|Born||1968 03 20|
|Desc||If it weren’t for his off-field demons, Paul Merson might have become an even greater player. He was something of a free spirit on the field and capable of producing moments of genuine brilliance|
|Org||xxxx National Team|
|Club as Player||Arsenal FC|
2015 11 28 Retrieve
[on Patrick Vieira] I was lucky enough to play with Vieira and he was top draw. Very tall and gangly but very skilful at the same time – he’d see a pass, could tackle, scored goals. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do, and he was hard as nails as well
2016 02 04 Retrieve
[On Dennis Bergkamp] I honestly didn’t think a professional player could be that good
2016 02 05 Retrieve
[On Dennis Bergkamp] Dennis Bergkamp was the best I played with. He made the people around him look good. He sees everything
2016 02 06 Retrieve
[On Dennis Bergkamp] He’s the best I’ve ever played with by a long, long way. I can’t talk high enough of the bloke – he was absolutely phenomenal. I think he’s the greatest Arsenal player of all time. You talk to Thierry or Ian Wright and they can’t speak highly enough of the man
2016 02 07 Retrieve
[On Dennis Bergkamp] We use the phrase in football ‘he’s got eyes in the back of his head’ – Bergkamp did have eyes in the back of his head. It was scary. [. . .] Dennis saw pictures quicker than anybody
2016 02 08 Retrieve
[Paul Merson on Dennis Bergkamp’s goal vs Newcastle] If anyone meant it, he did, he was that good
2017 04 21 Retrieve
[Merson pays emotional Ehiogu tribute after sudden death of ex-Aston Villa star] To be fair, I’m still devastated. I mean, he was such a top bloke, it was unbelievable. You know what? Billy Joel sings a song about it: only the good die young
2017 06 19 Retrieve
[This is how Paul Merson honoured close friend Ugo Ehiogu] Ugo was a fantastic player, and friend, who was in the prime of his life when he died, so to lose him so unexpectedly is absolutely devastating for all who knew him. We’ve lost so many good players to heart disease recently; it just shows that it can affect anyone, no matter how young or healthy you are. By raising money for the BHF’s vital research, hopefully we can help find new ways to help stop this from happening to others
2018 08 11 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Arsenal will struggle to win the title again in his lifetime] Now that Stan Kroenke is going to be in sole control of Arsenal, I’d be shocked if they win the title again in my lifetime. Money talks in this game and Kroenke doesn’t want to spend it, he only wants to make it. Arsene Wenger was only there for the last few years for one reason – to make the club money. Why aren’t they doing what Liverpool have done and buying star players? Are Arsenal just a team who want to finish fourth? The fans pay big money and they are tired of it. My brother is on the waiting list for a season ticket. This year is the first time the club has called to offer him one. The demand isn’t what it used to be. I don’t think it’s a good move, Kroenke taking full control. He’s taking a loan out to do it too, and while it’s not against the club, how’s he going to pay it back? Will it affect transfers? The fans are disillusioned. They are paying top dollar to try and finish fourth. There might be more protests now. It all depends on results really. If they start getting beaten heavily the fans won’t be happy – and Unai Emery has a tough start with City and Chelsea his first two matches. They like to have a say, Arsenal fans. And that’s being taken away by someone who doesn’t know football because Kroenke only knows about money
2019 05 11 Retrieve
[Was Marcelo Bielsa punished for ‘spygate’?] You’re talking about a massive club like Leeds, who have been out of the biggest league in the world for a long time. To punish their fans, that’s not right. If they found them guilty, give them a fine, but don’t punish the fans
2019 08 10 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says David Luiz will help to return Arsenal to the Champions League] David Luiz is not the answer to Arsenal’s defensive problems, but he might be enough to get them back in the Champions League. I say that not because he makes my old club much stronger but because he makes Chelsea so much weaker. I think they are already right up against it after selling Eden Hazard to Real Madrid because they relied on him immensely last season. They’re back in the Champions League but they haven’t really been able to add players because of the transfer embargo
[On Arsenal’s efforts to force their way back into the Premier League’s top four] If Arsenal find some consistency, it’s theirs to take. I’d be shocked if Luiz majorly improves their defending. But he will make them entertaining. He will make mistakes. But he also has a sweet diagonal ball in him, and he can pick a pass when he wants to. It’s his concentration levels that worry me. He likes to come and win it, but then he gets lost in a daze sometimes and doesn’t get back quick enough. I actually like him as a central midfielder. He can pass it and if he loses concentration it’s not so costly.
It’s ironic that Arsenal have looked all over Europe for a centre back and ended up signing one right on their doorstep. But it ticks the boxes in some ways. Luiz has plenty of experience, he’s a winner with a big personality, a leader. Arsenal don’t have those kinds of characters. He can also go straight in without needing any time to adjust. He’s used to the league and the country. He won’t need a few weeks to settle. I just think that if a top club is selling a player to another top club, there’s something wrong. Chelsea don’t do this deal and strengthen a rival unless something has happened. At least Arsenal are having a go. I think Kieran Tierney is a great signing. And they spent a lot of money on Nicolas Pepe. I didn’t think Arsenal would do that kind of business
2019 08 12 Retrieve
[Paul Merson believes Chelsea boss Frank Lampard has made a mistake in selling David Luiz to London rivals Arsenal] I go to Stamford Bridge a lot, and Chelsea’s defence are asked to play out nearly all the time. Kepa doesn’t kick anything long. Luiz was the best player on the ball by a million miles. Now all of a sudden, you’ve got players who can’t play out, and teams will suffocate them. Frank Lampard has got to be careful. Chelsea have let their best ball-playing defender leave to go to their rivals, not just in London but in the top four. None of their defenders can play out from the back.
I can understand if Chelsea pushed everyone up to the halfway line, the goalkeeper kicks it, and they play in the other half, but if you’re asking them to start playing out from the back, they’re going to get beaten left, right and centre. Kurt Zouma just didn’t look ready. He didn’t look ready before this, which is why he went out on loan. It’s a dangerous, dangerous game. The fans liked David Luiz. They need to get results quickly, because the fans won’t be happy watching them play out and lose the ball. It looked like Frank looked at the situation and thought: ‘I need it quiet here, I can’t be having problems’, so Chelsea let Luiz go. Sometimes that’s the way it is, and great managers have a high-maintenance player and get them to perform
2019 08 24 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Arsenal now have a front three to rival Liverpool’s] Arsenal now have a front three to rival Liverpool’s – and they have a chance to prove it this weekend. I think Alex Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe could score 60 goals between them this season. But Liverpool’s front three of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are the ones who set the bar, and they still have the edge. Those three are all proven performers in the Premier League while Pepe still has to prove himself over here
[Merson added on a big-money addition at Emirates Stadium who is still waiting on a first Premier League start] I know Pepe has yet to prove himself here but I think he’s going to be a big success. He looks a really good player. You don’t pay the kind of money Arsenal did for him if you’re not 100 per cent sure he is going to be a top player. It’s very rare players who cost that much end up being a dud. The thing about this Arsenal three is they have got tons of pace – but they have also got that calmness in front of goal. That’s unusual. When you’re lightning quick, you usually lack composure. Not these three. They all look like ice-cool finishers. That’s the difference. That’s why I think Arsenal will finish in the top four this season. They will still struggle defensively but with that firepower they can just outscore teams
2019 09 03 Retrieve
[Paul Merson claims Arsenal have made little progress since making a change in the dugout] Unai Wenger is running things at the moment. The north London derby was a great spectacle, a proper game, and Arsenal would have taken a draw when they were two goals down. But has anything changed at Arsenal? I don’t think so. Arsenal were commended for not collapsing at Liverpool the week before, credit where credit’s due, but nothing has changed. It’s like Unai Wenger is running things at the moment. Every time Tottenham broke they looked like they were going to score, Arsenal were that open. The midfield issues were serious. You’ve got Granit Xhaka who goes around kicking people and getting booked. Yes, Matteo Guendouzi found a great pass for the equaliser, but you cannot rely on him or Lucas Torreira to thread the ball through the eye of a needle on a consistent basis. In Xhaka, Guendouzi and Torreira, Arsenal have three players who are not creative. They are three holding players, but every time Tottenham broke, they had the freedom of the Emirates. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. It was reminiscent of when Arsene Wenger was managing.
