Football Insights – Nigel Winterburn
With the international break in full swing, former Arsenal and West Ham defender Nigel Winterburn took the time out to give his exclusive insights on his former clubs as the Premier League season reaches its climax. Get Nigel’s thoughts below and if you are looking for some value for the World Cup Qualifiers then check out our boosted odds and for new customers of GentingBet, get started with our sports welcome offer which you can claim below.
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Nigel Winterburn On Arsenal
What do you make of the role that Mikel Arteta has done at Arsenal so far? Has he shown enough to prove he is the right man for the job?
I like what Mikel Arteta is trying to achieve at Arsenal. I was under the impression when he first came to Arsenal that it was a bigger job than what a lot of people thought it was. My personal thoughts on Arsenal are that they'd started to fall away from the top quite considerably and in that time, other teams have become stronger.
I always thought it was going to take a while to get back to challenge for the Top Four position. After that, I think if you get into the Top Four, there does become occasions where you feel that there is a chance that you've got a chance of winning an elite title as well.
Arsenal have made progression this season, and we're seeing flashes of brilliance from them, but we're also seeing flashes on the opposite end and you wonder where the team are on occasions. There’s so much inconsistency. I think Mikel Arteta is doing a good job. Arsenal need to continue to improve, then next season will be the big season for them.
I still think he wants to move the squad around a little bit, bring in maybe a couple of other players that he wants and then we can really start to see where they are in terms of consistency. For me, that's the big thing that's letting them down, they’re capable of beating the big teams because they’ve done it with regards to the Cup competitions.
But you've got to beat those big teams in the league, as well as not dropping points along the way against the so-called teams that you're supposed to beat. There's no easy game in the Premier League. If you're not ready, you get beaten. For me, he's doing a decent job but there's still a long way to go.
Arsenal currently sit 10th in the Premier League. Do Arsenal fans need to accept this is part of the rebuilding process?
I don't think Arsenal fans will accept sitting in 10th in the Premier League over the next two seasons. Discounting this season, if you say to Arsenal fans they’ll be between 8th and 10th, I’m not sure they’re going to accept that. What they want to see is more regular good performances and not letting the level of play drop as much.
I think the next season will be a big season for Arteta and I think a lot of people will expect Arsenal to sit a lot nearer the top. I would expect them to realistically be inside the Top Six but challenging for a Top Four place. Then I think we would start to see some real progression. I think the supporters will find it difficult to accept 10th next season.
Do Arsenal need to win the Europe League this season for it to be a successful season? Do they have the quality to go all the way?
Arsenal have the ability to win the Europa League, for sure. We saw that with Mikel Arteta in the FA Cup that they can beat the big teams. I think you would look on paper and say that the draw has opened up the competition up for Arsenal too.
People will feel that Arsenal’s side of the draw is easier than the other side, obviously, they still have got to get there, beat the team in the final but Arsenal are capable of that, they’ve got the squad. However, they cannot afford to have an off 45 minutes of a game in the quarter final stage like they did against West Ham, or they will really struggle to come back into the game.
I think as we get deeper into the competition Arsenal will be very close to being favourites. They’ve accumulated ties and a won a final. They have that ability to win the competition, but at times, they have the ability to press the self-destruct button as well.
Do you think Arsenal, with a new manager and exciting young talent, are in a better position than their rivals Tottenham moving forward?
I don't really worry too much about Tottenham, I'm an Arsenal man. The only time I worry about Tottenham is when we're playing each other, because I'm so desperate for the result to be for us. Obviously, when they're in a final, then I'm desperate for them to lose. That's the only thing I really look at.
I'm completely focused on what Arsenal are still trying to achieve, in terms of young players coming through, the squad they've got at the moment and the progression that we want to make in the league table. We’ve slipped down a long way in recent seasons, and now we've got to make that climb back up.
The good thing is that along the way, the team is still winning FA Cups and Mikel Arteta has done that. So there has been some glimmer in the cup competitions. Now we want to get back up closer to the top of that Premier League, that's for sure.
How important is it for Arsenal to finish in the Europa League positions this year or does it give them a better chance in the Premier League next season if they didn’t have it as a distraction?
If the competition they can realistically get to is the Europa League, then I think they would want to be in it. I think it's still better for Arsenal to be in Europa League rather than out of it. In terms of developing your team, in terms of workload, in terms of focusing on maybe the Premier League a little more, then being out of the competition gives you a lot more time.
