As part of NIVEA FOR MEN’s ‘The Great Football Experiment’ , the Gunners’ Legend Nigel Winterburn played in a team of England legends against Sunday League side Ivory FC. The ex-Arsenal star took time out to answer some questions about his former club and the season ahead.
FFC: What have you made of Andre Santos’ start to the season?
NW: “The problem he faces, which is inevitable when players come to play in the Barclays’ Premier League, is that people are very quick to judge. We also look at the weaknesses very quickly; I think Santos is a terrific player going forward. He’s accomplished on the ball, obviously people are looking at him and saying that his weaknesses are that defensively he doesn’t look very stable but I’d like to judge that over the course of the season and not over eight or nine games. I think it’s too early to judge. What I will say is that he is very very talented on the ball; defensively there are still those question marks around him but let’s see what happens come the end of the season – he has the potential to be a very good buy for Arsene.”
FFC: Would you agree that the development of Kieran Gibbs has been a little bit disappointing considering the promise he showed a few years ago?
NW: “Well I think it’s a bit of a situation for Kieran Gibbs to be honest because I think if you look back a year and a half ago I was expecting him to be really pushing Gael Clichy for a spot in the Arsenal first team but he’s had so many injuries and I think as a young lad who in the past has played further up the pitch it’s not natural for him to be playing at left back and he needs to learn the defensive side to his job. But if you’re not spending time out on the pitch and you’re not spending time out in training against real top quality players you never get that chance to learn and develop from your mistakes. He’s still at a fantastic club and has a lot of time ahead of him but he needs to somehow get over these injury problems that he seems to keep picking up.”
FFC: Obviously it wasn’t a great start to the season from Arsenal but their form has picked up, what do you think they can realistically achieve this year?
NW: “I’ve heard lots of predictions about Arsenal: that they’ll finish in the bottom half of the league, that they won’t get in to the top four. They’ve come back with a terrific run, what you have to say is that Arsenal have been a top four team for a long time and that has to be what they’re aiming for again. Usually think to yourself if I’m in the top four around Christmas then at some stage during the rest of the year you’ll get a chance to challenge for the title. Arsenal have been there a couple of times in the last few seasons and haven’t gone through with it. It’s so competitive this year, especially when you consider Tottenham’s form. It’s so early in the season and we do get carried away with that so let’s just see how things develop but I think if Arsenal don’t finish in the top four Wenger will be very disappointed.
FFC: Do you think a top four finish would be enough to convince players like van Persie and Walcott to sign new contracts?
NW: “Well I think it also depends on the transfer window in January and in the summer. I think that when you look at those players, particularly Robin van Persie with the way that he’s playing at the moment, they’ll want to see some more real quality players coming to the club. I can understand why he’s not signing at the moment. I think he will stay if Arsenal sign the right type of players and sees the right kind of development at the club. He’s worked under Arsene Wenger for so long and they really respect one another.”
FFC: Finally, which one of Arsenal new signings have you been most impressed with so far?
NW: “I’d have to say Gervinho. He’s got loads of energy, terrific pace. Over the last couple of weeks people have said that his finishing hasn’t been great but the signs are there that he’s a creative player. I’m not sure that he’s going to get 15 or 20 goals in a season but he could quite easily get 10 or so and he’ll get plenty of assists. I think he’s started his career well at Arsenal.”
Winterburn, who made 440 appearances for the Gunners, won three league titles, two FA Cups, the League Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup whilst at Arsenal. Nigel was talking to Football Fan Cast at a match between an England legends team and Ivory FC – a conference side under the management of Terry Venables and Ray Wilkins. Although starting brightly and controlling the game early on the England team eventually went down 2-1 to the younger, fitter and better organised Ivory FC.
Nigel Winterburn was speaking at NIVEA FOR MEN’s ‘The Great Football Experiment’ match between Ivory FC and a England legends XI.