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Premier League - Football: bet365 exclusive interview with Shaun Wright-Phillips

05 September 2022 07:51:41 EST
The former England internationa, pictured in action at Soccer Aid, clocked up over 500 career apearances for the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea.

Following the return of the Premier League, the team at bet365 sat down with former Manchester City, Chelsea and New York Red Bulls Winger, Shaun Wright-Phillips.

What do you make of Manchester City's transfer window so far? Do they have a weaker squad after selling three players (Sterling, Jesus & Zinchenko)?

To be honest, I think it's the best business I've seen in the transfer window for a very long time. I think the money they've made off the players, whether they were from the Academy or whether they were from the starting team, and then being able to bring in the calibre of the players they did bring in, I think it's been good business.

I wouldn't say it's a weaker team, rather a stronger team in different areas and different aspects of the game itself, especially with two strikers that they brought in. It's given City different options to play with.

If you look at the West Ham game, the amount of crosses that came in, there must have been about 10 in the first half and it's not something we're used to seeing City doing. Those signings have made City stronger in a completely different way.

But of course, losing players like Sterling, Jesus and Zinchenko who played massive parts over the past four seasons, you're going to be thinking the teams weaker.

Chelsea are still in the market for a new striker. Is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the right choice?

Do you know what, I didn't think so at the start but after watching them play yesterday at the game and the way Tuchel wants his team to play, and also after having conversations with Zola and Hoddle, it became clearer the reasons why Tuchel wants him. Auba could definitely suit them, especially if he joins and scores goals.

His mobility, the way he stays out on the left, never dropping too deep could suit Chelsea and can be someone they need. But I’m strong believer if you have a young talent there, why not put them in and give them a run of games? But I doubt that will happen until the transfer window shuts and they don't get anyone in.

Many pundits have argued that Chelsea will finish outside the top four this season. Do you think they will?

When the season first started and the performance against Everton, I would have said they may just finish outside the top 4, but after seeing the way Spurs played for 60 minutes or so yesterday, I don't think over the course of the season they'll have the longevity to sustain a top 4 challenge. I can't see them having the consistency to keep out Chelsea or Arsenal.

What do you make of Arsenal so far this season?

I think they've been fantastic, the new addition with Saliba is phenomenal. Players are scared to run at him as they know how quick he is. Going forwards, especially in the final third with Martinelli, Jesus, Saka, it's frightening.

Adding in key players like Odegaard in behind, they're always going to be finding players in and around the box. They're going to be hard to stop and they're scoring a lot of goals, which in the Premier League is key to success.

They were unlucky conceding with the own goal, but apart from that they're going to be a hard task for anybody.

Has there been any banter between you and dad regarding how far the Gunners can go this campaign?

Not yet! I know he'll be waiting until Arsenal play Man City before he starts the banter as he's learnt from the past where Arsenal were doing really well then going a few games not picking up the results they needed – we had proof of that last season.

According to the plans I've heard though, this was the year they set for the Champions League anyway, so they seem right on track.

Your son D'Margio recently signed a new deal at Stoke, how far can he go and what is the best piece of advice you have given him?

I've seen him and at times he surprises me with his football IQ even from such a young age. Most footballers now, their football IQ in and around those attacking areas is very, very high.

He's got so much of it already at a young age, he's doing well, and I think the main thing to him is consistency - that's the hardest transition as a kid is getting the consistency week in, week out. The difference between playing in the first team or not is consistency.

You need to always pose a threat to the opposition and perform the way the manager wants you to. So, in terms of my advice to him, I say keep learning, keep enjoying your football and don't be disheartened if you're not picked in the first team to start. Just be ready for when your time comes as football can change at any given minute.

If you're not ready for when your time comes, you've got to wait another 3 months. If you are, you might never drop out the first team again.

What's your favourite/best goal you scored for City?

There's been two that stand out, but the one I scored against Man United when we beat them 4-1, it was nice to be on the other side when they got hammered from us, not the other way around. To be a part of that was great.

Which player/s did you most enjoy playing with?

My first spell at City, I'd say Eyal Berkovic and Ali Benarbia - they were on a different wavelength of football that improved me and taught me different aspects of the game.