[On what needs to change] Arsenal’s front three are as good as any in the Premier League, on a par with Manchester City and Liverpool without a doubt, but great attackers rely on service. It doesn’t matter how good you are, if you’re not getting the ball you’re not going to score. It’s a simple as that. With a lack of service Arsenal are reliant on their strikers scoring brilliant goals week in, week out, but that’s not going to happen all the time and that’s going to be the problem. Unai Emery has missed a trick with a midfield player. The only solution I see would be to play the front three with Mesut Ozil in the hole behind them and have two holding in front of the back four. The four attackers can get on with scoring goals and then the rest can try and keep them out at the other end
2019 09 14 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Arsenal should be putting themselves in the mix to sign Jadon Sancho if a transfer door is opened] Jadon Sancho has the world at his feet and there’s going to be an almighty auction for him next summer at this rate. You have to respect what he did going to Germany for game time. It’s a hard league, a new culture, and he’s been ripping it up. A lot of players just stick around picking up their wages whether they’re playing or not. But he wanted to play and he’s reaping the reward. When you leave a Premier League club to go abroad you’re in danger of going out of sight out of mind but he’s done so well he thoroughly deserves to be in the England team.
I like his confidence. He beats players, and he knows the game. He has composure as well as pace. He doesn’t make bad choices when he gets into dangerous positions. I think we’ll see him back in the Premier League sooner rather than later. I doubt he’ll be available in January but next summer there will be a queue of clubs lining up. Manchester United seem to like him, and Arsenal certainly should. But Manchester City might even be tempted to bring him back. If Leroy Sane ends up leaving they will need someone young, quick and talented to replace him and Sancho looks the perfect fit.
2019 09 16 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Unai Emery needs to shoulder the blame for Arsenal throwing away a two-goal lead and two points at Watford] I’ve got to put it on the manager. People will say there were experienced players on the pitch, but he’s the manager and they’re paid to listen to him. You can’t have a manager give instructions on how to play and then they go out and do their own thing. There would be mutiny, so they’re listening to him and he’s not getting it right. His substitutions weren’t right. They needed to keep the ball in that game but they kept giving it away cheaply. The only player who didn’t give the ball away all game was Mesut Ozil. You just knew that Arsenal needed to score another goal but he was bringing youngsters on in a game when you’re under pressure
[Merson added, with goals from Tom Cleverley and Roberto Pereyra completing the comeback for Watford] Only Arsenal would give them a chance to get back in the game. The shackles came off and Watford felt like they had nothing to lose, but the manager got it horribly wrong. I couldn’t believe he brought Ozil off. Who else is going to open up a team bar him? To get Sokratis to play out from the back… the lad can’t play. He’s not David Luiz. He can pass, he’s comfortable on the ball. No way can Sokratis play the same way. They need to play three at the back as they’re not good enough to play a four. They let in too many goals and make too many mistakes. It’s like anything in life, if you keep on doing the same things, you’ll keep on getting the same results
2019 09 16b Retrieve
[Paul Merson has stated Wilfried Zaha is frustrated at Crystal Palace and it is affecting his performances on the pitch] You look at it and Zaha had one shot straight at the keeper. Every time he got the ball they fouled him. Every single time he got the ball they fouled him. It must be frustrating for him, playing at Palace and I don’t want to sound disrespectful, but he’s better than that, it seems like he has to do it all on his own
2019 09 19 Retrieve
[Eintracht Frankfurt vs Arsenal. Paul Merson after witnessing Arsenal throw away a 2-0 lead] I’ve got to put it on the manager. Only Arsenal would give them a chance to get back in the game. The shackles came off and Watford felt like they had nothing to lose, but the manager got it horribly wrong
2019 09 24 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Unai Emery has not lost the dressing room at Arsenal] Arsenal beating Villa is a big win. After the week before at Watford, to look like they were going to get beaten by Villa… it wouldn’t have been good. It papers over the cracks though for another week. Arsenal are in a situation at the moment where everyone’s in transition - Man United aren’t great, Tottenham aren’t great, Chelsea aren’t great, it’s a real big time for someone like Leicester to break this top four and you’ve got to have a good start, but again, you need to make hay while the sun shines.
I thought Unai Emery was under severe pressure if they’d got beaten. When you get the sack as a manager, though, it’s because the players don’t fancy you. When you saw the game on Sunday, they had 10 men and came out and scored three goals - he hasn’t lost them. But they’re listening to him. They’ve got a chance to finish in the top four, and if they do that this season, it’s a great season for them. Credit where it’s due - to come back and score three with 10 men was a feat. You’d have to ask Villa some serious questions. You’d be worried about them, but you don’t want to be put in that position every week
2019 09 24b Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Serial winner David Luiz has to be Arsenal captain] The worrying thing for me is I heard the manager say he’s going to have five captains, which tells me he has no idea what his team is. Unai Emery’s been there a year-and-a-half, he’s got to have five captains because he doesn’t have a clue what his best team is. He hasn’t got a clue. The good teams are the ones who play virtually the same team every week, but with Arsenal you don’t know who it’ll be from week to week. David Luiz has got to be captain, he’s a serial winner. People have a go at him because one week he’ll be a 2/10 and the next a 9/10, but he’s going to play every week. I’m not the greatest lover of a forward being the captain, but [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang’s another one. Those front three should pick themselves straight away and you go from there - they’ll play every week, if they’re fit
[Merson admits he is not the biggest fan of Xhaka, but feels it is wrong for fans to taunt players on a public stage] I had a bit of a go at Xhaka the other week, but I don’t like fans booing their players. It’s not right and it’s not Arsenal. You’ve got to have a bit more class than that. He’s never stopped trying and even though I had a go at him, you can’t be booing your own players
2019 09 26 Retrieve
[Unai Emery has put the Arsenal captaincy to a vote. Paul Merson stated that David Luiz should get the nod because he is a ‘serial winner’ and Holding admits the former Chelsea man has already made a big impression off the pitch at the Emirates] The way David Luiz has come in and when he is talking in front of the group he speaks really well. He speaks highly of us so he’s a good addition to bring in. But there are a lot of leaders in the team who are helping each other out and pushing each other on. You can see it in training. I love Granit in the changing room. I think he is great. He is really switched on to people being late, people using the phones. He is quick to dish out the fines. I think he is a great leader and just another positive person to have in the changing room
2019 09 28 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says aptaincy ballot has been branded a farce] Why is Unai Emery asking his players to vote on who should be captain? It’s pathetic. Seriously. Make a decision! When you start worrying about what your players think, you’re in trouble. And why does he need five captains anyway? Arsenal are one of the biggest clubs in the world but I don’t think he’s got a clue what his best team is. Granit Xhaka started off captain but he’s not a foregone conclusion to start every week. So I’ll tell you someone who should be – David Luiz. And that’s why he should be captain. Not as one of five either, but on his own. People look at his mistakes when they should be looking at what he’s won.
The guy is a serial winner. Yes, he’s either a nine out of 10 or a four out of 10 every week, but he never hides, whatever happens. I like that. That’s leading by example. Why not make him captain? He always comes across well and he was always a good influence on the young players at Chelsea. He was a leader there. It’s a big deal being captain of a big club. To have a ‘leadership group’ of five players just devalues it. It’s like you don’t trust anyone enough to do it on their own. And asking players to vote is asking for trouble. What if they don’t take it seriously? It becomes a farce.
It wouldn’t happen in a Sunday league team. I’m surprised he doesn’t give the fans a vote as well! Arsenal have had some legendary captains in the past, but it’s also a sign of how the game has changed that he’s chosen to do this. It’s quicker, more technical. But there aren’t as many leaders any more. When you look at the Invincibles, there were leaders everywhere in that team. Patrick Vieiria, Emanuel Petit, Sol Campbell. Big characters
2019 10 12 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Ozil is a luxury that Emery wants out] Mesut Ozil should be starting Arsenal ‘s next few games so they can take advantage of how badly Tottenham and Manchester United are struggling. Arsenal have to make hay while the sun shines and their rivals are struggling, so they have got to put some points together in these games and go on a run. It’s a big few weeks for them – and that’s why I would play Ozil. I personally think he’s their best player. In terms of ability and talent he’s the best player at the club.
He’s a luxury player, and the manager has obviously decided he can’t carry a player like that in a team that’s already one of the worst around without the ball. But with these games coming up, Arsenal are going to have 70% of the possession. He thrives in those situations. Unai Emery should bring him in from the cold. But he won’t. If he plays Ozil and they win, he has to keep playing him, and the manager doesn’t want that. The manager wants him out.
