Ahead of this week’s Carabao Cup semi-final second leg between Arsenal and Liverpool, MyBettingSites caught up with former Arsenal striker, Charlie Nicholas. The Scottish pundit, formerly of Sky Sports, discussed Arsenal’s lack of captaincy options, Manchester United signing Ronaldo being a big mistake and the appointment of Rafa Benitez being a waste of time.
Charlie Nicholas Exclusive: Arsenal must learn from their mistakes and give Lacazette a new contract
“Over the last five years, Arsenal have foolishly let contracts run down such as Aaron Ramsey, but then given huge contracts to Mesut Özil, and Alexis Sánchez. They’ve made terrible errors in judgment, and you wonder whether they should go back to the Arsene Wenger era policy of not spending money.
“The young players in Arsenal’s squad are responsive to Alexandre Lacazette, so if he’s demanding a two-year contract instead of one, they should give him it. It’s not going to be a dramatic increase in wages, so it’s just the length of the contract that’s creating problems.
“People have always felt that there’s a policy where players aged 30+ aren’t offered more than a one-year contract – Chelsea do the same. If Arsenal give Lacazette a two-year deal, he’ll still hold a significant value. Should they want to sell him after a year, they’ll still receive a transfer fee for him. It is tough to understand why it’s been standard practice to give Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Özil what they asked for when they didn’t deserve it.
“Hopefully Arsenal have learned their lesson and realise the importance of Lacazette’s experience, especially now that he is relishing being the experienced player in the side. Arsenal should bite the bullet and give him the two-year contract – they can’t go wrong with him.”
Charlie Nicholas Exclusive: Arsenal took advantage of the Premier League’s rules and got away with it
“The Premier League must make the rules clearer in terms of the criteria needed to postpone a match. If it’s down to injuries, teams must deal with that. If its suspensions, teams have to deal with the consequences. A suspension is a punishment and in Granit Xhaka’s case, Arsenal should have to deal with the consequences of the red card.
“Every club has taken advantage of the rules, even Spurs did several weeks ago when Antonio Conte’s staff were out. The clarity from the Premier League has been pretty poor. If it’s Covid related, and enough players are affected then that’s understandable and that’s genuinely what’s happened to some teams.
“In the spirit of the game, it doesn’t come across well and Arsenal took advantage of the situation when they got the North London Derby postponed. A week ago, personally I was feeling quite positive about Arsenal’s chances in the derby but after they came back from Anfield, I wasn’t as positive.”
Charlie Nicholas Exclusive: Arsenal have no viable captaincy options
“Aaron Ramsdale shouldn’t be Arsenal’s captain because he’s a goalkeeper. His character has been absolutely spot on and it’s been a real treat. He arrived with a lot of doubters because of his price tag but he’s ambitious, hungry and wants to prove that he belongs here. He’s been first class for Arsenal, has the captain’s instinct and he’s an organiser. That’s a positive Arsenal can build on.
“Kieran Tierney is a competitive individual. He’s dedicated and does what he’s asked to do for the team. Six weeks ago, Nuno Tavares was playing so well that it looked like Tierney would struggle to get back into the side but now he’s cemented his position again. Kieran Tierney would be a natural captain.
“Ben White has real quality and he’s going to be a top player for the Gunners, but in his interviews, it comes across as though he’s not fussed about being the main man. He’s quite soft in his approach to the game off the pitch and that’s just the kind of person he is.
“This has been a problem previously for Arsenal. Unai Emery let players decide the captaincy but that shouldn’t happen, coaches simply must decide. Club captains don’t need to be the nicest or most popular guy in the dressing room.
“Nice guys will try and keep everybody happy, and that’s not what you need. They must have a competitive edge, there must be fallouts. That’s why Alexandre Lacazette has been a good captain.
“Thomas Partey has taken a while to get himself fit. He has quality and that’s the position I would like the captain to be, but he’s not that type of player. Arsenal have an issue with that position and in the summer, that’s one they’ll address. They might look to move Granit Xhaka on and replace him with someone who has leadership qualities.
“There’s no standout option at Arsenal for club captain.”
Charlie Nicholas Exclusive: Mike Arteta is pivotal to Arsenal’s future
“Mikel Arteta is vital to Arsenal’s future. They’ve chopped and changed a lot since Arsène Wenger, under whom, towards the end wasn’t solving defensive problems and was spending excessive money on poor defenders like Shkodran Mustafi.
