William Gallas
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William Gallas thinks England are too inexperienced and fail all the time, questions key Southgate decision and slams Arteta

| 11.06.2021

William Gallas knows the English game well having won the Premier League twice with Chelsea and also played for Arsenal and Spurs.

William was no stranger to the international stage either playing 84 times for France – including the World Cup final in 2006 – and he spoke to us ahead of the Euros to discuss the Three Lions, expectation on France and what he makes of his former clubs.

England shouldn’t be among the favourites to win the Euros

To be honest, it’s difficult for me to see how or why England are among the favourites to win the European Championship. OK, they’ve got a good squad, they’re strong. But unfortunately, they fail all the time. That’s a problem. They’ve always failed in big tournaments.

I remember in 2004 in Portugal, we played them in our group. Before we played against them, I saw the line-up and it was unbelievable. I knew all of the players from my time in England. For myself, that was the best squad at Euro 2004, but they lost against us in the last minute.

It’s the same thing in the World Cup; they always fail. I’m not really convinced about England at all.

What I can remember from that night in Portugal was the atmosphere; it was unbelievable. The English fans were fantastic and made a lot of noise, waving their flags. It was amazing. When the game started we knew it was going to be difficult to beat that England side. When Frank Lampard scored, I think it came from a David Beckham free-kick, he wasn’t exactly known for his headers so I thought to myself ‘we are in trouble’. But we still believed we could get a result.

I think England made some big mistakes in that game against us – they conceded a free-kick late on and normally they wouldn’t concede a goal from that position, and then we had the penalty in the last few seconds of the game. When you’re leading 1-0 late on, you can’t make mistakes like that. Maybe they had too much pressure on their shoulders.

England went out in the Round of 16 in Euro 2016 to Iceland, so their first goal this time should be to beat that performance. The expectation from English people is to win the tournament, but for me, there’s a lot of talk about this squad, so if they don’t reach at least the semi-finals, they will have failed.

Taking Henderson was a mistake from Southgate

The squad England had in 2004 was much stronger than the squad today. That squad in 2004 had a lot more experience throughout the team, and if you have to compare them with the team today, yes the players are great, but I’m still convinced the squad is too young. It’s too young a squad to cope when you get to the later stages of the tournament.

There’s a lot of pressure on your shoulders at major tournaments. I don’t know whether this squad can deal with all of that pressure. I know the manager has picked Jordan Henderson to help the younger players in the team, but I’m still convinced they’re too young.

I think it’s a mistake from Gareth Southgate to pick a player like Henderson who hasn’t played for months. I don’t think Henderson will start, he’ll be on the bench. Maybe the manager picked him for his experience alone and to help speak to the younger players, and we know he has that winning mentality. He’s like a soldier, and you need players like that in your squad, but I don’t think he’s ready to play. He’ll have too much pressure on his shoulders as well because he’s not completely fit. The manager has picked him to just be around the team, but I think that’s a mistake.

Players like Dele Alli were not mentally strong enough

The England squad now compared to the last European Championships is very different, without the likes of Dele Alli and Joe Hart who were both key players in the past for their country. England, unfortunately, have failed in the past, and so when you fail, you have to change things, including your players. You have to learn why you failed, and that involves bringing in new players.

I wonder whether players like Alli were not strong enough in their mind to keep themselves in the England set-up after failing in the last Euros, where they lost to Iceland. There’s a lot of pressure that comes with that, so sometimes when you have players who are big stars when they are young, it’s really difficult to sustain that level for the rest of their careers.

Phil Foden needs to do his talking on the pitch

Everybody speaks about Phil Foden and he’s had a great season with Manchester City, but he’s still young. I think the media put too much pressure on his shoulders and now he has to deal with that. We’re still yet to know whether he can sustain this level for many years. He has to understand football goes very quickly and things can change. Today you’re a big star, but tomorrow you could be average if you don’t do the right things. I’m sure his managers will help him keep that level.

If we have to compare Foden with someone like Kylian Mbappe, we’ve been speaking about Mbappe as one of the best players in the world for four or five years. He’s still up there because he knows what he wants and he works hard every day. For the English players, they have to understand they need to do the same thing and be focused on football. Don’t let anything on the outside disturb you. It’s not easy; everywhere you go, people know who you are. Sometimes it’s difficult to deal with all of that.

Foden dyed his hair earlier this week to look like Paul Gascoigne. The best way for him to deal with things is on the pitch. He has to perform. Maybe he’s put pressure on his shoulders by changing the colour of his hair, because the problem is that you know people will jump on little things and if he fails at the Euros they’ll say things like he was busy trying to look like Gascoigne.

I don’t know him but I’m sure he’s a nice boy; a good lad. Maybe he changed his hair just because he wanted to do something different. But the best answer for him is to perform on the pitch.

France can’t fail in this tournament. It’s very simple; they have to win

We’re talking about the European Championships, so I’d say the favourites should be Portugal, because they are the reigning champions. But France won the World Cup in 2018 so that’s why everybody has them as favourites, and with the squad they have available to them, you’d probably say they have to win the trophy.

They have so much strength and experienced players across the pitch; it’s difficult to pick out a weakness because on paper they’re very strong in all areas, so for me they can’t fail in this competition. They have to win, it’s very simple.

Raphael Varane is an exceptional defender playing at a top level for Real Madrid, then there’s Presnel Kimpembe and Lucas Hernandez who also play for PSG and Bayern Munich respectively. Then in midfield they’ve got N’Golo Kante, who is the best player in the world right now, and Paul Pogba is a very strong midfielder. Up-front they can choose between Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema.