And if that’s the plan then they are going to have to swallow a pill and get rid of him in January come what may. He’s on £350,000-a-week and he’s not playing and doesn’t look like having any chance of playing. I think that’s a mistake. But if Emery has made his mind up, Arsenal are going to have to find him a move – and they will have to subsidise his wages to do it because no-one else is playing him that
[Merson added on Ozil, who has taken in just two appearances this season] I thought Ozil was Arsenal’s best player against Watford and he hasn’t played since. That shocked me to be honest. If he’s showing it in training, he will be embarrassing a lot of the other players there, trust me. But he’s not getting picked. I’ve had plenty of arguments about this with people who say: ‘Oh, he doesn’t work hard enough’ – and that’s the way the game’s gone these days. But I would still play him in these games. It was madness giving him the money they did. And they won’t be able to sign a lot of players until his wages are off the books. But I still think he’s a proper player.
Will we ever see Mesut Ozil ripping it up somewhere else? It’s hard to say because you’re only as good as your team-mates and it depends where he goes. But he’s not finished just because he’s hit 30. He still has more to give for me and could be a success somewhere else
2019 10 24 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Mesut Ozil must be wondering what he has to do to get in Unai Emery’s starting XI at Arsenal] Ozil doesn’t play because he doesn’t run around. He would play in my team, because he can make things happen. Then you get two midfield players around him who do run around. He’s on £350,000 a week - and that’s the problem. If he was on £10,000 a week, he would play every week even if he didn’t run around. Because he’s on £350,000 a week that means he has to.
I would be wondering how am I not getting in this team? He might have gone past the point of frustration now and be wondering, ‘what am I doing?’ You would have to weigh it up. He played in the Watford game away and I don’t think he did anything wrong, but he hasn’t played since. He gets in my team. Until he’s out of the club, I don’t see how Arsenal can bring new players in. If they go for a top player next summer, they will point to Ozil being on £350,000 a week. Aaron Ramsey left the club because he wasn’t offered anywhere near the same as Ozil and he left on a free transfer
2019 11 05 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Arsenal should be breaking the bank to get Brendan Rodgers] I read somewhere that Unai Emery was pleased with how Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with Wolves panned out from a tactical perspective. If letting Wolves have 24 shots on goal was what he wanted, then yes, it went to plan. But when you consider that was the most shots Arsenal have faced in a Premier League game since moving to the Emirates, I doubt whether that was his intention. That came after Arsenal conceded 31 shots away at Watford, who are rock bottom of the Premier League. That is some doing.
Emery is struggling and with a trip to Leicester on Saturday, he will do well to keep hold of his job if that goes against him. The gap is already six points to fourth place and Arsenal are in a situation where they can realistically only afford to lose two more game this season to keep pace with the teams ahead of them. And, to make matters worse, the fans are turning, they are booing, making decisions and chanting: ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’. That’s not good, especially ahead of the two-week international break, a break in which Emery’s position will be under threat if they fall to the Foxes
[He added on the job former Liverpool and Celtic manager Rodgers has done at the King Power Stadium] Leicester have been outstanding. They have an unbelievable manager. Brendan Rodgers has improved every single player at his disposal. He’s getting a tune out of every single player, it’s incredible. If they beat Arsenal on Saturday, they will be in the driving seat for the top four. Rodgers has done so well that Leicester have a job on their hands keeping hold of him. If I were Arsenal, I’d be breaking the bank to get him, give him a five-year contract and sit back and watch him transform the club
2019 11 12 Retrieve
[Paul Merson has suggested that the Gunners should be willing to pay £40m to bring in Brendan Rodgers as their next boss] I think he’s (Rodgers) one of the best in the business. If I was Arsenal, I would have been ringing Leicester up and saying, ‘how much do you want?’. If you’re going to pay £72 million for a winger (Pepe) that hasn’t played in the Premier League and has played in the French league, I would pay £40m for him tomorrow morning. I would say Arsenal [would be a good fit for Rodgers]. Arsenal or Tottenham. I wouldn’t get rid of Pochettino, don’t get me wrong, I think he’s different class. I think them two teams will be looking at him. For me, if you’re going to bring Brendan Rodgers in and what he’s done with the teams he has been at like Swansea, Celtic, Liverpool and now Leicester, you give him a six-year plan and let him do what he wants to do. He improves players
2019 11 16 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has shown himself to be deserving of a big job and should be in the conversation if Arsenal decide to part with Unai Emery] Chris Wilder has done a fantastic job at Sheffield United and deserves a crack at a really big job at some point. We should all be talking about him right now but we’re not. Maybe his name’s too English? But look at what he’s achieved. He was successful at Oxford and Northampton. Two tough jobs. And he’s taken Sheffield United back into the Premier League.
They are not keeping all those clean sheets by sticking ten men behind the ball either. They play some lovely stuff, get people in the box, and have a go at teams. I think they have actually been a bit unlucky in some games this season but to see them up there in fifth is phenomenal. I watched them play Arsenal and there was only one team who knew what they were doing. Arsenal had no idea. That’s good coaching.
Managers like Unai Emery and Manuel Pellegrini are under pressure, and okay, you never know for sure if a manager can make such a big step up. But Chris Wilder has got to be in the conversation the next time a big job comes up. He deserves it
2019 11 26 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Arsenal should bring in Mauricio Pochettino to replace under-fire manager Unai Emery] Arsenal should go for Mauricio Pochettino. He’s not won anything, but he improved Tottenham over five years, tenfold. He’s a top manager and he is about at the moment. I know he managed at Tottenham, but George Graham had been at Arsenal when he went the other way. You’ve got to get past that sort of stuff. These top managers don’t come along too often, where you don’t even have to pay anything for them. Can I see it happening? No. Should it happen? Yes. But it won’t happen. The days of the rivalry between Arsenal and Tottenham are not what they were. When I was growing up, it was the big football match. For some of these players, that’s no longer the case. It’s probably Chelsea or Manchester City or Liverpool. It’s not the highlighted fixture anymore as there’s not a lot of home-grown players in the teams. You don’t have to pay compensation for him, and if you are going to bring someone in, he’s got to be better than the manager you’ve got
[Merson is desperate to see a significant change made in the Arsenal dugout] I still see Emery being there for a while. They had a chance to get rid of him before the international break. They looked at the fixtures and saw Southampton at home, Norwich away. They thought they would win both and everything would be rosy in the garden again. But they were fortunate to draw with Southampton with some of the chances they had, and they’d recently lost 9-0. Their confidence was low, but they never looked like they would be on to a hiding. There wasn’t too much respect and they came and thought they had a chance.
I’m a great believer in if you keep doing the same things, you get the same results. Something needs to change. The players are not that good, but at the same time, results have to be better than what they are. If you’re a football manager and you arrive at a club, the team must improve, and the results have to improve. If they don’t then you won’t be in the job for long. That was a fact when I was playing, and it will be a fact in 30 years’ time. It’s worrying times, and with Norwich away this weekend, I think Emery will do well to get on the coach if they don’t win that game
2019 11 30 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Arsenal have become also-rans and find themselves going backwards] Arsenal should go for Mauricio Pochettino or Brendan Rodgers now they’ve finally put Unai Emery out of his misery. I’m all for Rodgers getting the job. He’s a proven coach. He improves players – and these players need to be improved! I like Nuno Espirito Santo at Wolves as well. And Pochettino is a top manager who is out of work and available. He might be tempted. They just have to make sure they get this appointment right because it’s a crucial decision that will decide Arsenal’s future. But who are the football people making that decision? Where are they are? That’s what worries me. Can you trust them?
Emery is probably relieved. He looked lost. I don’t think he knew what he was doing. I think he had lost confidence and was making bad decisions. What was the blueprint he was working to? Were Arsenal a closing down team? No. A counterattacking team? No. The players didn’t know what he wanted. They have gone backwards. They face more shots now than they ever did under Arsene Wenger.