“Arsenal have now got someone young [Mikel Arteta], who has worked under one of the best managers in the last fifteen years – Pep Guardiola. They are starting to understand his philosophy of the game. It was always going to be a trial-and-error situation to start.
“Mikel Arteta has had problems with Arsenal’s transfer committee, hearing five different opinions on one transfer, but gradually it’s been tidied up. They’ve given Mikel a bit of authority and he’s said ‘Let’s look at the bigger picture. I want to build like Manchester City, they are the ones we need to be like.’ Gradually he started showing his influence.
“It’s hard for a modern coach to come in and try to be aggressive, they must earn the respect of the players now. A lot of young players will like him, but he had hard times with the Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s and Alexandre Lacazette’s to start.”
Charlie Nicholas Exclusive: Arsenal are growing again and are putting pressure on the top four
“Over time Mikel Arteta’s bought in decent signings like Ben White and Takehiro Tomiyasu, and they are getting a better balance. There’s still going to be unfortunate ‘Nottingham Forest’ type moments, but they are getting less and less now. There’s more belief and assurance, and the feeling is that Arsenal are starting to grow again.
“Arsenal must aim to catch teams like Manchester City up and are starting to throw money at the transfer market again, because they’ve had to – unlike City who already have the quality.
“But that’s been the problem for Arsenal – getting the signings right. Most of Mikel’s signings have been alright and as a manager, signings are what you’ll live and die by.
“There’ll be some mistakes along the way for his side and they’ll show some inexperience, but as an Arsenal man, I’m incredibly happy with the way it’s going.”
Charlie Nicholas Exclusive: Signing Ronaldo was Manchester United’s big mistake
“Cristiano Ronaldo coming back to Manchester United hasn’t had an influence on either Mason Greenwood or Marcus Rashford’s development this season. Their respective seasons are entirely on themselves, they need to get themselves through the awkward points in their careers.
“You [United] don’t look at someone who is Ronaldo’s age and sign them. It wasn’t a clever move for Manchester United and it wasn’t a clever move for Ronaldo himself either.
“Has Cristiano been a success? Not really, but you can’t blame him for wanting to go back to one of the biggest clubs in the world. The Ronaldo signing shows that Manchester United’s board have no focus on where they want to be.
“It isn’t Cristiano that’s disturbed Greenwood or Rashford’s quality.
“They don’t know what they are trying to be, and it isn’t the United that we are used to. Ronaldo wasn’t the right signing and it’s typical that Manchester United are getting all the decisions wrong at the top levels [of the boardroom].”
Charlie Nicholas Exclusive: Appointing Rafa Benitez was a complete waste of time
“The appointment of Rafael Benítez at Everton was a complete and utter waste of time. It was going against the grain on the principle of wanting to appoint someone with an impressive CV.
“But looking back at Rafa’s history, his first spell in Spain was poor, at Liverpool he didn’t win the league, despite winning the Champions League – which his players like Steven Gerrard dragged them to, and his time at Newcastle was all about survival.
“His CV is to die for, but he was never going to play ‘the Everton way’.”
Charlie Nicholas Exclusive: Everton’s owners must prove their ambition but with the right managerial appointment
“During my Sky Sports days, Everton fans would always grumble after the opening 10-15 minutes about a lack of quality. All they are simply looking for is some spirit and fight from the team.
“Duncan Ferguson stood in to manage prior to Carlo Ancelotti’s arrival and the fans loved it. They got a response from the dressing room under him. I’m not saying Duncan will get the job because I don’t feel that way, but Everton’s owners must get the next appointment right.
“When they took over, they had high ambitions for the club, but they’ve amounted to nothing. There’s no plan in place and it’s just trying to get someone with a big CV that can prove others wrong. Except they haven’t, they’ve only proved their own decision makers wrong.”
Charlie Nicholas Exclusive: Everton should try and contact David Moyes over the managerial vacancy
“The last few times their managerial vacancy has popped up, Bill Kenwright has tried touching base with David Moyes – who is now doing a fantastic job with West Ham. It would be surprising if they didn’t try and speak with him this time.
“Admittedly, I’d be astonished if Moyes is interested because of how well things are going for him [with West Ham], but he does have the relationship with Everton that could make it possible.
“I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Roberto Martinez return.
“It’s a fantastic club, but they’ve often been a club at the wrong end of the table fighting survival. They have got to make a strong case this time round with a manager that shows they are ambitious.”