Nigel Winterburn on Arsenal, defence, transfer policy and more

Arsenal legend Nigel Winterburn talks exclusively to A Different League, giving his views on Arsene Wenger’s infamous miserly transfer policy, his brief stint as a coach at Blackburn and his view on the current Arsenal back four.

Would you ever consider going back into coaching like you did at Blackburn for a spell?
No I’m not really convinced at this moment in time, Blackburn was a difficult thing for me because I’m so passionate about defending, having been part of the Arsenal back four, and also individually the mental strength of each player for what it takes to become a top player and I just don’t think there was enough emphasis put on that at Blackburn. It was a bit of an eye opener for me and I’m not sure it’s something I want to go into at this moment in time.

Do you think Arsene Wenger’s reluctance to buy in the transfer market was a mistake?
It’s easy to sit on the outside and say we need another centre half, with Vermaelen and Squillaci out there was always a chance that Arsene would be looking to get somebody. If Vermaelen gets back quicker than expected, then if you go out and buy someone you’ve got five centre-halfs and someone isn’t going to be happy because they aren’t going to be playing much football at all.

If nobody gets injured then he’ll be justified in saying he doesn’t need another centre-half, but if somebody else gets injured with Vermalean still out, then they are going to say well you should have gone out and bought somebody.

How do you rate the current Arsenal defence to the one that you featured in with The Gunners?
Well I never make judgement against the defence that I played in or before that because this football team plays a completely different style of play compared to the way I played the game, particularly under George Graham. I think there is a huge responsibility placed on the two centre-halfs at Arsenal because of the way the team plays. I think there have been people making big judgement calls on people like Djourou, Squillaci, Koscielny very early on in their careers and I don’t think they have been given a chance to come and settle into the league. To be judged less than six months as a young player at a new club is unrealistic.

Arsenal always seem to be in a good position this time of the year then fade away, do you think Arsenal have what it takes to keep up a serious Premier League challenge?
Well they’re in the Carling Cup final which is one step ahead of where they have been for a long time! But it’s all about belief, I’ve always said that if they can that first trophy, the players will then want to win something else even more having known what it’s like to win a trophy. So the first trophy will be the hardest, and if they can get that in the Carling Cup, then they’ll get it off their back and hopefully go onto win more.

But there are other teams around now all capable of winning things, Tottenham are becoming more prominent as well as Manchester City with the huge amounts of money they are spending.

With Chelsea and Manchester City consistently spending big money, the introduction of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations may well see the big spenders exempt from the Champions League, which with the way Arsenal are run could well boost their European aspirations couldn’t it?
I haven’t taken too much notice to this ruling that is coming in at the moment because I’m not quite sure how it’s all going to work out. It is odd how the same day Chelsea announce a £70million loss, they spend £70million on two players, I’m not sure how that can be right? I’m not really sure how it’s all going to be enforced but I would like to see it up and running, and if it is enforced, clubs stick to it, and there are big sanctions for those who don’t, then Arsenal are going to be in a fantastic position for the way it’s run.

Winterburn was speaking at an event at the Emirates Stadium to publicise the Fred Perry Urban Cup, an initiative that has seen the 20 Premier League clubs link with regional table tennis community clubs to encourage and inspire youngsters to get involved in table tennis.

Fred Perry and the Premier League 4 Sport programme have teamed up to give 100,000 kids across the country the chance to play table tennis representing their football club.

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