When I went to Chelsea, I'd say Didier Drogba. As a winger all you needed to do was put the ball in the box and he did the rest.

And when I went back to City, I'd say Stephen Ireland. He was fantastic and we hit the same wavelength straight away.

When you left the first time a lot of City fans presumed it was purely your decision. Was that frustrating for you knowing that it was actually because the club needed the money?

It wasn't frustrating, I tried to say as much as I could without saying too much when I did interviews. A lot of fans don't know the ins and outs and assume it's the players that make these things happen, but I still respected them, and they still respected me and the love that we had from when I was a kid is still there today.

How did you feel when Aguero scored that goal?

To be honest, it was quite depressing as in that situation at that minute, QPR were getting relegated! So, it wasn't a happy moment, but then as soon as I found out we were safe, it relaxed me and I got to enjoy the moment of survival and for my team to win the league.

Having played in America, how big of a move is Gareth Bale's transfer to LAFC?

It's a tough one, people go to play in the states for all different reasons. If he's gone there as the Gareth Bale, I know to still try and win things, then where he's playing is a massive move. But some people who are in the back end of their career just want to enjoy their football and play football in the sun!

It depends individually what he's gone there for. For me, knowing the person he is, Gareth's gone there to win and educate the younger kids coming through who need guidance and may never get to play with people like him.

Can you see the USMNT one day mount a solid World Cup run, like the USWMNT?

Most of the international players around the world are from big clubs from a young age. Whereas American players, it's not really like that. Most of them stay in the country with only the odd few venturing out to Europe and other elite.

If not all of them are playing in the top competitions, then it's going to be really tough for them to mount that challenge to win the World Cup or anything like that.

Was your brother not given a fair crack at City - could he have made the grade with a little more good fortune?

I think me and him both learnt with football and chances, it can be about timing and a little bit of luck. When he was there, he had players like Anelka, and they were bringing others in. And that would have been a challenge to play in front of guys like that at his age and level of experience.

Back then, it was a rarity that kids came through that often. He showed what he was capable of at Charlton and whatever happened there, happened. He's gone to America and done the business, so it was just getting that chance to show it.

As a former City player, what do you make of what's happening to United at the minute? Do you think relegation could be on the cards?

I can't believe we're even having this conversation to be honest! As much as I want to see them down there, for the Premier League and the Manchester Derby, I can't understand what's happening. I've had so many different conversation's from when Mourinho was there and then he got the sack.

It begs the question that as bad as everything else may be around the club, they've still got quality players on the pitch and a squad full of international players and what I'm watching shouldn't be happening. I can't get my head around it.

What do you make of Raheem Sterling's decision to leave Man City for Chelsea?

I think for him personally it’s a good move. As a player you always want to play football, he's done the rotation for 4 or 5 years and it will bear on you if you want to play. The Raheem that we saw playing regularly at City was the Raheem that we saw breaking records, scoring all these goals that wingers shouldn't be scoring. You don't normally see wingers put up those numbers on a regular basis. Raheem will want to get back to that.

On the other hand, many will rightly say, why would you want to leave a club that's dominating and looking to secure a Champions League win? I think for him it shows just how much he wants to play. I take my hat off to him.

Are Chelsea ready to challenge for the Title after their summer of spending?

No, not yet. I think what Liverpool and Man City do is incredible. It's rare that you see teams go on winning streaks of 10+ games, pushing each other that far. I can't see Chelsea doing that and that's what you have to be able to do to close the gap. You have to win 15 games in a row, no draws or losses.

Growing up as a kid I didn't think that was possible. Every Christmas period now, you see Man City go and win 10 games in a row. After seeing Chelsea's first two games, they could be in and around there, but I can't see them challenging.

Would you say this is best City team ever?

It's hard as we say that every year don't we? The last three seasons, they've been getting better and better. They've lost three massive players this season, but have replaced them with Haaland, Alvarez and Phillips.

I think they're stronger in a different way this season.

Where would you say Chelsea need to recruit to get to Man City or Liverpool's level?

They need goals. It was apparent in the game against Spurs and last season that goals are their issue. They've lost Lukaku and Werner and the majority of the goals scored are from players like Reece James, penalties from Jorginho or Mount from deep.