It's a massive topic, but it just depends on where the club sit without it, but I would be pretty confident that they would want to be in Europa League next season.
How highly do you rate Kieran Tierney? Do you think he offers more as a modern full back than his fellow countryman Andy Robertson?
Both Tierney and Robertson are terrific players. They’re both players that I could sit and watch all day. Tierney, in particular attacking wise, is so effective and is pivotal to what Arsenal are trying to achieve or have achieved this season. His consistency is very good.
Defensively, I think the game has changed where full backs are asked to do a lot more work going forward which takes away from the defensive work but he’s still strong defensively. But his attitude is spot on – he wants to win which is what you need.
Aubameyang has been struggling for form this season. Why are Arsenal struggling to get the best out of him at the moment?
Strikers strive on goals and service which is why Aubameyang might be struggling this season. Initially, Arsenal started the season okay but then they really fell away. They were too slow, too predictable. No energy. It was all in front of the opposition. Aubameyang wasn’t getting a lot of chances either.
I think the team’s loss of form affected him because as a striker, when you aren’t getting the chances that can have a knock-on effect on your own confidence. He came back into a bit of form but the after the incident ahead of the Tottenham game, he has looked subdued.
There is a little bit of inconsistency with him at the moment but he will still be a plyer that is vital for Arsenal moving forward because he is a goal scorer and that’s what every team needs. I expect him to finish the season well and then start again fresh next season.
Martin Odegaard was impressive against West Ham. Do Arsenal need to look to make his move permanent in the summer? Where does he rank amongst the best in the league?
I think it is too early to start to comparing Odegaard with the best players in the league. Sometimes we can get carried away with a performance, jump on the bandwagon and clamber to make a signing and then four or five weeks later, he isn’t at the level that he was previously.
He is a very neat and tidy player, someone who wants to get on the ball and is willing to work hard for the team. His level of performance against West Ham was brilliant – he looked like the one who wanted to get on the ball and drag the team back into the game. And that’s what we want to see from him all the time.
If he continues to progress then it’s certainly an option to sign him if they can. We need creative players, players who can fill in positions when we lose the ball defensively even just to slow the opposition down. I like what I’ve seen of him and he does give Arsenal something extra.
My personal opinion is there is room for both him and Emile Smith Rowe in the squad but Odegaard does seem to be the go to player at the moment. I don’t like to jump on the bandwagon but he is a player with huge potential so if he continues to develop, he would be a great signing.
How impressed have you been with Bukayo Saka? Does he have the quality to establish himself as a world-class player?
I don’t think Bukayo Saka has too much responsibility at Arsenal. If you are good enough, you play. And the fact that he is playing week in and week out shows that the manager rates him. You can take him out for the odd game if you’re looking to protect him but I don’t think it matters when it comes to age.
If you are worthy of a place in the team then you play. He is a huge talent. If he was to become available now, then most teams in the world would try and buy him. I don’t think you would find any that say they’re not interested. That’s how highly I rate him.
Has Lacazette showed enough in recent weeks to prove he still has the quality to lead the line for Arsenal?
Out of all the forwards that Arsenal have, if you need a link up player then Lacazette is the man. The one thing people say is that his goal ratio isn’t as strong as people would like but if you have Aubameyang on form getting 20 goals a season supported by a Lacazette who can get you 16 or 17 goals a season, then you have two centre forwards who can score goals.
For me, it’s not one or the other. They both can play together and Lacazette still has a lot to offer.
How impressed have you been with Gabriel since he joined? Is he Arsenal’s best defender?
Gabriel is Arsenal’s best defender and certainly their most aggressive defender. At times, he needs to be careful as he wants to win the ball all the time – sometimes you can get tight to the player without making a tackle and forcing them to go backwards but he likes to nip in and win the ball on every occasion even when it isn’t on and then commits a foul.
He’s the kind of defender though that I like. He’s strong and aggressive and has shown great quality especially in his first season in England. He’s someone that will at the heart of Arsenal’s defence for a while.
It’s just a case of who Arteta pairs him with. With Arteta, he almost makes a judgement on players as to how they are training not just their form but Arsenal have some great centre back options to choose from.
Do you think David Luiz deserves a new contract extension?
Luiz brings with him experience. He’s obviously quite a popular figure within the dressing room and from that point of view, I think he deserves to be given a new contract. Luiz does leave himself open to debate to supporters and because of social media, everyone is entitled to an opinion instantly.