[Merson added on the challenges facing Arsenal and whoever they appoint] They’ve got to get back to where they were in the next five years. But I don’t know if they can. Look at the players they have bought the last few years, it’s been shockingly poor. Nicolas Pepe hasn’t looked a £72m signing. They needed quality defenders. But they brought in David Luiz. Now, he’s a winner and was a good signing. But he’s not going to shore up your back four. Calum Chambers was playing for Fulham last season. As a defensive midfielder. Now he’s starting every week for Arsenal as a full-back. So you have to think: ‘Where is the club going?’ They are becoming also-rans. They are getting left behind
2019 12 03 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Too many players on the books at Arsenal are out of their depth] I worry for Arsenal as I just do not think the players are good enough. I feel sorry for them as they are playing at a big football club and they are so far out of their depth. It is sad to watch now and I feel for the fans. All good teams start from the front. You look at Liverpool and their front free are the best closing-down front three that you will see in any league. You look at Arsenal and there is no closing down up front. There are loads of players sitting there now thinking, ‘I’d like to play against Arsenal.’ And that is not right
He [Rodgers] is happy and Leicester are the best team in the league at the moment. Do not look at the next six months though, you have to look at the all-round picture and the next five years. This [Arsenal] is a big, big football club. He has managed Liverpool, but Arsenal are one of the top 10 clubs in Europe and in my opinion, I think he does [take the job]. Do not let the points gap between them now cloud your judgement
2019 12 07 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says A Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp double act could not turn Arsenal around] Deep down, would Patrick Vieira come? Patrick is a legend. He has only managed [Nice] in France, who are not doing great, and you’re asking him to come in and turn this majorly around. I’d struggle to see Pep Guardiola come in with Klopp, as a one and two, and turn this around. I don’t see where it can happen. This is one of the worst jobs in the game at the moment
[Ex-Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri is another to have been talked up for Arsenal] Why would he? They aren’t winning anything are they? Allegri has managed at Juventus, he’s won the league and nearly won the Champions League – what are you doing at Arsenal?
I was very bullish the other day and I kicked up a stink when people said ‘why would you leave Leicester?’ I went mad. But after the weekend and the midweek games, I’m sat there now and thinking ‘why would Brendan Rodgers go to Arsenal?’ What can Brendan Rodgers do? Freddie Ljungberg can’t be that bad but he looks lost. He looks like he’s sat there thinking ‘I’ve done all these badges, I’m working with the youngsters and I’m watching these who are internationals’. He must be sat there thinking ‘if this is what management’s about, what chance have I got?
2019 12 14 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Arsenal are not that attractive a job and not a top-four club] Arsenal are going to struggle to find a big name to replace Unai Emery because it’s just not that attractive a job anymore. Freddie Ljungberg has found out just how much work there is to be done at that club. Without being horrible, their game against West Ham was one of the worst I’d ever seen for 60-odd minutes. I think they want him to do well, steady the ship, get through the season and not panic into getting a new manager. But they are not a top-four club. And they don’t need a ten-minute fix, they need a long-term plan.
They won’t be getting Brendan Rodgers now. There’s talk of Carlo Ancelotti but would he be there for four or five years? Probably not. And why would someone like Max Allegri take it? He’s just managed Juventus. This league has Liverpool and Manchester City in it and Arsenal have no chance of challenging them.
Arsenal get beat this weekend. I said last week that United would test City, and they did. But I can’t see how Arsenal do. Will Freddie get it full time? No chance. I’d be shocked if that happens. I think they want a big name. But they might have trouble finding one
2019 12 17 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Arsenal will be taking a big, big gamble with Mikel Arteta] This is a big, big gamble putting someone that has never managed before in charge of a club the size of Arsenal. It’s all well and good saying he’s worked under Pep Guardiola, but let’s be honest, Guardiola would struggle managing this Arsenal team. Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp would struggle! You’re only as good as your players at the end of the day and the idea of Arteta replicating Guardiola’s style of football at the Emirates just falls apart when you look at the players he’ll be working with.
It’s not as if Arsenal are underachieving, they’re just not good enough. Sunday’s defeat to Manchester City was embarrassing, cringe-worthy even. I cannot think of a single player Guardiola would take out of this Arsenal team. To ask someone with no managerial experience to take charge in the current circumstances at Arsenal is a big ask. But there are also massive question marks over his credentials, massive questions.
One of the major factors with Arteta being linked with the job is that he’s worked closely under Guardiola, and he used to play at Arsenal. Other than the fact he won’t get lost on the way to training, I don’t know what else he brings to the table. We’ve seen how out of his depth Freddie Ljungberg has been in recent weeks. What’s the difference between Ljungberg and Arteta other than the fact Arteta has worked under Pep at Manchester City?
Arsenal are in this mess because the people upstairs simply aren’t fussed. I mean, who’s making this appointment? Who believes Arteta is the best appointment possible, one that will really steady the ship? I cannot make the case for Arteta because he’s never managed before, yet someone at Arsenal can. How can you do that? I want to know who is upstairs at Arsenal saying this is a good appointment. From the club’s perspective, it’s clueless
2019 12 21 Retrieve
[Paul Merson on Arteta] This is a big, big gamble putting someone that has never managed before in charge of a club the size of Arsenal. It’s all well and good saying he’s worked under Pep Guardiola, but let’s be honest, Guardiola would struggle managing this Arsenal team. Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp would struggle
2019 12 30 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Arsenal are moving slowly in the right direction] For the first half against Chelsea, it didn’t look like Arsene Wenger was in charge. And that’s the biggest compliment I can give. They worked their socks off, but were never going to keep that up for 90 minutes, because they haven’t done that in 10 years. That high pressure, closing down, Chelsea couldn’t get out or put two or three passes together.
You looked at Arsenal in that first half and thought: ‘Well this is Arteta’s team’. He’d got them closing down. But obviously, they were going to fade. Chelsea took advantage of that, and fair play to them. As time goes on, however, and Arteta looks to place his stamp on the team, there are some bright sparks to take. The fitter they get, and the more they understand that closing-down game, I think they’ll be alright, and I was quite impressed. Arteta has been around one of the best, and he has that way of talking. He’s not going to come in and start effing and blinding
2020 01 04 Retrieve
[Arsenal legend Merson opens up on depression & addiction] On Monday I’ll have been sober for a year. But this time last year, I wanted to kill myself. One night I seriously thought about ending it all. I was on my own, which is not the best place when you’re down. Isolating yourself, that’s where the illness wants you. It was only because of the kids really, and my wife, and a little bit of consciousness, that I didn’t. Fear probably as well. I was scared to do it. When you’re in that place, you don’t see how it’s ever going to pass. But I have the tools now. If I get into a real down situation, I know it will pass. So when I see this weekend’s FA Cup games kicking off a minute later to raise awareness for mental health I will remember that time when things got dark and think: ‘Thank god that’s not how I feel any more.’
It’s only now I know. I have an illness. I have a mental illness. I’ve accepted that now. Before, I used to beat myself up all the time. But the more you talk about it, the more it takes the power out of it. I ring people up and tell them if I don’t feel good. Before, I sat indoors, pulled the curtains, and I’d watch the phone ring. I thought it was me. But as soon as you find out it’s an illness it opens up your eyes to understand you are not a bad person. You are an ill person trying to get well. That’s what I’ve taken out of it – and my life is 100 times better. Don’t get me wrong, I have bad days. But the bad days are better than they were before.
If I have one piece of advice to give to people – talk. Nothing ever gets better if you don’t talk. Once you talk to people you start seeing the light. Some people get depressed and don’t even realise it. They just think they’re a bit tired or lonely. They don’t really understand about depression. It does pass – but you have to talk to people. You’re not a bad person. You’re ill and you need to get better. You just have to reach out and talk.
2020 01 08 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Arsenal target Jerome Boateng would struggle with ‘relentless’ pace of Premier League football] I think Arsenal are getting a little bit carried away here. He’s playing at Bayern Munich where they’re getting 80 per cent of the ball and they’ve probably got two [tough] games a season.
This Arsenal team are not a 70-30 per cent possession team anymore, it’s not a team that are dictating games. They need defenders now, people who can defend. They should be looking at the lads at Brighton, start looking at those players, when the ball comes in they’re going to head it out, kick it out, they put it in the stands. They need defenders.
I used to think four or five years ago if there was a real good defender at Wolves or Brighton or places like that I used to think, ‘I’m not sure about that, Arsenal don’t play on the edge of the box, they play on the halfway line’. Not anymore, Arsenal don’t play on the halfway line anymore.