They need a striker who can score them goals and if Broja can give it to them - fantastic as they've got a home-grown talent there.

Any names that stick out in your mind?

I'd have gone and got Lewandowski. He guarantees goals everywhere he plays. He's obviously gone to Barca but that opens up Aubameyang. I'm not sure he'd be able to emulate what he did at Arsenal, but we know he likes to score goals and could fit the bill.

What advice would you give to Callum Hudson-Odoi, who's been tipped for a Chelsea exit?

My advice would be to go and play football. He's got to look at Connor Gallagher. He's gone and expressed himself at Palace. Callum needs to go and play a full season of football week in, week out. Get to learn the Premier League properly and love the game you're playing. It's hard to love the game when you're not playing and just training.

He's been doing that for a while now and should go and show people what he's capable of.

How do you think the top four race will go?

I was convinced Chelsea would finish 5th and that it would be Man City Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs, not in that particular order, but those will be the four. Now, after seeing the Spurs Chelsea game, Chelsea should have won it. Spurs played poorly for 65 minutes so after seeing that I'm backing Chelsea to make the top 4 at the expense of Spurs.

What have you made of Erling Haaland's start to life at Manchester City?

Fantastic start for him. Two goals and two assists already, he's doing fantastic. He's learning how to play a different way of football compared to what he's used to. He has to be a lot more patient and wait for the right option.

I can see him scoring a lot more goals away from home, because of the way teams set themselves up when they come to the Etihad, so he's going to have a big learning curve getting used to that. If he gets it right, he'll become an unbelievable player.

Marcus Rashford has been linked with a move to PSG, what do you think he should do?

He has to ask himself a question - does he want to win things? If he leans towards winning trophies, he has to leave Man United. We're seeing scenes from Man United that I didn't think we'd ever see. They're bottom after two games. Both teams they've played you'd expect Man United to win those.

An opportunity like PSG, if he wants it, he should go for it. But if he wants to help Man United turn around their fortunes then he needs to get back to Rashford who made a name for himself. He hasn't played that well in the last 18 months.

If you want to win things, you need to go to PSG as United aren't winning anything anytime soon.

Why do think Rashford has declined in his performances?

He's had a few injuries but it's a tough one. I think a lot of people have sussed out what he does, so he needs a coach and some players round him to bring something else to his game so he's not so readable. Once he masters that he can go back to his old self, as he'll have options of switching it up.

People are waiting for him to cut inside on his right foot and shoot. And they anticipate it every time.

You re-signed for Man City a couple of days before Sheikh Mansour took over the club. What was the atmosphere around the club like when the takeover happened?

I remember everyone talking about Robinho coming and a few of us who'd be in and around City a long time looked at each other like, 'yeah right'. We were only just starting and didn't expect those types of names so early on.

The best thing Sheikh Mansour did was to have a plan and a structure. And they followed and executed to every single last detail. That's what made City they are today. The club's always been warm and loving, but now there's so many things happening in and around City, it's frightening the potential of the place. I have to say thank you for everything they've done.

Best player you've played with and against?

Against - Ashley Cole. He was so hard and frustrating, the amount of running he got you doing, the times you had to attack him. He was as fit as a fiddle and you're trying to attack him out of breath, but you know you have to just do it. He was very clever, very tactical and stayed on his feet for a long time as a fullback.

Best player I've played with has to be Steven Gerrard with England. The first training session I had with the England squad I realised things are completely different when Stevie G is playing in the middle. The ball comes so quick, your concentration levels have to be 100% all the time because the things he sees and the way he plays, you have to be on the same wavelength.

Your former club Chelsea is under new ownership. What do you make of their transfer business so far?

Good business, especially when you sign the likes of the players they have. Sterling and Koulibaly being two huge names. But yeah, I think they need more, especially if they don't play Broja. They need a top striker who can put games to bed.

Do you think they can challenge for the Premier League title this season?

I thought they played better against Spurs than Everton. They struggled in a lot of ways against Everton, like they always do for some reason at Goodison. They came away with the result though and it's all about getting the 3 points.

