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Name Graeme Le Saux
Gender Male
Ethnic English
Job English Footballer
Desc A title winner with Blackburn, sandwiched between two spells at Chelsea, the latter of which saw him pick up plenty more silverware. Le Saux oozed quality on the ball when getting forward from left-back and quietly added 37 caps for England

Affiliation

Org England National Team
Club as Player Blackburn Rovers
  Chelsea FC

2010 05 20 Retrieve

[q: As a fellow left-back, what do you make of Ashley Cole’s form this season?] I think he’s really grown as a player, particularly this year. To see his work rate, the amount of the pitch he covers, his tenacity and his quality is great.

He becomes a hugely valuable player for the national team, when matches are more cagey and there are less chances, because he has the freedom to get forward, to make an extra man in attack, to create space and to distract people with a run. You hope he continues to want to improve - he’s very ambitious, so I’m sure that will be the case. As for him being one of the best full-backs in the world, what a stage for him to prove that in this summer’s tournament.

2010 05 20b Retrieve

[q: There have been rumours of interest from Real Madrid. Could you see him moving abroad to develop his game further?] No, I think he’s very settled at Chelsea. The club have provided him with everything he wants, including the opportunity to win things, and he’s part of a settled squad. I’d be surprised if he didn’t stay at the club for a long, long time.

2010 05 20c Retrieve

[q: Who are your favourites for the World Cup and how do you see England getting on?] Spain is a team that I’m very much looking forward to seeing. Having won the Euros and having a very closely-knit squad, they are perhaps the team to beat. But you have all the usual suspects - Brazil, Germany, Italy and England as well, who form the group of possibles. I’m looking forward to the tournament starting, to get an idea of which team has really come into form at the right time, and who has the spirit to do well. Hopefully it’s England

2010 05 20d Retrieve

[q: You now work as an international ambassador for Chelsea. What’s your take on Carlo Ancelotti’s impact since he arrived at the club?] He’s reinvigorated them, and brought some stability in. I think he’s of a similar mould to Jose Mourinho and Guus Hiddink. He’s brought in an atmosphere of calm and positivity. If you go to the training ground now, it’s very relaxed. There’s a good spirit there, and players seem to enjoy themselves - but they don’t overstep the mark and stay very focused on their job, so he’s done very well in that respect. He’s very quickly established a team and a philosophy that’s creative and has given players freedom to express themselves on the pitch.

2010 05 20e Retrieve

[q: Do you think he’s made Chelsea more likeable?] I think ultimately people will like and respect you as a team if you play entertaining football. The neutral will look at Chelsea and say ‘wow, they’re playing amazing football and entertaining me, so they’re not that bad’. Any successful team, by their very nature, encourages people to dislike them, and Chelsea were seen as spoilt when Roman Abramovich came on the scene, and that’s sort of understandable.

But when you actually look at the club as a whole and see what they’ve done, with the youth team, with the training facilities, with the community - things which don’t get anywhere the coverage that they might do - you see that there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes than just buying players

2010 05 20f Retrieve

[q: you’ve been doing some work on UEFA coaching programmes. Do you see management as the next step?] Not necessarily. I’ve got a young family, and enjoy spending time with them. Coaching’s such an all-consuming challenge, and I’m reluctant to give up the freedom that retiring from playing has given me

2010 09 24 Retrieve

[Graeme Le Saux says John Terry And Frank Lampard Not Untouchable In Possibly Greatest Ever Chelsea Team] John and Frank are the cornerstones of that side, so they’re hugely valuable players for that team. But we all know as players that you have to be fit. If you’re not fit and it gives someone else an opportunity, then it’s up to the manager. If he sticks with a player because he is playing well, then you have got to sit and wait it out.

It depends how they train. If Frank Lampard is training well and looks like he has completely recovered from the hernia, then Ancelotti will pick him because he is a very special player in terms of his goalscoring and his contribution. But if him or John is not 100 per cent fit and he can justify not playing them, then I don’t think he would have a doubt about not playing them for that game or the short-term.