But Arsenal have some young, talented players who will benefit from learning from him and what he has been through in the game. So, I think it makes sense to keep him for another season.
Rob Holding has been very impressive this season. What do you make of Arteta leaving him out of the team in recent months?
Arteta will know who should play – he sees them every day in training. Holding has been impressive this season but sometimes, the defensive pairing might be stronger even if it’s not made up of the two best individual defenders. That’s important to understand.
With Arsenal, it seems that they land on their perfect defensive pairing and then the next second, they make a mistake which makes you question them again. Then all of a sudden there seems to be another combination.
All of Arsenal’s current centre backs have strong points to their game but all of them also have aspects to their game that make you worried. All of Arsenal’s centre halves are on that line.
You want someone who is dominant and consistent in that position. At the moment, it looks like Arteta believes that Luiz and Gabriel are his strongest pairing.
Neither Bellerin or Cedric seem to have made the Right Back position their own this season. Is that a position Arsenal need to address? Should Arsenal consider Achraf Hakimi from Inter Milan?
The right back position is the interesting one at Arsenal. When you look at the switching of players in that position, you can see that Arteta isn’t comfortable with who he has so I expect that to be addressed in the summer.
Arsenal have been linked with the likes of Hakimi and Lamptey. Whether they’re good enough or not for the club can only be decided once they’ve played 20-30 games. It doesn’t matter what they’ve achieved beforehand, they’re coming to a new league, club and environment so will need to prove themselves.
I’m not sure of the reasons why Bellerin is in and out of the team. He’s obviously been struggling since the return from that big injury and he’s always had those links with Barcelona.
The fact that Arsenal have been linked with players in his position suggest that either Bellerin is looking for his next opportunity at Barcelona or that Arteta isn’t happy with him in that role. I’d imagine it is a combination of both.
Calum Chambers put in an MOTM performance against West Ham. Do you think he can still make it at Arsenal and challenge the likes of Bellerin and Cedric for the Right Back spot?
Calum Chambers isn’t an out and out right back. I don’t think he will make the right back position his own moving forward. Defensively, on a one vs one situation, I would ask certain questions about him. You have to remember that he was applauded for his time at Fulham by playing in the centre of midfield which is where he made an impression.
I think that he will have an important role to play within the squad but whether he thinks that is enough for him, I’m not sure. He might be a player that Arsenal look to sell on to bring in some transfer money for other players. But my feeling is that the right back position won’t be his next season.
Do you think Matteo Guendouzi still has a future at the club?
I’m not sure if Matteo Guendouzi still has a future at the club. I don’t know where the fallout came with Mikel Arteta – people talk about the Brighton game but I imagine that it was deeper than that. For me, Guendouzi would still need to move on to the next level for him to be considered as a player who can be part of the squad moving forward.
There are bits of his game that are great – his enthusiasm, his drive – but he can lose the ball in dangerous positions and play himself into trouble. He might come back to the club in the summer but I don’t think he’ll be happy sitting on the bench which is where I think he will be.
Do you think Pepe can still prove his transfer fee or should Arsenal look to offload him and try recuperate some of the transfer fee?
Pepe has shown his quality but only on occasions. He’s not been consistent enough. The transfer fee wasn’t his fault – Arsenal decided what fee they wanted to pay. Why should we judge someone differently if they arrived for a big fee or if they came through the youth ranks, they’re still in the team because they deserve to be there. Pepe is a player who has enormous potential but we need to see a lot more from him on a consistent basis.
The pressure is being applied to him because of the form of Saka and the emergence of Emile Smith Rowe. Those players are putting huge pressure on him. The question you need to ask is will you leave either of those players out to make room for Pepe?
No one is going to leave Saka out at this moment in time and Smith Rowe has been performing at a very high level as well. Saying that, he has accepted that challenge over the last few weeks as his performances and consistency has been getting a lot better.
Where does the squad need improving in order to challenge next season?
As well as a right back, Arsenal need another goalkeeper – I worry about our back up options there going forward. Depending on what happens with Odegaard and Ceballos, are we going to try and buy one of them, both of them, will both go back to Madrid?
There are lots of questions to be answered but the creative midfielder is another one of the positions that needs to be addressed.
People talk about the centre half position but Arsenal have so many options that it would be difficult to go out and buy another one. We’ve also got lots of players on loan who can come back and make a difference. We’d also need to look at another holding midfielder who can come in if Xhaka’s form drops or if he needs a rest. I’m still not completely comfortable that Arsenal have good enough options in the centre of midfield.