It’s very rare you see them that high, they play quite deep now. When you’re 31, 32, 33, I give you one assurance – you ain’t getting quicker and this league is relentless, it’s ruthless, and it’s not the Bundesliga. It’s not playing for Bayern Munich, it’s playing for Arsenal and you’ll be playing a lot more
2020 01 11 Retrieve
[Paul Merson opens up about his struggle with mental illness] When I see this weekend’s FA Cup games kicking off a minute later I will remember that time when things got dark and think: ‘Thank god that’s not how I feel any more.’ This time last year, I wanted to kill myself. I don’t want to kill myself any more. I don’t have those thoughts. I’m telling you this because I hope it helps someone. I was on my own, which is not the best place when you’re down. Isolating yourself, that’s where the illness wants you. On Monday, I’ll have been a year sober. I keep my life to one day at a time
2020 01 18 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says if Aubameyang leaves on a free, who cares?] Arsenal don’t need to worry about Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. He says he wants to stay and he’s already 30 years old. Where’s he going to go? I don’t see a massive queue of clubs lining up to pay big money for a 30-year-old striker who relies on pace.
Arsenal paid a lot of money for him and his contract is running out. But he’s got a year left after this one and he’ll be 32 by the time it ends. If he goes on a free then, who cares? I don’t see it’s a massive problem. They’re not going to miss a 32-year-old striker are they?
Aubameyang has done brilliantly for Arsenal. He could win the Golden Boot this year – although his three-game ban will hurt him. But everything comes to an end and this is not a player in his prime. I think he’ll sign a new deal. I don’t think he’ll have many other options. Whatever happens, Arsenal will have had their money’s worth. He’s scored goals, put a shift in, and been made captain. I don’t think Arsenal fans should worry about his future really. He’s not the type to let it affect him so they can leave it until the summer and see how it plays out
2020 02 01 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Arsenal are not big fish anymore] Arteta worked with him at Man City and will have gone to Arsenal, worked with the defenders at Arsenal and weighed it up and thought ‘he’s played in the second division in Spain but he’s probably better than what I’ve got here’.
The main thing is, he’s seen what he needs at the back. He has come in and brought two defenders in. Will they make a difference? We will have to wait and see. The shame for me is that it just shows where Arsenal are. They are struggling. They aren’t the big fish anymore where they can go and get £50m or £60m players. They are going for players that no-one else is really after. It wasn’t like they were in a bidding war. The lad from Southampton, I didn’t even know he was available and if there was anyone else after him
2020 02 11 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Nathan Ake would be a perfect addition for Arsenal] They need a centre half and a world-class holding midfielder. I think Arsenal need to play with a back three. They’re not good enough as defenders to play as a four. Ake has pace and he’s played in England for a while, so if you brought him in for next season he’s not a player who will need time to get used to the league for six months. Arsenal need to hit the ground running [next season] and everybody needs to know their jobs in the team
I still think Nathan Ake is good player. There’s talk about him going back to Chelsea because they can buy him for a certain price but he’s a very good centre-half. He’s not the biggest but he’s got good spring and I think he’s the type of player Arteta will like. He would be my choice coming in from Bournemouth
2020 02 11b Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Arsenal should be looking to retain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s services] I thought Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would be about 31, 32 when he left, and if I was Arsenal I’d keep him in the summer. I’d keep him and say, you know what, give him what you can next year and get us into the Champions League and you can go for free. It’s hard to buy goals, and he’s a natural scorer. Gabriel Martinelli could be a top player and I like him, but if I keep Aubameyang I’ve got 15-20 goals, and that’s some doing. To ask Martinelli to come in and do that, you couldn’t ask that. We think these players are 22 or 23, but at 18 to do it in this league, I’m a big fan of his, it’s just all about timing.
Arteta’s not going to come in and tell [Mesut] Ozil how to play a pass, but Arsenal have been the worst team in the Premier League without the ball over the last 10 years and that’s what he’s trying to change. Hard work is all it is. Ask any football fan what they want, and all they want is players to get on that pitch and work their socks off. I played against one of the best teams of all time in AC Milan. [Franco] Baresi, [Paolo] Maldini, all that lot. You couldn’t believe how hard they worked. They were world-class players, but they worked even harder
2020 02 15 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Mikel Arteta has been warned that he could face a summer exodus at Arsenal] Arsenal have improved under Mikel Arteta. The players are all working for him and it looks like there’s more harmony at the club. But I still think he’s going to have players wanting to leave at the end of the season, and I think Arsenal will want to get rid of a few. They need a clear-out, and he needs to build the spine of a team. All the top teams are strong down the middle. But Arsenal are not
The defence is going to take time. He’s brought two defenders in with Cedric and Pablo Mari, and he’s got William Saliba coming in from France in the summer. Part of me wonders whether he wanted Mari because Saliba isn’t his signing, and there could be some conflict there. But he’s made good signings. The forwards are going to want to know what’s happening next season. Will they play every week? Are they in Europe? Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alex Lacazette are both coming to the end of their contracts but I would take a hit and keep Aubameyang. Yes, he’s 30 now but if you get rid of him now for £30m he’s going to cost £80m to replace. So just keep him. He will get you 15 goals a season
2020 02 27 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Mikel Arteta’s early efforts at Arsenal have earned him a B+ grade] They’re aiming for fourth or fifth now, so that is a good result. They are harder to beat, and Arteta is getting players to try and play, like [Mesut] Ozil, [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang is scoring goals. They’re still open at times, but if you’re giving Arteta a grade since he got there, it would be B+. He’s doing something right. Show me someone that can run before they can walk! It’s moving along steadily, and that’s the best thing for him
If he’d come in and won five games on the trot, people would have thought he is the messiah, and then all of a sudden they’d have hit a bad run, and he’d be described as a one-hit wonder. He’s done it the right way, and it has moved along steadily. They’re in with a big chance of the top five, which if City are banned, means Champions League football. Arteta will know what he needs to change next season. It’s pointless coming in, going mad at players now, and then all of a sudden needing those players if others get injured. The players he’ll want to get rid of don’t need to know that right now. There will be some personnel changes in the summer
2020 03 07 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Everyone hates Ozil because he’s on £350,000-a-week] Unless Mikel Arteta gets some players in and out of Arsenal this summer this team is going to finish seventh or eighth next season. I’m not surprised Mesut Ozil’s agent says he’s not going anywhere though. Where can he go on that money? If he was on £50,000-a-week everybody would be trying to sign him but because he’s on £350,000 everyone hates him. Arteta needs to get players out though, and I don’t think he’ll be too upset that Sokratis says he’ll go if he’s not playing enough. I like players who are honest like that to be fair to him. It’s better than being prepared to just sit around picking up your money. Arsenal need to get their wage bill down and get rid of players who don’t have a future there. So Sokratis is expendable. But I hope Arteta gets to bring in a few too because he hasn’t really got his own players there yet. He will need a good pre-season and some new signings but I can see progress already even though they went out of the Europa League
2020 03 17 Retrieve
[Paul Merson admits Liverpool are unfortunate to find themselves in Premier League title limbo] if it was Manchester City 25 points clear, nobody would care
It’s all well saying Liverpool are 25 points clear, but if I played snooker with my mate tomorrow, and I needed 25 snookers to win, and he said: ‘The game has finished, there’s no point playing on!’ - for the next week or two, I’d be saying: ‘But I could have won that!’ You really feel for them, waiting 30 years for a title. If it was Manchester City 25 points clear, nobody would care! Because they’ve won it already. This team hasn’t won it for 30 years! This is like a film. I really feel for them; even if you gave them the league now, mathematically it’s not won. I know they’ve won it in essence, we all know that, but it’s not the same! It’s a shame
What we could have done is put every club into complete isolation for a few weeks, and in a few weeks’ time, we’ll start again. We test them all after those few weeks, then we play all the games behind closed doors. All the games would be televised at all different times. But this is still a chaotic solution. I don’t think you can have 22 teams, promote West Brom and Leeds and then relegate five next year. And if they declare the season null and void, what are they going to do - give everyone their season ticket back because the season essentially never happened?