Any good team is built on a squad and the more confident a squad is, the more the fringe players feel part of it, the more likelihood that when one of the big names comes out there is a seamless transition. Do you leave someone out because they’re not playing too well or do you put someone in because they’re a big name? It’s an interesting conundrum. I’m sure Carlo Ancelotti will be pleased to have the competition but it’s going to give him a headache

[Chelsea travel to Manchester City at Saturday lunchtime in what many observers regard as the first major test of their league campaign after they chalked up five comfortable victories out of five, including two 6-0 thrashings and a 4-0 win] The things that really impress me are the composure of the team and that comes from the coach at the training ground. It’s very relaxed but focused and that is a great balance he has there.

The other thing I think he has ever so well – and he has done it very quickly - is that he has allowed the creative players to express themselves and try things. The system allows these players to shine and if it doesn’t work out it allows them to remain very solid. They seem to have a settled style and yet still quite adaptable.

You’ve got it from all over the pitch. It’s not just Drogba scoring goals – everyone is chipping in. [Michael] Essien is back and he is a tremendous player – an incredible athlete and a great technician. He is absolutely phenomenal. He goes about his business very quietly and doesn’t maybe score as many goals as he should but he is a really important player in that team

[Le Saux, who won a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, FA Cup and League Cup at Chelsea, as well as a Premier League crown with Blackburn Rovers, said the Champions League is the true test of whether Ancelotti is presiding over the greatest team in the club’s history] The Champions League is the big one. If they bring the Champions League to the club this year then they will go down as historically the best. They can achieve at least what they achieved last year but it’s only five games in and people are saying they can go the whole season without losing a game, but it’s a bit disrespectful to the other teams to suggest that. At the same time they’ve got a great squad and they seem to be opening teams up

2017 08 18 Retrieve

[Graeme Le Saux believes that Alvaro Morata’s quality will help Chelsea fans forget about Diego Costa as the saga regarding the latter’s sale to Atletico Madrid rumbles on] When I look at his quality, he has had fantastic experiences at the clubs that he has been at. He has always scored goals, his movement is excellent. He does a lot of hard work before the ball comes to him. He is always aware of what’s around him. The timing of his run for that Willian cross [against Burnley] was great and how he kept himself onside. He got a run on the defender and it was a confident header. He has plenty of ability and attributes. It will have done him a world of good to get off to such a fantastic start but as for him replacing Diego Costa, it is a big task. Costa scored 20 goals last season and 20 goals three seasons ago when Chelsea won the title then as well.

Costa is a very adaptive player who is versatile and holds the ball up well. It is a real shame to see what’s happening there because he is a really good player. It is a disappointing situation to see it get to where it has. I think over time, Morata, if he continues to do what he did, will settle in and lead the line very well.

I think it goes all the way back to last Christmas when he tried to leave then. I thought that the club, manager and players handled that situation really well because they managed to not let it detract from what they were doing in the league and not affect anyone. Costa deserves credit for that as well but now, it strikes me that [Antonio] Conte can’t wait to cut him loose. I think when you are in that environment, you need to know everybody is committed to that same cause. As soon as you find out someone isn’t you lose trust and faith in them

What I felt, even toward the end of last season is that Chelsea might strengthen their wing-back positions. That’s not because Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso aren’t first choice or good enough but I think it is such a demanding and specialist position that it is Chelsea’s one area that they needed to strengthen.

They needed a replacement for Costa and have that. They have Rudiger and the injured Bakayoko as well so another couple of players and getting the injured players back on the bench and in the team will make the squad look better. At the moment, it does look a little bit too thin

I think first of all, the club looks for the type of player and they worry about the nationality second. At the same time, I think to see any England players at top-eight or top-six clubs is a good thing. It really is because I want English players at every level of our game in large clubs.

