very tight between the two sides.
Do you expect Leeds to take more points off the 'bigger' teams in the league and struggle against the 'smaller' teams this season?
Danny Mills: But as any newly promoted team with new players in, there will be a period, where they go through five or six games without winning and it’s how you react off the back of that. They know they're not going to win every single game and they're not going to be up there and there’ll be barren spells throughout this season.
Leeds have to be realistic in where they're at, two seasons under Bielsa in the Championship, theydid very, very well. Now they're in the Premier League and they want to stay in the Premier League for a long, long time as, I believe, it's where they belong and as a football club. Leeds believe that's where they belong. So, they've got to be careful not to be too gung ho this season, a mid-table finish would be outstanding. There are some good teams in the Premier League so they've just got to keep playing the way that they play.
With the way that Leeds play, I don't think it really matters too much who they play against, they will beat some of the top teams, they will beat some of the bottom teams, and they will lose to both as well. It's just the way that Leeds are and when it all works, and they score goals, fantastic, but they can concede goals as well. They are going to be a very, very exciting, but unpredictable team.
If Bielsa keeps taking this Leeds team up a level, is there a worry for Leeds that he will leave for a final stab at a top European club?
Danny Mills: I think that there's always a worry where you've got exceptional managers, and exceptional talent, that other teams, will be looking and maybe want to take that talent away. That's good because it means you've got a good manager or you've got good players, but I think it’s fair to say that Bielsa is different.
He’s not like other managers he loves his tracksuit, so I can't imagine him walking around Manchester or walking around London in a swanky suit going to top restaurants and that type of thing, that's not going to happen. Bielsa is very, very loyal - he only signs a one year deal every single season because that's what he's happy with. A lot of that is because if he's not happy with the way that he's performed, he'll walk away because he wants to give his best.
He's got a project now and the club have backed it by giving him pretty much what he wants, personally, and also in the transfer market to allow him to do his job. I think off the back of that, if he has a good season this season, I think he will stay.