There’s nothing to say the season has to start in August, that’s just how we choose it. The Euros will be next year, so no silly England international friendlies, which buys six or so weeks, so we could start the season later in September and October. Euro 2020 isn’t happening. That’s 100 per cent, for me. I wouldn’t even have the meeting on Tuesday. I don’t even know why they’re having a meeting about it. There’s no point. The Champions League and Euros are simple - cancel them. They don’t need to be played
2020 03 20 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Aubameyang is what Man Utd are missing] Aubameyang is what Manchester United are missing. He is a goalscorer and goalscorers are priceless. If you look at United and the way they played against Manchester City a couple of weeks ago, I thought they were very, very good. You looked at them and thought they have got a chance, especially if they could also get hold of a couple more players, especially a creative midfielder. You couldn’t help but be impressed with their performance and if they were to sign Aubameyang and they also got someone like a Jack Grealish, are they big players? They would be a major force, in my opinion. They are crying out for someone who is going to score them 20 to 25 goals, and that’s what Aubameyang can bring. He gets you 25 goals without even breaking sweat. Add a Grealish if they can get him and then you’ve got Bruno Fernandes as well playing in behind a striker, Manchester United will be a major force. I don’t think you can say Aubameyang would be going for ambition if he went to Manchester United though. He’d be going for the money because he’s almost 31 and this would likely to be his last move. At the moment, you can’t say you are going to go to Manchester United and get guaranteed trophies. You won’t be able to guarantee United winning anything in the next two or three seasons. They are getting better but it’s not ambitions, it’s the money
The Arsenal fans won’t want to see another top striker depart for Old Trafford, that’s for sure, but the Robin van Persie situation was a bit different. At that time, it was Arsenal vs Manchester United, they were both the big teams in England and for Arsenal, it was like selling United the trophy. This is a bit different because you’ve got to look at where Arsenal are at the moment. They are ninth and if Aubameyang leaves, are they going to finish lower than ninth next season? No way. For me, there’s a lot of weighing up that needs to be done. I know the natural reaction is to think Arsenal won’t be able to replace him and his goals and they must do all they can to keep him, even if it is giving him £300,000 a week, but you can’t just look at next season. You’ve got to look at the all-round picture. I’m not saying Aubameyang is not a top-drawer player, he is, but if you are Arsenal and you keep him, are you going to win the Premier League? No. The Gunners have a very big decision coming up
2020 03 21 Retrieve
[Merson outlines why Ozil is a ‘huge problem’ for Arsenal in Aubameyang contract negotiations] It would be a major disaster for Arsenal if they lost Aubameyang, however, the decision will be weighed up and at least it will be the club’s decision as to what they do. Do they give him £300,000-a-week? I’ve always said they will have a problem until Mesut Ozil leaves the club. Every day he’s there, every other top player will want what he’s on. It’s a huge problem and not a new one.
If they want to keep Aubameyang they will have to pay him big money, but Arsenal may look at it and think if we give him £300,000-a-week for the next two or three years, is he going to be the same player? He’s nearly 31 and by the time he’s 34 he’s not going to be the same player. I don’t care who you are, at 34 you are not the same player.
Arsenal may also weigh it up asking if they will win the Premier League or get into the top four in the next few years if they pay Aubameyang £300,000-a-week. They haven’t actually done it yet with him there, so they may look at it and say it is good business to let him go.
There’s also the danger of giving him big money, just like they did with Ozil, and then every other player wanting the same. It would take you straight back to the Ozil scenario and if you do spend all that money on him and you don’t get into the top four it’s not money well spent. It’s a really hard decision and it will all come down to how the club weigh it up
2020 03 27 Retrieve
[Paul Merson has told Arsenal to move for West Ham talent Declan Rice] Chelsea have been linked with him, but I don’t know why Arsenal aren’t looking at Declan Rice. Arsenal are crying out for a holding midfield player. They don’t need a midfielder who’s going to be on the edge of the opposition box, they need a disciplined defensive midfielder, who is going to sit in front of the back four and organise the side; one who, when he gets the ball, gives it simple with 10-yard passes. It’s such a hard job and that’s why I can’t believe Arsenal aren’t going in for a player like Rice. A player like Rice can allow the attacking players to flourish and it gives the central defenders the chance to be better than what they are. I don’t care who you are in football, Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta and even a Virgil van Dijk, if you’ve got people running at you left, right and centre every minute, they are going to go past you on occasions
Arsenal haven’t really had a disciplined defensive midfielder since Gilberto Silva. Everyone talks about the club never really replacing Patrick Vieira, and of course, but they never replaced Gilberto either. There are players in the current team that are meant to do that job but they don’t have the discipline to do it, and that needs addressing
2020 03 30 Retrieve
[Gunners legend Paul Merson says Fabregas did nothing wrong in leaving Arsenal] I can understand the reason Cesc Fabregas laid out as to why he left. I don’t know too many footballers who, when Barcelona and Real Madrid come calling, don’t go. Fabregas is an interesting case because he did leave Barcelona as a youngster to go to Arsenal, but he couldn’t turn it down when they came calling again. I can’t think of too many players that could turn it down. You may get a player to wait around another year, but they always end up going in the end, and I had no problem with Fabregas going when he did
He was a great servant for Arsenal, and I can understand where he was coming from when he spoke about the pressure on winning trophies and the club’s lack of recruitment. He’d given his all for the club and the reality is that he could probably see Arsenal were a team in decline, and as I said, I don’t know too many professional footballers who could turn down Barcelona. In the end, his decision was proved right. The lad’s a special player, there’s no doubt about it. Whatever football team he’d have gone to he would have improved. There are not many footballers around the world that can say they can walk into any side in the world and improve it. There are players like [Virgil] Van Dijk, Kevin de Bruyne, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo that can do it, but not many. Fabregas was a special talent and I had no qualms with how his time at Arsenal ended
2020 04 10 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Man Utd target Sancho won’t be leaving Dortmund for £100m after coronavirus hits finances] All the talk about Jadon Sancho commanding a £100m-plus transfer fee has been blown out of the water if you ask me. Borussia Dortmund are said to be demanding in excess of that figure for one of Europe’s hottest young talents, but they can forget it. There’s no way that’s going to be happening. It’s gone – over and out. Top clubs can’t be putting staff on furlough and then start forking out that kind of money the minute the transfer window opens. It’s not just the fee, but with players in that price bracket comes a pay packet of around £300,000 a week and that’s just not going to be happening. The landscape has changed not just for everyone on the planet but for football as well. Really big-money moves may be off the table for quite some time. With the financial situation as it is, how would it look for clubs struggling to pay their staff and then transfer deadline day arrives and it flashes up on the screen that £900m or whatever has been splashed out on players? There would be uproar.
2020 04 10b Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Alexis Sanchez is capable of rediscovering his Arsenal form at Manchester United] With what’s currently going on, I can’t see a team going out and spending £100m on a player anymore. Teams are going to have to stick with what they’ve got so Manchester United keeping hold of Alexis Sanchez and bringing him back into the fold would come as no surprise. The other options would be to go and find a replacement and they would have to spend £60m or £70m to do it. I just don’t think clubs are going to do that anymore, and actually, I don’t think people care.
The clubs can’t ask the government to pay the wages of their staff and then once this has passed, and hopefully it will, go and spend £60m, £70m and even £80m on players. That’s taking the mick at the highest level! For that reason, I can understand Sanchez coming back to play a part at Old Trafford because, on his day, he is a great player. After this, people are going to appreciate things a lot more now - and that includes some of the footballers who get bundles of money and think they can just stroll through. Sanchez was one of those players, but I think he will probably now think this life goes very quickly, especially a football career. Players might start to appreciate that more and he could come back, work hard and be a success because you can’t go from being that good at Arsenal to be that bad at Manchester United, you just can’t.
It’s definitely a better United than the one he left too. They were flying before the suspension of the league. They’ve had some excellent performances and some brilliant results so that will benefit him too. He’s got to come back and appreciate he’s at one of the biggest clubs in the world, if not the biggest. There is logic in Sanchez going back at Old Trafford, he’s a top player and if they can get even half the player he was at Barcelona and Arsenal back, he’ll be an asset
2020 04 13 Retrieve
[Paul Merson telling the Arsenal skipper to stay put] It’s easy saying move to another, more ambitious club and win stuff but there are not a lot of trophies to win, especially with the two phenomenal football clubs Liverpool and Manchester City. I was very fortunate to play for Arsenal for a long time and make no mistake about it, it’s a great club. The grass is not always green on the other side, you have got to be careful. Aubameyang is at an age now where he will play every week for Arsenal. If he goes to, say, Manchester United or somewhere else, four or five bad games and you are out of the team. He’s going to play every week at Arsenal and when you are coming towards the end of your career, two or three years to go, you have got to enjoy your football and play. If I were Aubameyang’s agent I would be stressing that he is at one of the best clubs in the world, a phenomenal football club that has as much chance as anybody, bar Manchester City and Liverpool, winning something. For me, I would stay
2020 04 20 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Jack Grealish is a special player. The former Aston Villa play maker believes the highly-rated 24-year-old doesn’t trust those around him at present, but would star in a better team] He’s a special player. He’s the best three or four-yard passer I’ve seen in the game for a long time. People will go ‘three or four-yard passes’, but you watch football when it comes back and see how many people roll the ball to a full-back and they have to take a touch or someone goes on the overlap and they kick it out of touch.