English players at top-eight clubs are getting fantastic experience with their team-mates, learning a lot as well and learning those demands of the highest level of football

2017 09 16 Retrieve

[Former Chelsea left-back Graeme Le Saux has dismissed Jose Mourinho’s assessment of the Blues as being a defensive team, labelling the Manchester United ‘rude’ after the Portuguese took a swipe at Antonio Conte’s tactics] Mourinho was a little rude about Chelsea after last weekend’s matches, criticising Conte for defensive football. But that’s typical Mourinho, up to his usual mischief! Chelsea are not a negative side – the goals for column tells you that

Whether you think Chelsea play a back three of give is irrelevant really. They’re a five when they need to be and a three when they need to be – and we’ve seen how destructive Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses can be when they go forward. What I like about Chelsea is that even when they are under pressure they always offer a threat on the counter. They’re great athletes and can get from back to front in no time at all

2018 02 12 Retrieve

[Chelsea are launching their own Legends team to match the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona in putting on showcase games after the season has finished] Definitely. That team was a new era. When I was at the club from ‘87 to ‘93, all the talk was about the team from the 1970s that won the FA Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup

They were the successful Chelsea team of those couple of decades. The first season after I joined we got relegated - I had nothing to do with that! - and coming to the club after the FA Cup win in ‘97, that whole era through to 2003 when I left, Gianfranco left and Roman bought the club, that was a pivotal period in the club’s history

The last game I played for Chelsea in 2003 against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge was the end of an era - it was Gianfranco’s last game, Dennis and Gus [Poyet] had already gone. It was that year that Roman bought the club

I’ve never asked him but it would be interesting to find out, whether he’d say or not I don’t know, if that had any bearing on his decision, given that we pipped Liverpool to qualify for the Champions League

[The match against Inter celebrates one of the last successful achievements before the big takeover and Le Saux, who is bringing together the legends group, spoke of the pride he had playing with that group of players] It’s 20 years since we won those three trophies that we’re celebrating. It’s a group that I’ve got such affection for. In all my time in football, we had such close friendships both on and off the pitch, fantastic characters and personalities - I could tell you stories all day long about some of the laughs and moments we had as a group. It was a very strong dressing room individually but also together.

There were so many nationalities but when we were all together we made sure that we all spoke English. We had all the wind-ups that you have at football clubs, where new players would come in and have to sing a song at lunch in the canteen in front of everyone and get hammered

That was a proper initiation for players. And we played wonderful football. I look at that team and we had our flaws, of course we did. We didn’t manage to win the league, but we were a big game team. I always talk about the support structure of the club back then.

We didn’t have good training facilities, and I picked up a couple of injuries that I put down to that. All of that is important. It’s all the margins, and turning up at Harlington on a wet winter’s day when you’ve just lost a game could be psychologically quite tough

That sounds like an excuse, but we definitely had the talent and the quality in the team to win the league. It was just the consistency - there were some games we didn’t convert. But we had fun playing. It was such a positive style of football that we played and a joy to be part of.

Some of the goals we scored with link-up play, team play as well as individual brilliance - we scored a variety of goals. I’ve got very fond memories, so I’m looking forward to at least sharing all of those memories and hopefully some of those experiences on the pitch with the fans and the players

[Le Saux doesn’t think that Chelsea lack leaders] I think football’s very different now. Players are a bit more individual now - I’m not talking about Chelsea, but in general. I think they’re quieter, they’re not as vocal. They don’t seem to get on and motivate each other in quite the same way, so those obvious leadership skills don’t seem quite so apparent

It doesn’t mean they’re not there, you just don’t see it in quite the same way. All my career, wherever I’ve been, there have always been players that were very vocal, good leaders, people holding each other to a very high standard

That’s certainly not a criticism of current players. Technically and fitness-wise, the standard in general has gone up. The less-good players are better now than the less-good players of my day. You look at someone like N’Golo Kante

He’s not someone who goes around barking orders but he leads in the way that he plays. There are lots of those sorts of players. It’s a slightly different psychology, this younger generation compared to ours

If I didn’t put a cross on Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s head he would absolutely tear into me, and I won’t even get onto Alan Shearer. I’d love to have been part of this team. I love playing wing-back. I played it for England in ‘98 and it was a role that suited me.

