Robert Pires interview: Frenchman talks former club Arsenal

Robert Pires interview: Frenchman talks former club Arsenal

Robert Pires won the Premier League and FA Cup on two occasions and was a Champions League runner-up during six successful seasons with Arsenal.

In an exclusive interview with bwin, the 44-year-old shares his thoughts on his former club after Unai Emery replaced Arsene Wenger in the hot-seat at the Emirates Stadium.

Unai Emery 

Can Unai Emery get Arsenal back into the Champions League? What has been missing in the last few years? 

Emery will be aiming to win the Premier League with Arsenal immediately. The club have changed everything this summer by hiring a new manager and bringing in some new names. It was a good decision to hire Emery and now it’s important for him to build a new team, but keep the Arsenal philosophy of playing good football. Emery will take the club in that direction and I’m confident for next season. 

How long should Unai Emery be given to get Arsenal back into the Champions League? And then how long to win the title? 

I think that Arsenal will want a long-term impact from Emery. He can be a success at Arsenal and he has the experience of being a proven winner. It was a good appointment from Arsenal, he has a good squad and there is a lot of potential for Arsenal to win the Premier League.

Arsenal start the season against Manchester City and Chelsea. What should Gooners expect from those two games? 

Emery will be looking to beat Man City and Chelsea in their opening fixtures. It will be very important for Emery to start well because it is important to prove himself, and for the new players to do the same. Pre-season is now so important to having a good start and Emery will definitely want to have a quick impact, starting with City on the opening day of the season. 

Will Arsenal benefit from having very few players reach the latter stages of the World Cup? 

It could benefit Arsenal by not having many players in the latter stages of the World Cup. Man City had a lot of players at the World Cup who have now missed pre-season, while Emery has most of his squad available to him now. It could work to Arsenal’s advantage taking on City and Chelsea in August. It’s important that almost all the players will be there at the start of the season.

Arsenal signings

Bernd Leno has come in from Bayer Leverkusen. Do you think he will replace Petr Cech as first-choice goalkeeper? 

Arsenal spent a lot of money on Leno and I don’t think they would do that just for him to sit on the bench. Leno will definitely be number one now. I don’t know what will happen to David Ospina and Petr Cech now, but they’ll both be considering their futures. 

Where do you think Lucas Torreira fits into the team? 

[Granit] Xhaka and Torreira can definitely both play together. Torreira looks like a really good player, who runs a lot and put in a good tackle. I think Emery will need to find a balance between Xhaka, Torreira and [Aaron] Ramsey, but they can definitely all play together. It’s a long season so they’ll all get a chance. 

Stephen Lichtsteiner has come in on a free. What role do you think he will play this season? 

Lichtsteiner is a good signing and I think he will help Arsenal. I don’t think he’ll start too often because [Hector] Bellerin is probably the first choice, but it is good for Emery to have a squad where he trusts every player to play should someone get injured. 

Arsenal have signed Sokratis [Papastathopoulos] from Borussia Dortmund. Do you think this will solve Arsenal’s defensive problems?

I don’t think there’s really a defensive problem at Arsenal. {Laurent] Koscielny and [Shkodran] Mustafi played well together last season but Koscielny has a long-term injury and Sokratis will be a good replacement for him. Much like Lichtsteiner, Sokratis has a lot of experience and I think he’s a good signing. 

What other players do you see Arsenal signing this transfer window? 

I don’t think Arsenal will sign anyone else this summer and they should be happy with the squad they now have. They’ve signed four or five players and Unai Emery will be happy with that, especially having signed them so early in the summer. Arsenal have also kept [Mesut] Ozil, [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang, [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan and Lacazette despite not having Champions League football. It’s a very good squad on paper and I’m confident for this season.

Arsenal departures 

Aaron Ramsey has just one season remaining on his contract. Should Arsenal cash in on him to avoid another Alexis Sanchez situation? 

If I was the manager, I would definitely offer a new contract to Ramsey and make sure he signs it. Ramsey is a very important player for the team. Arsenal have just changed manager and it might depend on Ramsey and Emery’s relationship whether he stays, but I’m positive that he’ll stay.

Santi Cazorla left Arsenal this summer after almost two seasons out injured. Do you think this was the right decision?