Against Spurs, they dominated, they pressed and had the game for 65 minutes, playing really well. They're still a bit off the title given the performances City and Liverpool can put in, winning 10-15 on the bounce, for Chelsea to do that is a massive ask as many doubted Liverpool could even do it.

Callum Hudson-Odoi wasn’t in the squad against Everton. Do you feel he is being treated unfairly by Thomas Tuchel?

I can't say he's been treated unfairly as I don't know what's happened on the training ground or whether he's training well or whether they've had words.

What I would say though is that he needs to go and play regular football. I don't think he's had a season where he's played all the time and at a young age, that step moving into the men's world, that's how you build your consistency: playing regular football. For me and for him, I think he should leave on loan or say goodbye to Chelsea and make his own steps.

Just how much of an impact can Raheem Sterling have at Chelsea? Was Pep Guardiola naive to let him leave?

City and Chelsea play different styles and tactics so it'll be difficult to compare like for like, he may now score more from outside the box rather than tap-ins that he was getting at City, but from what I've heard at City is if a player wants to leave, they don't try and stop them.

They'd rather the player leave and be happy than stay and be unhappy. So, whatever's happened, it's how it's come out. I'll never know how or why it's happened, but I know Raheem loves playing his football and start week in, week out.

What exactly went wrong for Romelu Lukaku at Chelsea last season?

When you go back to when Chelsea played Arsenal last season, we thought Chelsea would be a tough team to beat. As the season went on, Lukaku wasn't playing like he did against Arsenal. Chelsea wasn't playing tactically towards his strengths.

He had to do things he wasn't used to doing and might not like doing in order to benefit the team. And vice versa, sometimes Chelsea could have slid the ball into him a lot more. When he has to move, he has to initiate his own strings and his own triggers, so I think it was a combination of those things why it didn't work out.

As a former England international yourself, do you feel Gareth Southgate’s side can go one better from last summer and win the World Cup this year?

I really hope so. They have the talent and the quality to challenge. Watching the squad in the Euro's, what I did admire was the resilience in that even when they weren't playing well, they managed to come away with the results. In football, those are the key moments that make the difference.

They're going to have to play at their best all the time. The World Cup is a different beast to the Euro's. There are more varied styles of play, more cultures, more players and England have to be ready to take on everyone.

You were on the international scene during England’s so-called ‘Golden Generation’ (Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard). In your opinion what prevented that particular era of players (yourself included) from winning an international trophy?

For me, on the days we needed to play and be on our best the other nation was just better than us. I wouldn't say it was a tactical issue by any of the managers, I think a lot of the time, we did play well but things just didn't happen.

I look at the 2010 World Cup against Germany and they were just phenomenal that day. But if Lampard's goal was given, it's a completely different game. There were a lot of reasons as to why it didn't happen, but at the same time, while it was our country's Golden Generation, it was a lot of other countries Golden Generation too.

The types of players we had to come up against weren't average - they were phenomenal players at the biggest clubs in the world. It was never going to be easy and for whatever reason, we couldn't get it across the line.

What has gone wrong for Manchester City in previous Champions League campaigns? Does Pep Guardiola genuinely ‘overthink’ his tactics? Can they win it this season?

I said it last season and the season before so I'm not going to say it this year! In the past in Cups and competitions, you need a bit of luck and that quality and Real Madrid last year showed that quality. I think they were behind for 160 minutes out of the 190 or something like that. The quality for them shows in the dying moments that results in them coming away with a win.

At the same time, you have to be good enough to create chances and crucially, take them. But that little bit of luck is needed. Spurs had it when they got to the final with the VAR decision for handball which now wouldn't even be given due to the rule change.

So, there's so many little things that get in the way, but now with Haaland and Alvarez it changes the dynamic of how City play. So, I'm going to say it, I’m backing City to win the Champions League this season!

What should England look out for against the USA in the World Cup?

After playing in the MLS and playing against the USMNT in the World Cup, we're going to have to match their work rate. They are athletes and won't stop running regardless of the score. Even if they're 4-0 they'll still work just as hard. But you've got to respect the quality in that American side that are playing in England now or have played in the Premier League or against Premier League sides before.

They'll know who they're up against and have done their homework, so it'll be a difficult one.

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