In order to sign what they need, Arsenal are going to need to get rid of some players though. So, it is likely to be a very interesting summer.
Would you like to see Arsenal go ‘all in’ and look to sign a player like Jack Grealish to help with their creativity?
I’d like to see Arsenal go ‘all in’ and sign Jack Grealish. He is a terrific player. His ability speaks for itself and he’s the type of player that if we want to move forward then we should be looking to buy.
He tends to prefer to play on the left-hand side so we’d need to see how that works with Arsenal’s current set up but I’m sure he could play in that Number 10 role as well. Lots is up in the air with Arsenal, they’re not sure if Odegaard will sign in the long term and that needs to be addressed beforehand.
One thing is for sure, if Grealish does become available then a whole host of clubs will be in for him.
Do you expect Gabriel Martinelli to establish him in the side next season? How important is it for Arsenal to give him the opportunities to flourish?
Martinelli will get opportunities but I’m certain there are reasons that we don’t know about as to why he hasn’t been playing the past couple of weeks. I think Arsenal are taking their time with him and letting him slowly get back into the team.
On his first game back, his work rate and enthusiasm were brilliant but then he had a couple of injury scares and I think that might have put some doubt in his mind as to whether he was ready. Arteta has probably taken him out of the spotlight a little bit to protect him. Next season, he will be a big part of the team because he’s a huge talent.
Nigel Winterburn On West Ham
Can West Ham push on and challenge for the Champions League spaces this season?
I don’t think West Ham can push on and get Champions League football this season. They technically can challenge as they’re up there in the mix. They’re on the right track. If they play like they did in the first half against Arsenal then they will scare a lot of teams but I don’t think they’ll quite make it.
I believe they’ll finish in the Top Six but I think the teams around and above them will have too much consistency and strength in depth to stop them from making the Top Four.
How impressed have you been with Jesse Lingard since he arrived? Were United wrong to let him leave on loan?
Lingard lost his way a bit at United so I don’t think United were wrong to let him go out on loan but he’s shown his quality for West Ham. Even the goal against Arsenal was absolutely terrific. This spell might help revive his career and he’ll be telling United not to forget about him yet as this is what he can still do!
Can West Ham keep hold of Declan Rice at the club?
West Ham can keep hold of Declan Rice if they want to. If a player is comfortable at the club and can see progression, the player will stay. It just depends on how the player sees himself at the club. If Chelsea, Liverpool are Man City came in for him, I would assume he would want to go but only Rice will be able to tell you that – it’s very much linked to how the players sees himself at the club.
West Ham can keep him by putting the transfer fee so high that no one can afford to pay it. But then the player could start to push for a move away and create issues. But I don’t think West Ham and Rice are near that position now anyway.
Nigel Winterburn On The Premier League
How impressed have you been with Manchester City this season? Do you think they are capable of winning the Quadruple this season?
Man City are capable of winning the quadruple but I don’t think they will. The big mental barrier for them is the Champions League as they’ve struggled in the past. If they are going to come short this season, it will in the Champions League.
Because of the hang ups they’ve had, I think this is the competition that will stop their quadruple push. If they can, it will be an incredible achievement from the manager and players but they’ll need to beat the best teams along the way to make it happen.
What do you make of what has happened with Liverpool this season? Can they get back to where they were next season or is there too big of a rebuild job?
Liverpool will need to tinker with their squad in the summer. Retaining the Premier League is difficult, especially after the way they completely dominated last season. Their squad has been completely ripped apart this season in terms of injuries which has had a big effect but it would have been a big ask anyway for them to have retained the title again.
Do I expect them to come back and be more competitive next season? Yes. I’m 100 per cent confident that they’ll be in a better position next year.
Do you think Chelsea will be a force to reckon with next season under Tuchel?
Chelsea won’t be competing for the title next year. There is still a lot to be answered for at Chelsea. To win the league, they’re going to have to take another step forward. They’ve got a new manager in who has great attention to detail but you can see from watching him on the touchline that things aren’t quite right and he is frustrated.
They already have immense talent in their squad. Let’s see where they are come the end of this season as it would be good to see if Tuchel can get them to perform consistently. If they can maintain that then perhaps they can push for the title next season but I think there are still a while away. One thing for sure, next season is going to be very interesting.