Exclusive Interview: Philippe Auclair Talks Arsenal (Part 1)
Gooner Talk have managed to carry out an exclusive interview featuring one of France’s most passionate and talented football journalists – Philippe Auclair.
In his homecountry, Auclair is renowned for his work in the music industry where his name – Louis Philippe – was associated with the short-lived, but very influential ‘él record label’; since this label’s demise (1989), he has grown into one of the ‘elder statesmen’ of indiepop.
Philippe – who is a hardcore Gooner himself – works for RMCinfo, arguably the biggest radio station in France. He’s also a regular contributor to FranceFootball where he posts a daily blog on all things footy, definitely one to read.
Our British readers may be more familiar with Auclair’s work on Setanta Sports News as their French football analyst, as well as popular radio stations TalkSPORT radio & BBC Scotland.
Part 1 of the interview includes:
- Philippe’s opinions on the latest young crop of Arsenal talent coming up through the ranks.
- His views on why Michel Platini made a ‘personal attack’ against Gunners boss Arsene Wenger via the French media.
- What Philippe thinks about the squad in terms of experience and quality of football.
- Arsenal’s chances of winning silverware this season and if so, what trophy are we most likely to claim.
And much, much more!
Hi Philippe, thanks for agreeing to take part in the interview, we’re delighted that you have taken your time out to share your opinions on the biggest footballing side in the world.
When did you start supporting Arsenal and what was it that immediately drew you to the club? Also, do you attend any matches and what do you make of the atmosphere at the Emirates Stadium?
I was a left-footed no.6 with good legs, good lungs, good vision and absolutely no skill on the ball. Naturally, I was drawn to players who could do what I couldn’t (a rather large number, it must be said); but the one I loved the most was ‘Chippy’. That famous goal against Spurs still is one of my all-time favourites, as it encapsulated everything that was great about Liam Brady. He had fight in his soul, read the game beautifully, and could produce moments of absolute magic like this shot. Then I moved to London in 1987, and fell in love with Highbury. I miss the old place a great deal.
To me, Highbury was (is) English football. A grand stadium locked in a working-class neighbourhood, but seemingly in his rightful place. What’s more, Arsenal is the London club, and I’m a Londoner. I’ve got a soft spot for QPR and Fulham, because they ‘feel’ right: they are emanations of their area. But Arsenal is an emanation of London as a whole. Look at the crowd we’ve got. Irish, West Indian, Jewish, French, Indian, Pakistani, ‘English’ – that’s London. I’m very proud of my city, and very proud of the club that represents it with class, dignity and elegance.
To come back to your question, I’ve attended all but a dozen of home games for over a decade, and been at nearly every London derby during the same period. The atmosphere? That’s a strange one. It can be absolutely wonderful (Man U at home last season was something else –Carling Cup games are always fantastic), but I still can’t comprehend how and why people should leave the ground as early as they do. Arsenal fans are the worst for that, and I find it incomprehensible: we’ve got the best public transport service of any club in the country!
Sections of Gunners’ fans have questioned skipper William Gallas’ defensive performances the previous season and slated him the for some less than impressive displays of leadership. What is your opinion on Gallas’ defensive attributes and leadership skills?
I can’t say too much about that, as the fan’s opinion shouldn’t obscure the journalist’s analysis. I’ll just say that Gallas is a very fine defender who is never better than when he has a true ‘boss’ by his side. Like John Terry, whatever you may think of him. William’s forte is not organising a defensive line. But no-one should doubt his commitment. If anything, the guy’s too committed at times.
Francis Coquelin and Gilles Sunu are just two of many young Bleu’s that have been ‘poached’ by Arsene Wenger’s after raiding clubs in the smaller divisions of France. Are there any hard feelings towards Wenger from the French sides for “stealing” their star youngsters?
There used to be, particularly after the recruitment of Anelka and Aliadiere; but the level of criticism has dropped a lot since then. People are aware of what Wenger has done for Henry, Petit, Vieira, Pires, Sagna, Clichy (and on, and on), and how much it has benefited the national team. What’s more, Arsenal has behaved impeccably with the feeder clubs, paying them substantial amounts of money when they were under no obligation to do so. Funnily enough, I’ve just finished a big dossier on the question for France-Football magazine, and the feedback we got from these clubs was overwhelmingly positive.
Staying on the topic of Monsieur Wenger, could you see Le Boss ever being a likely canditate to take over the French national team after his contract with Arsenal runs out in 2011?
Pigs will be landing at Heathrow, and Spurs will win the League. Arsene wants to be involved in the day-to-day running of a team. He might go back to coaching young players. My own feeling is that he’ll have to be kicked out of the Arsenal beforehand.
How do your fellow countrymen see Arsenal? Are they generally proud of the club and its strong french connections, both player and administrative-wise? or the complete opposite, standing against the policies put in place at Ashburton Grove?
Arsenal is often described as ‘Ligue 1’s 21st club’. The club has a hugesupport in France (for fairly obvious reasons). Earlier this year, when France-Football commissioned a poll to find out which foreign team French
football fans liked the best, Arsenal came a close second behind Real Madrid, a long way ahead of any other English club. Wenger’s prudent policy is also widely considered a model of sound management, especially in the current economic climate, whatever Platini may say. 3 out of 4 L’Equipe readers came out in favour of Wenger in the ridiculous spat that was initiated by the UEFA chairman. Need I say more?
Part two of the interview will include Philippe’s views on the latest crop of young talent as well as his views on Michel Platini’s comments towards Arsene Wenger!
Many thanks to Philippe for agreeing to take part in this interview. We remind all visitors of Gooner Talk that you can listen to Messrs Auclair on RMCinfo of 21(GMT) until midnight. You can also read his remarkable articles on FranceFootball dealing with the Premier League and English football in general. Part 2 of the interview will appear on the blog Sunday afternoon!