Exclusive with Lauren: Van Nistelrooy brawl at Old Trafford ‘was an explosion of emotion’, Trent Alexander-Arnold is the best right-back in the world, Key difference between Wenger and Arteta
- The Old Trafford battle against Man United and Ruud van Nistelrooy was ‘an explosion of emotion’
- Bust-ups with Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry helped us all achieve our goals
- Arsene Wenger never lost his temper at Arsenal – but Mikel Arteta has Basque blood
- Trent Alexander-Arnold is the best right-back in the world right now
- I was so fit because I boxed during every pre-season at Arsenal – but I hid it from the club
The Old Trafford battle against Man United and Ruud van Nistelrooy was ‘an explosion of emotion’
L: “We were the best teams in England, we wanted to be the best forever and that happened because we had so many games against each other.
“It was an explosion of a lot of emotion and a lot of pressure. These things happen and there was that same intensity every time we played against each other.
“This is both natural and normal! It’s all part of football; passion, quality, love. In that Arsenal side, we played for pride more than anything else. But it was also because we loved and cared for each other. When you have that, a strong bond and strong spirit amongst the players, the performance levels can only increase.”
Bust-ups with Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry helped us all achieve our goals
L: “I don’t know if it was necessary or not, I only know things like that happen up and down the country in every team!
“It’s not a problem, or an issue, but when you have competitive players in the squad, things like that happen.
“The most important thing is that it drives you. It’s not necessary, but it can drive you to achieve your goals.”
Arsene Wenger never lost his temper at Arsenal – but Mikel Arteta has Basque blood
L: “I have never seen him lose his temper! I’ve grown up and spent all of my life in Spain, specifically in the south.
“People from the south are very different from people in the north; they have a very different mentality, they are extremely excitable!
“It’s the same passion as in the south, but they have a very strict mentality. Overall, he is a top manager.
“The way he alternates between different tactics and different structures is incredible. He can play a 4-3-3, which can morph into a 4-2-3-1, then into a 4-1-4-1 is the sign of a top manager.”
Trent Alexander-Arnold is the best right-back in the world right now
L: “There are so many good right backs out there. I really like Reece James at Chelsea and Dani Carvajal of Real Madrid especially.
“England are lucky to have a few really good right-backs at the moment as well. You have Kyle Walker at Man City, Kieran Trippier is very good as well. Especially the way he overlaps without the ball, he’s very comfortable with the ball, he’s good on set-pieces and scored some great free-kicks.
“But for me, it’s Trent Alexander-Arnold. He provides a lot tactically for Liverpool and is crucial to the way they want to bring the ball out from the back.
“Normally, Jordan Henderson is the one who would drop into the right-back position to collect the ball. It would be Alexander-Arnold who stayed wide and would stretch the team. As well as providing all of the crosses, he can also come inside and dominate in the middle of the park with incisive passes to create an extra man in the middle.
“Technically he is superb, he can score goals and people may well criticise his defending. You can’t be perfect at everything though! In my opinion, he is the best right-back in the world and the one I would want in my team.”
Cristiano Ronaldo was my hardest opponent – but Lionel Messi is better
L: “In my opinion, I would stick with Lionel Messi because he gives you more as a player. But Cristiano’s mental strength is what has made him into the player he is now, it is what has allowed him to be so successful. But for me, I would choose Messi.”
Thierry Henry was better than Samuel Eto’o – he is Arsenal’s greatest player ever
L: “I always choose Thierry Henry, even though I played with some great players like Kanu, Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp, Marc Vivien Foe.
“He had similar mental strength to Samuel Eto’o, but I’d always pick Thierry Henry because he wanted to win everything – that was just his mentality – he wanted to be the best in every single game.
“Even in training, small-sided drills, he wanted to be number one. This was the reason he became Arsenal’s top goalscorer.
“He was committed, ambitious and we sometimes couldn’t even handle him in training! As well as the technical quality and the speed, he just had the mentality to be the best. For me, he is the greatest player in Arsenal’s history and also their top scorer.”
I was so fit because I boxed during every pre-season at Arsenal – but I hid it from the club
L: “I still like to train with childhood friends over in Spain, I’ve moved into kickboxing over the last seven or so years and away from just simply boxing. I started boxing 23 years ago, but I could never say I did it when I was a professional at Arsenal because it’s sort of like skiing and a bit taboo.
“But every summer, I used to come back to Spain with my childhood friends and we would spar in their boxing gym. I did it because it kept my fitness levels so high, the training sessions and the intensity were so demanding.
“I returned to Arsenal so fit because it was so demanding and so tough. Mentally, I switched during tough games because I knew I had put myself through the hard work.”
We will have to wait to see if this team is better than the Invincibles
L: “Since 2005, Arsenal have always had good squads. I remember the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta – these players were all in really good teams. We came very close to winning the Champions League in 2006, but we didn’t perform well and lost to Barcelona.
“We will have to wait until the end of the season to see where this team ranks, but they absolutely need to win the Premier League before they can be considered the best team since 2004.
“I’m never a huge fan of comparing different generations, I believe it is a sign of weakness. This team and this current generation have been performing very well since the start of the season.”
The team needs to manage the pressure to win the Premier League
L: “I always believe in positive thinking and I think this team has been absolutely brilliant since the beginning of the season.
“I was very concerned about this team and how they would cope mentally. When you get to this stage of the season, this period brings pressure and anxiety. If this team is capable of managing that pressure and that anxiety, I think that they have a great chance of winning the league.
“They have proved that in the last couple of games – especially against Bournemouth. To bounce back from two goals down when you’re at the top and under pressure is not easy to do.
“This team has shown maturity and how to control the emotional parts of the game, that was what was brilliant in the Bournemouth game.”