I think it was right to let Cazorla go. He’s training at Villarreal and has a good opportunity to play in Spain at a club he knows well. It’s a good change for him. I recently saw him and he’s happy again, which is the most important thing. 

Does Lucas Perez have a future at Arsenal? 

There is an opportunity for Perez to finally prove himself at Arsenal and it should help he now has a Spanish manager. This could be like a new page for him, to remake himself at Arsenal.

Joel Campbell and Carl Jenkinson both returned to the club after yet more loan spells. Will they ever get back into the Arsenal squad? 

With a new manager, there is always a chance to prove yourself. Campbell and Jenkinson are both good players and have returned from their loans motivated, but Arsenal have a big squad. It’s a long season and Arsenal need a lot of good players so they’ll have chances if they want to fight for their positions.


Calum Chambers and Rob Holding have both signed new contracts this summer. How good do you think they can become? 

Chambers and Holding have a lot of potential and I’m happy for them signing new contracts. This is a good opportunity for them. A new challenge under a new boss will give them the chance to prove themselves. I think over the season they’ll feature regularly for Arsenal. 

Should Emery stick with Arsene Wenger’s five-at-the-back system? What formation would best suit these Arsenal players? 

Emery is in a good position as the signings he has made means he can play with either three or four at the back, depending on if he wants to attack or play with more stability. This gives him a lot of options to pick from, although at PSG he always played with four.

Aubameyang made a great start to life in London with 10 goals in 13 Premier League games last season. How important will he be for Arsenal this season? 

Aubameyang can be one of the best strikers in the Premier League and around Europe. It is difficult as there are some great other forwards, but Aubameyang will score a lot of goals for Arsenal this season. He’s very confident and can definitely win the Golden Boot. 

How can Emery get the best out of both Aubameyang and Lacazette? 

The good news is that Arsenal have two good strikers available. I don’t know if Emery will play both of them together, but he’ll need to find a balance. I would try to start them both because it’s very exciting to see them both on the team sheet. You feel confident that they will produce something to win the game.  

Ainsley Maitland-Niles burst onto the scene last year. Do you think he can go all the way to the top? 

Wenger identified Maitland-Niles as one of the best young players at the club, but it’ll be interesting to see what Emery does with him. He’s a good player who has the potential to get into the first team, but it’s up to the manager to improve him and give him his chance. 

What does Emery need to do to get Mesut Ozil performing at his best again? 

Ozil is one of the best players in Europe and he shouldn’t need to prove it anymore. Emery will be good for him and he will enjoy working with new players and new systems. I’m not worried about him because I know he’s ready to fight and to win the title. He’s a winner with a very strong mentality.

Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger recently admitted that staying at Arsenal for 22 years was ‘perhaps a mistake’. Do you agree? 

Arsene has been instrumental to where Arsenal football club are now. He spent 22 years at the club and was very successful, revolutionising the whole club to what it is today. He put his philosophy into the club and the fans loved him for it, especially with the type of football he brought in. You have to thank Arsene for everything he did, not just for Arsenal but the Premier League. 

What do you think Arsene Wenger’s next move will be? He’s recently been linked with the vacant Japanese national team job… 

There are rumours of Wenger managing the Japanese national team, but he will have received a lot of offers from various clubs. I think he will take his time to relax and take a break from football. He managed for 22 years and that’s not easy. He will have some time with his family and relax. He’ll have a lot of offers and I’m curious to see what he does next.

Old team-mates 

Thierry Henry has recently resigned from punditry to try to get into management. Do you think he will succeed as a manager? 

Thierry Henry has the potential to be a successful manager. He wants to be a manager and has taken the necessary step back from being a pundit in order to focus on achieving the chance to do so.

There are rumours about Aston Villa wanting Henry and that could potentially happen. Aston Villa are one of the biggest clubs in England and this would be a great opportunity for him. Aston Villa would be a very good starting point in his career and I think it would be a good decision for both parties. 

Patrick Vieira became manager of Nice this summer. How do you think that will go? 

Patrick Vieira can do well with Nice. He is a good manager and they have a good squad, although they do have a limited potential. It’ll be hard for Nice to compete with PSG, Monaco, Lyon and Marseille, but he can definitely finish in the top half.

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