Plus: How far current Arsenal side can go, and Jack Grealish praise
Friday 24 April 2020 07:56, UK
Paul Merson believes Manchester United will only get better once football returns, helped by the outstanding Bruno Fernandes.
Speaking on The Football Show, Merson assessed how far the current Arsenal team can go, and three players he's most excited about watching when football returns.
I think they'll be better, no doubt about that.
What they have to be is consistent. Against the bigger boys, teams that come and have a go, they're a better team, playing counter-attacking football, but you have to mix it up.
When you become a better football team, teams kick off and put 11 players behind the ball and do that counter-attack to you.
What you need is players like Bruno Fernandes who can get on the ball and find a pass. When you have 60, 70 per cent of the ball, you need players who will put the ball through the eye of a needle.
Man City have been successful because they have players like David Silva, Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne.
Will Juan Mata play more? I don't know. But he needs to play in certain games where players will put 11 behind the ball.
What I like about him is that whenever he gets the ball, first he looks forward. He always wants to look for that forward pass.
I always look at players, especially when they're going to a massive club like Man Utd, and how they lift the club.
You have to be a special player to go to a club with international footballers and lift other players along the way. I think that has happened.
When you get players on the same wavelength, it's a different situation.
When you're playing in front of 70,000 people, people have to remember that when you have a couple of bad passes, the name of the game is to keep on wanting the ball to make those passes.
A lot of players hide, and sometimes don't even realise it. With him, he doesn't, he keeps getting it and giving it to people. They're not 60 yard passes, he just gets it through the lines.
I think he's been outstanding, and I've loved watching him.
Will Arsenal be challenging for titles soon? Even if Pep Guardiola was in charge, no. Not at the moment.
Arsene Wenger used to say it all the time: it's all about the players. And for Arsenal at the moment, it's not a good enough team, not a good enough squad.
I like Mikel Arteta, I really do, and I think he'll do better than the last manager Unai Emery, but at the same time, to challenge for the title I think they are a million miles off.
They can't defend, and if you can't defend, you can't challenge for titles.
Is there room for much optimism? I'm going to say no, to be honest. I don't know any team that has won anything when they can't defend. If you can't defend, you're not going to win anything! It's simple.
You can't keep scoring three goals every game to nick a point or to only just win a game, so until he tightens that up, they are going to be a million miles off.
This is going to be a slow, slow journey back for Arsenal.
There are three players I'm massively excited about watching again when football gets under way. One of them is Bruno Fernandes, of course, who I've already talked about.
Then there's Kevin De Bruyne - not really off the charts as a surprise selection - but this lad is special. My game used to be about seeing a pass, I was quite intelligent on a football pitch, not brave tackling wise, but brave in trying to put the ball through. Even I watch De Bruyne and I can't see what he's doing.
Sometimes he puts balls through and I think: How did he actually see that? He's phenomenal.
And then there's Jack Grealish. He's the best three or four-yard passer I've seen in the game for a long, long time. People will say: 'Three or four-yard passes? So?' but you watch the game and see how many people roll a three-yard pass back to the left back and he has to take a touch to get it under control. Or if someone goes on the overlap and the pass goes out of touch.
His passing is always pitch-perfect. He's a special player, very comfortable on the ball and very gifted.
I personally think he'd be a massive asset for any club in the Premier League.