Football Insights – Kevin Campbell And Neil Mellor

In another instalment of Football Insights, former Arsenal and Everton star Kevin Campbell and former Liverpool striker Neil Mellor talk exclusively to GentingBet about all things their former clubs including the Virgil Van Dijk injury which has dominated the headlines this week. Kevin and Neil also preview some of the key games for week 6 of the Premier League which you can watch below.



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Kevin Campbell On Arsenal

 

Arsenal have failed to beat both Manchester City and Liverpool this season. How important is it for Arsenal to get a result against Leicester this weekend and prove themselves against the best teams in the league?

Kevin Campbell: It's really important that Arsenal win and respond after their defeat and you add to that the fact that Arsenal have the second-best defensive record but, obviously just can't get over the line. 

They’ve played Liverpool and Manchester City away, and haven't been able to beat them but when you go back to their home pitch, at the Emirates, they know that Leicester are one of the best sides in the Premier League but Arsenal know that when you have a home game, you have to win.

Arsenal have to prove themselves to their fans and show they’re able to bounce back. It’s a game that they need to win and I think it's a game that they will win.


Arsenal face Man Utd next week, who do you think has the better chance of having a better season?

Kevin Campbell: Arsenal have the pieces to be more balanced than Manchester United. United have got good players but they’re still quite a bit disjointed and I don’t think they’ve finished balancing their team. However, Arsenal have the better chance of having a better season.


Arsenal kick of their Europa League campaign this week. Should Arsenal be expected to win the competition this year?

Kevin Campbell: Arsenal should 100 per cent be expected to win the Europa League this season. With every tournament they go into, Arteta says that they go into it, to win it, which is what every Arsenal fan wants to hear. 

They went out of the Europa League last season with a whimper, they lost the final the previous year so you think this year, why not? This is a prestigious trophy to win and it would give them a Champions League qualification. 


This season has proved unpredictable already. Do Arsenal have an outside chance of winning the title? 

Kevin Campbell: Arsenal have an outside chance at the title this year, no team has really taken a grip of the Premier League so far other than Everton and Aston Villa, who have surprised everybody. 

However, we do know that after 10 games or so the league will start settling down and the usual suspects tend to find their form and just keep picking points up. So, it is key for Arsenal to stay up there, get the points in the bag and stay up where they need to be. 

Then, they can see how things go after Christmas and into the New Year. I truly believe they have an outside chance, with the quality that they've got at the moment.


Aubameyang isn’t currently getting the service from his teammates. Do you think it is time for Arteta to let him play down the middle as opposed to operating on the left?

Kevin Campbell: Opposing teams are cutting off Aubameyang’s supply. Opposition are challenging Arsenal to beat them without Aubameyang, because they’re shutting all roads to Aubameyang are cut off. 

Arsenal need to be beat teams with someone other than Aubgameyang, the moment you start beating the teams with someone other than Aubameyang, then the opposition stop singling him out so much. I understand that other teams are scheming to stop Arsenal in this way so they need to come up with a smart game plan and that’s something that Arteta needs to work out himself.




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Kevin Campbell On Everton


What do you make of Pickford's foul on Virgil Van Dijk, should it have been a sending off and should he have faced a retrospective ban?

Kevin Campbell: Pickford shouldn’t get a retrospective ban, the referee and VAR dealt with the incident on the day. It could have been a red card, we’ve seen red cards given for a lot less, but the rules are the rules. The fact that Virgil Van Dijk was offside superseded Pickford getting a red card, so I’m not too worried about that.

I know there's been a bit of a witch hunt, going around about the retrospective ban, but, it's amazing that when other incidents happen, nobody calls for retrospective action.  Now all of a sudden, you’ve got Virgil Van Dijk, who's a fantastic player, and nobody likes to see a professional injured, and I know that Jordan Pickford didn’t go out to deliberately injure him, but injuries are part of the game. Unfortunately, Virgil Van Dijk is out for a long time now but, it's just one of those things that happen in football sometimes. 

It wasn't a great challenge, I admit that but I think the officials got it right.


Everton have had a very strong start to the season, do you think we could be looking at a Merseyside title race?

Kevin Campbell: We could be looking at a Merseyside title race but the problem Everton have, as far as I can see is, they’ve brought this Rolls Royce engine into the middle of the pitch which will see them in good stead right now. But when the winter kicks in, and the injuries mount up there, then the squad maybe won’t be as strong as some of the other teams. 

I think that's going to be the big test, to stay in touch at the top of the Premier League for Everton. I'm so pleased that they're at the top right but I think when you get down into the squad, the squad players are going to have to step up if Everton are going to execute the momentum.


Everton face Southampton and Newcastle next, how important is it for them to take all six points from these games? 

Kevin Campbell: The most important thing for Everton is to keep the momentum going. I think it's important to win your games but let's not look at the Newcastle game, first look at the Southampton game. Southampton away is a very tough game, we know Southampton went to Stamford Bridge and scored three goals against Chelsea so we know they are very capable. 

However, I think Everton know that they can they can beat them. Everton have got good players with quality now and they've got the joint top scorer in the Premier League in Dominic Calvert Lewin still scoring goals against the best team so Everton will fancy their chances going down to the South coast.


Will we start to see gaps in the Everton squad with Richarlison out? Who can come in and replace him?