Benzema’s return is good news for France, assuming he is fit. For me, he’s one of the best strikers in the world at the moment; I’d put probably only Robert Lewandowski ahead of him. Benzema has played for Real Madrid for almost 10 years and he’s still scoring goals for them; he’s a very intelligent player and it’s a real positive he’s back in the national team. Opponents will be afraid of France’s attack, because now they’ve got Benzema, Griezmann and Mbappe all available.

How Arsenal need to start next season

When you start a new campaign in the Premier League, you need to have your starting XI in mind and you need to stick with it for the first few weeks. Maybe after a few games you can change things if players aren’t performing. But with Mikel Arteta, it’s almost as if he’s changing his team every two weeks. Sometimes it was Alexandre Lacazette up-front and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out wide, then after two weeks it was Lacazette on the bench and Aubameyang up-front. Then he’d change his system, and that becomes confusing for his players.

I’ve said it for a while, but I don’t think Arteta is the right manager for Arsenal right now. He came in without any experience as a head coach. There will be pressure on Arsenal from the first game next season and a bad start to the season could result in him being sacked very early on.

Arsenal have to qualify for the Champions League, that’s for sure. Anything else is a failure. They have to bring in two more top-class players. They definitely need to bring someone in at the back, and then maybe someone up-front. But we don’t know how Arteta would like to play next year; we don’t know what system he’ll implement.

Arteta needs to ask more of his players

When I look at Arsenal’s team right now, first of all they didn’t have a good season. But when I look at them play, it’s too quiet on the pitch.. Nobody is shouting, directing, or leading. Normally it has to be the captain, and two or three experienced players.

I remember when I was at Chelsea, I’d watch Arsenal teams of old, from the early 2000s and even before that, they had so many players over the years like Tony Adams, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Sol Campbell. All of them were leaders on the pitch. Sometimes they wouldn’t play well, but there’d always be one top player trying to lead and motivate his teammates. That was a good way of working and the team had success with it.

It’s always the same thing with Arsenal; the board needs to buy the right kind of players. Next season, I’m sure they’ll be more focused in the league because they’re not playing in Europe. They don’t have any excuses not to have a good season next time out. They have failed.

Mikel Arteta knows his teams very well now, so they can’t fail anymore. The pressure is on their shoulders. Arteta needs to ask more of his players, he needs to speak to his senior players and get them to take more responsibility.

If the board decide to sell Hector Bellerin and Granit Xhaka, it means they must have young players ready to come in and replace them. But that puts pressure on those players and it could put you in more trouble. You have to compare Arsenal with the other top clubs in the league, like Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea. You have to look at how they’ve become successful. Liverpool won the Premier League and the Champions League because they’ve got a squad full of experienced Premier League players, and it’s the same at Man City. Arsenal need to bring in those kind of players.

For me, Arsenal are still average at the back. That needs addressing this summer; they need to bring in a top-class defender, a leader.

Trying to bring Pochettino back to Spurs was a little bit weird

Tottenham supporters have a right to be frustrated with the club because they were so close a few years ago in the league and then in the Champions League but it didn’t happen for them.

What you need to remember about Jose Mourinho is that he has a winning mentality, and he will have tried to bring that mentality to the Tottenham players and you don’t always need a big squad to win something; everything has to be about that mentality. Unfortunately it didn’t work for him at Tottenham, and that’s because he didn’t get the right response from his players.

That’s the problem with the new generation of players they don’t understand that you need to make a lot of sacrifices and work really hard in order to win trophies.

So now it’s about finding the right manager to bring back that squad. It won’t be easy because a lot of big managers have been linked with the job but none of them have taken it. I don’t know whether it was true or not but I saw they tried to bring back Mauricio Pochettino. That was a little bit weird for me. You sack the guy and now you want him to come back?

Harry Kane has to move; Tottenham fans have to accept it

Harry Kane has to leave Tottenham this summer. He’s a top-class striker, and top-class strikers have to play at big, big clubs. Clubs who can win trophies. Tottenham can’t give him that.

Harry’s played for Tottenham for many years, and he’s been the top scorer in the league in almost every season, but at the end of the season he’s never lifted a trophy.

I’m sure he’ll find a club to suit him and give him the opportunity to challenge for big trophies. At the end of your career, as a big player, you want to be able to look back and be happy with the trophies you won with your team.

I don’t think he has too many choices as to where he can go next, but a lot will be down to what he wants to do. If he wants to leave England he’ll then have to adapt to another style of football in another country and that’s quite a risk. I know he’s very strong in his mind, but I don’t know whether he’d like to leave England.

If he had the choice between, let’s say, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain, I think he’d go abroad because he doesn’t want to offend fans. But if he doesn’t have a choice and he can only go to Chelsea, he has to go there. I know it will be difficult for fans, but you have to accept the choice of the player.

For me, I chose to stay in London during my time in the Premier League because it was about my family as well. I had an opportunity to go to AC Milan after Chelsea but it didn’t happen. Arsenal came in for me and I said ‘OK, I’ll go there’. I knew fans wouldn’t be happy, but I told myself I gave five years of my life for Chelsea and I gave everything for the club. I didn’t cheat on them because I always gave 100%.

When I moved to Tottenham, again I was thinking about my family so the decision was simple. I know for the fans it’s really difficult to understand that, even now some fans still call me Judas, but I don’t have a problem with that. I have a life away from football and I have to think about my family. It would be different if I was born in England and I was a Chelsea fan, for example. But I’ve never been a fan of any club, even when I was younger.

The fans have to understand, and if they were in our position, maybe they’d have made the decisions I made.

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