It is always a pitch perfect ball, that three or four-yard ball and for me he is a special player. Very comfortable on the ball, very gifted.
He’s an outstanding player. People look at him at the moment and big clubs are probably thinking ‘can I trust Jack Grealish, has he got a position?’ He keeps going everywhere for the ball, but I think that’s just because he’s at Aston Villa. If he went to a bigger club with better players who are on his wavelength, I think he will play a position. At the moment people are a bit worried because he’s going all over the pitch to get the ball. With better players, he would be able to hold his position and would be a massive asset for any club in the Premier League.
[Grealish is club captain and a talismanic presence for Villa] I do think he tries to take on too much because he doesn’t have trust in the players, that they are good enough, around him. If he was with better players […] I think he doesn’t trust the players and he’s trying to be the school captain at the moment and do everything. He’s keeping the ball too long but with better players, they would demand the ball off him. At Aston Villa, they let him do what he wants because, like the school captain, he can go and beat everybody and we’ll win the game
2020 04 20b Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Arsenal a million miles away in slow journey back] Even if Pep Guardiola was in charge, no. Arsene Wenger used to say all the time that it’s all about the players. Arsenal’s players – it’s not a good enough team, it’s not a good enough squad. I like Arteta, I really do. I think he’ll do better than the last manager. But at the same time, to go and challenge for the title, I think they are a million miles off. They can’t defend
[Pressed further on whether Arteta is the man to bring the good times back] I’m going to go no, if I’m being honest. I don’t know any team that has ever won anything that can’t defend. If you can’t defend, you aren’t going to win anything. You can’t keep scoring three goals every game to try and nick a point or just win a game. Until he tightens that up, they are going to be a million miles off. I think this is going to be a slow, slow journey back for Arsenal
2020 04 21 Retrieve
[Former Gunner Paul Merson says Arsenal wouldn’t win Premier League even if Guardiola was in charge] Will Arsenal be challenging for titles soon? Even if Pep Guardiola was in charge, no. Not at the moment. Arsene Wenger used to say it all the time, it’s all about the players - and for Arsenal at the moment, it’s not a good enough team, not a good enough squad. I like Mikel Arteta, I really do, and I think he’ll do better than the last manager Unai Emery, but at the same time, to challenge for the title I think they are a million miles off
They can’t defend, and if you can’t defend, you can’t challenge for titles. Is there room for much optimism? I’m going to say no, to be honest. I don’t know any team that has won anything when they can’t defend. If you can’t defend, you’re not going to win anything! It’s simple. You can’t keep scoring three goals every game to nick a point or to only just win a game, so until he tightens that up, they are going to be a million miles off. This is going to be a slow, slow journey back for Arsenal
2020 05 09 Retrieve
[Paul Merson admits Jack Grealish will ‘100 per cent’ head for the exits at Aston Villa if Dean Smith’s side are relegated] I would say 100 per cent. If Villa go down then I think they will get rid of Jack and he will be sold. He’s a Villa man through and through, he loves Aston Villa, but he will have to move on, there is no doubt about that if he wants to better himself. It’s horrible saying that, better yourself, because it’s a great club, but he will have to play in the Premier League. In this day and age, you play in the Premier League if you want to play for England. It’s very rare that you’re not playing in the Premier League or a top European league and you’re playing for England. For me, he would have to be sold
I think it probably helps Jack Grealish. I think Jack Grealish was probably a 30-70 or 35-65 against him to go, so one more good season this year […] I think he will move on and I think it will help him. But football’s a funny game. You look at players that were flying along and they were young lads, but all of a sudden they could lose form. It’s swings and roundabouts, but it’s great news for [Marcus] Rashford and [Harry] Kane, there is no doubt about that because the last thing you want to do is go to a competition and you’re not fully fit, when you’re playing against the crème de la crème of European football
2020 05 28 Retrieve
[Former Gunners midfielder Paul Merson says Mikel Arteta and Arsenal could benefit from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic in the Premier League] I quite like it because now coaches have got to be coaches, they’ve got to make these players better. I think clubs are going to be really, really cautious in the market. For me, this is where coaches become coaches. It’s all well and good buying £80 million players all the time. Seriously, what do you need to coach an £80m player? If you’re coaching an £80m player, telling them what they need to do, he isn’t worth £80m. The good coaches will come to the fore, and those that aren’t will struggle. Some will blossom, some will not.
I think this situation helps someone like Mikel Arteta. Arsenal need such an overhaul of players that it’s actually almost impossible to get that many players in. Arsenal’s expectations will be nowhere near as high as they were a few months ago. I think he’ll now be given loads and loads of time to build. He’s young, he’s enthusiastic, and he’ll want to work with younger players. He’s not a Mourinho or Pep Guardiola, who I’d call your Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroys - they’re just dealing in majors, nothing else! Arteta is the type who might work from the ground up with lesser players
2020 05 28b Retrieve
[Paul Merson says he believes the Gunners will fare well under Mikel Arteta] Arsenal need such an overhaul of players that it’s actually almost impossible to get that many players in. Arsenal’s expectations will be nowhere near as high as they were a few months ago. I think he’ll now be given loads and loads of time to build. He’s young, he’s enthusiastic, and he’ll want to work with younger players. He’s not a Mourinho or Pep Guardiola, who I’d call your Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroys - they’re just dealing in majors, nothing else! Arteta is the type who might work from the ground up with lesser players
2020 06 12 Retrieve
[Paul Merson fears for Arsenal’s focus behind closed doors, and insists that fans keep defenders concentrated and honest] I worry for Arsenal. I watched the goals they let in against Brentford, and I worry about them playing behind closed doors. When you’re not a great defender, and Arsenal have a few of them, not top drawer defenders, I think the fans keep you honest. I mean that they keep your concentration levels. You need the fans there to keep you concentrated. One of the goals against Brentford, David Luiz tries to play out, flick it over the lad’s head, and that’s not honest. The fans try to keep you honest. I think with Arsenal that’s going to be a little bit of a problem defensively. I think they will switch off behind closed doors with no crowd, and there could be mistake after mistake. It is different. We grew up in an age of playing reserve team football at the stadium. If the first team were playing away, you’d be playing at home, at Highbury, and there would be one man and his dog there. Even though you’d psych yourself up, you still don’t get that push
If you have Robbie Williams and Elton John at Wembley in front of 100,000 people, it will be the best thing you’ve seen. They are entertainers, they fly off the adrenaline. If I said to them a week later: ‘You’re going back to Wembley, play again, but nobody is going to be there,’ how hard is that for them? To entertain in the same way without the fans there? I think this levels things out. I’ve gone from thinking Norwich were a certainty to get relegated, whereas now I’d give them a chance. I really do. Whoever can adapt, could reel off a few games on the trot. If you don’t get used to it, it’s Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday-Wednesday, you’ll soon be in trouble. You’ve got Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a world-class centre forward who scores goals. He’s a one out of two merchant, where you get two chances and score one, there aren’t many of them in the world. There’s a lot more to come from Alexandre Lacazette, he’s a top drawer player
We talk about the defence at Arsenal, but it often comes from the front. If you’re not closing down from the front, and then the midfield aren’t’ connecting, I don’t care who is playing at the back for you. It could be [Paolo] Maldini, [Alessandro] Costacurta, [Franco] Baresi, if you’ve got players running at you left, right and centre, you’re going to leak goals. I think it’s important they play as a team, but at the moment I don’t see it at Arsenal. I know Arteta is trying to change it, but it seems like the forwards have their game, the midfielders have their game, and then we then just see what the defenders do. I think they’ve got to get back to basics, get tight at the back. We all like watching Arsenal play because you know you’re going to get action and goals at both ends. I think they need to say: ‘Right, let’s get tight, if we have to win games 1-0, we will.’ I just think they are too entertaining, it’s too open, they don’t move up the pitch as a unit or move back as a unit. It could be a few years before Arsenal reach top four again. I do believe in Arteta, I like him and I think he’ll get it right, but it’s hard as an inexperienced manager. You’ve got to be careful not just to try entertain the fans. When you’re inexperienced, you often try to entertain the fan behind the goal