Kevin Campbell: Alex Iwobi will be ideal choice to come into the Everton squad to replace Richarlison. However, Ancelotti may want to change it to up a bit and bring in Bernard. I do think it’ll be Iwobi because he come on and inserted himself into games and he’s looked lively, so he’ll come in and Everton will keep on rolling.


Rodriguez has been on top form for Everton, how key is he to Everton's success this season?

Kevin Campbell: Rodriguez is vital to this Everton squad - he's the sprinkling of sugar with a cherry on top to finish things. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has also got great opportunities and the team play a lot more offensive with more quality when Rodriguez is in the middle of things. 

He creates chances, he's a very clever player and he releases people where they don't even have to check their stride. So, I think that intelligence and educated left foot It's going to make a real difference for Everton.




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Neil Mellor On Liverpool

 

What do you make of Pickford's foul on Virgil Van Dijk, should it have been a sending off and should he have faced a retrospective ban?

Neil Mellor: Pickford’s foul on Van Dijk was a huge moment in the game, even though it was so early on. The frustration with the tackle comes, and not just from Liverpool fans but football fans in general, from VAR, which was introduced to correct a decision that wasn’t given. 

We’ve all seen the incident and it took three minutes for the officials to determine that there was no offside. He’s marginally offside, last season it might not have been, but it is still a sending off offense.

That’s where the frustration comes from. Of course, the referee might not have been sure with the angle he was standing but VAR is sure. I’ve not spoken to anybody who doesn’t think it was a red card and that is what VAR is for. 

Pickford has ended up being Everton’s best player, making three or four brilliant saves and was the difference as to why Everton got something from the game.

So, Pickford should have been red carded and in terms of retrospective action, I’m not sure of the full ruling behind it but as it was a dangerous and mistimed challenge, whether a one game or three game ban – then so be it. It wasn’t that Pickford was malicious, we’ll always see these challenges in football – that is the way it is. 

It is unfortunate for Virgil but it was a red card offence and would have had a huge impact on the result had Pickford been sent off. 


We saw how much they struggled without Mane against Aston Villa. How much will the Van Dijk injury impact the rest of their season? Can they still challenge for the title?

Neil Mellor: Nobody knows how Liverpool will cope without Van Dijk because since he arrived at the club, he’s played almost all Premier League games he possibly could. Since he’s played, Gomez has developed as a Centre Half, Matip has developed as a player – and they haven’t had a real chance of playing Premier League games together so we don’t know how good their partnership could be. Fabinho can also drop into Centre Half. 

Obviously, Van Dijk will be a massive miss as he is the best Centre Half in world football but we don’t know how big of a miss it will be because we don’t know how good the partnership can be between Matip and Gomez. The return of Allison will be important for Liverpool to help the Centre Halves though. 


Was the injury to Van Dijk a victim of their own lack of planning? Should they have made a top-class defender a priority signing in the summer? 

Neil Mellor: If Liverpool had signed a top-class defender as a priority in the summer then one of either Matip or Gomez would have missed out – both of whom have formed an excellent partnership with Van Dijk. Although playing with Van Dijk will always make you a better player. 

You can’t legislate for these injuries – the timing is awful being only a couple of weeks after the transfer window shut but Liverpool will have to survive until January with what they have and then look to recruit well in January to support that position. They still have two recognised Centre Halves, and the support of Fabinho, so they will hope that they can get through the game load until then. 

In terms of who Liverpool should be looking to sign, that will be left to those in charge of recruitment but what I would say is that they need to look for someone who can lead from the back and be comfortable on the ball, in order to replace Van Dijk’s qualities. But there will be a premium to pay for those players. 


With a potential lack of squad depth, where do you expect Jurgen Klopp to focus his attention this season – on the Premier League title or Champions League?

Neil Mellor: Liverpool will always compete for whatever trophy they are in, and they have shown over the last few seasons that they can do that. The only issue in terms of squad depth at the moment is Centre Back given the injury to Van Dijk. 

They recruited well in attack, bringing in Jota to challenge the Front Three. Liverpool will fancy their chances to get through the group stages in the Champions League – then the knockouts will be interesting to see based on how the squad is looking after Christmas. 

But Liverpool will go for both the Premier League and the Champions League and it won’t be the case of prioritising one over the other. 


With Everton starting the season strong, could we be looking at a Merseyside title race?

Neil Mellor: Football has been that unpredictable since lockdown that you wouldn’t rule anything out. Everton have improved, Spurs and Arsenal have improved, Chelsea look like they could get going at some point. 

We all thought it would be Liverpool and Man City, and I still think that what would be the case at the moment but if Everton are still there Christmas time, if Arsenal and Spurs have kicked on, then we could be seeing a completely different Premier League than we have seen in previous years. 

Yes, Everton have started great but teams will still be looking at Liverpool and Man City as the teams they need to finish above. 


Does this weekend's game against struggling Sheffield United come at the perfect time for Liverpool?

Neil Mellor: Sheffield United don’t give much away – although they’ve started the season really poorly. They’ve been struggling up top and they’ve bought in Rian Brewster who will want to perform and start to get more minutes. 

You would expect that Liverpool will be far too strong but the Premier League has showed us this season that you have to be 100 per cent at it – if not, you will come unstuck. But I think Liverpool will win this weekend and get back to winning ways after the defeat at Villa and the result at Everton. 

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