I always liked to get forward and created a lot of assists over the years, so wing-back for me would have been brilliant. What I admire about this team and other teams at the top of the league is that ability to give someone the ball under pressure, and then to handle it.

We had that in our team with Roberto Di Matteo and Dennis in midfield - you could give them the ball and they would be comfortable. Gianfranco could take the ball with three players around him and still wriggle his way out of trouble or make the right pass

The range of passing of Frank Leboeuf was like David Luiz, so it’s all shades of the same colour in that sense. I’m sure if you spoke to these players and showed them some of the games we played in, they’d be looking at it thinking ‘What a good team you were’

Just going out there [for pictures] with the Inter Milan players, Javier Zanetti, Youri Djorkaeff, a World Cup winner and European Championship winner with France, and Francesco Toldo, a fantastic goalkeeper. Those are players that command the highest status in the game

2018 02 24 Retrieve

[Le Saux, though, believes that the Blues need to establish stability and continuity if they are to continue challenging for big prizes in the future] To be fair, Chelsea have still been very, very successful even though they’ve had a high turnover of managers, but it doesn’t mean I agree with that because I think the nature of sport is that you can’t consistently win the league every year, so managers need time to build something over seasons not just one season

In this climate every manager is only as good as his last six games and if you have a bad six games you’re out of a job and if you have a good six games you get another six games so it’s a very intense high turnover industry at the moment. My worry is that players or coaches don’t really ever put down any roots and that for me isn’t good for the long-term future of any club.

I think he’s brought knowledge and even entertainment and he’s the first manager to win the league playing with a back three and wing-backs and from that point of view he’s been a fantastic asset. If he was to leave England I think it would be a big loss to the Premier League. That’s what all the talk is about, not if but when, but we’ll obviously wait and see but from his point of view he’s going to want to prove on a weekly basis to all those people who have been saying he’s going to leave that he continues to be a winner who can get the best out of his team

2019 02 01 Retrieve

[The former Blues defender believes Maurizio Sarri at Stamford Bridge needs to adapt his methods or face heading the same way as his predecessors] The problem with Chelsea is that as soon as they lose a few games, people start talking and a manager goes. That is their legacy. I hope that does not happen again. I am not saying that Sarri should change his principles. I love to see teams playing it out from the back and passing the ball. He did a fantastic job at Napoli. Is Sarri prepared to have a bumpy ride like the one he is going through, because he believes that the end result is worth it? It is a risky path, for me

[Le Saux added on what needs to be done at Chelsea] Sarri has to adapt. He has to be willing to change his system – otherwise his problems are just going to get worse. They say that one definition of madness is that if something is not working, you keep doing the same thing over and over again. Right now, that seems to be the problem with Chelsea

I look at the successful teams, and they are all ready to change their games, their tactics when things are going wrong. Bournemouth caused problems for Chelsea that they just did not know how to cope with. To be a top team, you have to be able to adapt. Jurgen Klopp tweaks his system at Liverpool, Pep Guardiola does it at Manchester City. But I have not seen Sarri do it. He sticks to a 4-3-3 system, and when he does make a change he just changes a player within the system – so it is easy for opponents.

Everyone had worked Chelsea out by November. They knew that Jorginho was the fulcrum. So now teams drop a player onto him, like Bournemouth did with David Brooks, and they stop him. Then you have N’Golo Kante not comfortable in his role on the right, and the team are unbalanced. If you don’t adapt then you are stuttering, or even going backwards.

This was not just a one-off – there is a pattern now. This has happened to Chelsea several times this season – at Tottenham, Arsenal and now Bournemouth. And it has not been simply an unlucky 10 minutes in these matches. This is a defining period for Sarri. He has huge league games coming up against City and Spurs. If they put up a performance like the other night they are going to be in trouble