2020 06 12b Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Arsenal could have Maldini & Baresi & still leak goals] You’ve got Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a world-class centre forward who scores goals. He’s a one out of two merchant, where you get two chances and score one, there aren’t many of them in the world. There’s a lot more to come from Alexandre Lacazette, he’s a top-drawer player. We talk about the defence at Arsenal, but it often comes from the front. If you’re not closing down from the front, and then the midfield aren’t connecting, I don’t care who is playing at the back for you. It could be [Paolo] Maldini, [Alessandro] Costacurta, [Franco] Baresi, if you’ve got players running at you left, right and centre, you’re going to leak goals. I think it’s important they play as a team, but at the moment I don’t see it at Arsenal. I know Arteta is trying to change it, but it seems like the forwards have their game, the midfielders have their game, and then we then just see what the defenders do. I think they’ve got to get back to basics, get tight at the back. We all like watching Arsenal play because you know you’re going to get action and goals at both ends. I think they need to say: ‘Right, let’s get tight, if we have to win games 1-0, we will.’ I just think they are too entertaining, it’s too open, they don’t move up the pitch as a unit or move back as a unit. It could be a few years before Arsenal reach top four again. I do believe in Arteta, I like him and I think he’ll get it right, but it’s hard as an inexperienced manager. You’ve got to be careful not to just try to entertain the fans. When you’re inexperienced, you often try to entertain the fans behind the goal
I worry for Arsenal. I watched the goals they let in against Brentford, and I worry about them playing behind closed doors. When you’re not a great defender, and Arsenal have a few of them, not top-drawer defenders, I think the fans keep you honest. I mean that they keep your concentration levels. You need the fans there to keep you concentrated. One of the goals against Brentford, David Luiz tries to play out, flick it over the lad’s head, and that’s not honest. The fans try to keep you honest. I think with Arsenal that’s going to be a little bit of a problem defensively. I think they will switch off behind closed doors with no crowd, and there could be mistake after mistake
2020 06 19 Retrieve
[Former Gunners star Paul Merson says Arsenal should offer defender David Luiz a new contract - but only if he accepts reduced wages] David Luiz had a shocker at Manchester City because there were no fans in the ground, but unless he is asking for huge wages Arsenal should keep him. His contract is up and I’d be shocked now if he got another one, but if he’s not asking for a lot of money and it’s not going to break the bank, I’d keep him all day long. It all depends how much he is asking for. If he wants £100,000-a-week he won’t get that anywhere. Not in this day and age
What happened against Manchester City is not going to help him. His concentration levels are bad anyway but when you play with no crowd it’s even harder. It’s 100 per cent a big issue for him. The fans keep you honest. They keep your concentration levels up. When there’s no crowd your concentration levels dip a little and that happened with Luiz. He made mistakes and got sent off. He’s never going to cut those mistakes out, but if you’re looking at the all-round package, it could work at the right wages. He never hides. He makes a mistake and comes right back again. He came out and said it was his fault. He’s honest, and he’s never out injured. I have a lot of respect for him in that way. I like players who keep demanding the ball even when you’re losing
He’s a leader and he would be great with the younger players. The manager obviously likes him. But you don’t want to get on the wrong side of him if you’re the manager, and that’s a problem. Frank Lampard got rid of him when he was playing well at Chelsea. You’d have to sit down with him and tell him he’s not going to play every week because they have some good young players coming in like William Saliba. You’d have to make sure he’d accept that because you don’t want a bad apple in the dressing room splitting the squad. If he’s willing to do that then for me it’s a no-brainer to keep him. He makes mistakes but so will young kids coming into the team. I think he will help them. He could start doing his coaches badges there. This lad has got something. You don’t win all those league titles and trophies by making mistakes all the time
2020 06 27 Retrieve
[Arsenal’s decision to extend David Luiz’s contract is understandable] On his day, he is a proper player and there’s no grey areas, he’s black or white. You’ve seen it at Chelsea where he’s absolutely outstanding and we’ve seen him at Arsenal where he’s been atrocious. But for me, on his day, I think he’s top drawer. If he can help the centre-halves coming through and the youngsters there with his experience, because he’s won everything in the game, I don’t think it’s a bad year. I hear people saying ‘oh get rid of him, he makes mistakes’ - of course he makes mistakes, but he might be able to help other players while he’s there. The one thing I like about him is that he never goes hiding, he always keeps getting on the ball, he’s always in the thick of it and sometimes, that’s probably why he makes too many mistakes. But I can understand where Mikel Arteta is coming from
2020 06 30 Retrieve
[What is going on with Mesut Ozil?] I think Ozil is a prime example of a player who has to play in a proper team, that is going to be right up there, dominating football matches. He’s got to play in a majorly successful team
He can’t play in this Arsenal team, here’s why: he’s not going to change his game now in his 30s, and Arsenal aren’t going to change their game for him. He isn’t tracking back, chasing players, and you need him in a team where you’re getting 70 per cent of the ball each week, and he’ll play. You get players around him, let him play
We all know how Ozil plays, you give him the ball and he’ll find you. If you don’t have the ball, he won’t win it back for you for love nor money. He’s not interested when they don’t have the ball. How can you give someone £350k-a-week when we all knew that was his style of play?
If he hasn’t got the ball he’s one of the worst players in the world! I would say that. Name me a worse player in the world when their team doesn’t have the ball? I’ve never seen somebody so disinterested when they don’t have the ball, but he hurts you at the other end!
Can Arsenal form a team around him? At the moment, it’s at the stage where you can’t do that. They’re not going to change the team for him. He’ll pick up his £350,000-a-week and everything is rosy for him
They have to come to a deal with him; maybe he’ll take £200k a week somewhere else. I don’t know how this gets resolved though. Does he want to play football? If he loves football, he has to come to a deal with Arsenal, but it’s easy to say that. Nobody wants to lose £150k a week, no matter how much you earn! Who is mad enough to throw that money away, no matter who you are?
2020 07 11 Retrieve
[Paul Merson says Jose Mourinho will make Tottenham winners if they embrace his playing style] I think they’re slowly changing the way they play. When (Mauricio) Pochettino was there it was different. Mourinho’s come in and he plays a different way. But if he’d have won that game [against Bournemouth] 1-0, he would have been happy as Larry. He doesn’t want to be involved in 5-2s and 6-3s. He talks exactly the same as (Mikel) Arteta. If you’re good defensively, you’ve got much more chance of winning football matches
I think he’s just starting to put his footprint on this team and I think they are going to be very hard to beat. They’re not going to be the entertaining team, but that’s the way it is. Mourinho has won everything in the game. You don’t go into Tottenham and change your way of playing for players who have never won anything. You make sure that they play your way and you win them trophies. People go, ‘you can’t win like that anymore, winning 1-0 and 2-0’. You can, believe me. No one ever wins anything with a bad defence.
[Merson admits Mourinho has not yet reversed the decline that set in at the end of Pochettino’s reign] They were going for Premier League titles and Champions Leagues for the last two or three years, so of course they are still in decline at the moment. But with Mourinho there, he will turn it around. He will, but they have to play his way. Totenham aren’t going to be a free-flowing side. But they’ve got to trust Mourinho and have faith, because this man has won everything and they’ve won nothing
2020 07 15 Retrieve
[Mesut Ozil: What is going on with Arsenal midfielder?] I think Ozil is a prime example of a player who has to play in a proper team, that is going to be right up there, dominating football matches. He’s got to play in a majorly successful team. He can’t play in this Arsenal team, here’s why: he’s not going to change his game now in his 30s, and Arsenal aren’t going to change their game for him. He isn’t tracking back, chasing players, and you need him in a team where you’re getting 70 per cent of the ball each week, and he’ll play. You get players around him, let him play. We all know how Ozil plays, you give him the ball and he’ll find you. If you don’t have the ball, he won’t win it back for you for love nor money. He’s not interested when they don’t have the ball. How can you give someone £350k-a-week when we all knew that was his style of play? If he hasn’t got the ball he’s one of the worst players in the world! I would say that. Name me a worse player in the world when their team doesn’t have the ball? I’ve never seen somebody so disinterested when they don’t have the ball, but he hurts you at the other end!