Everton travel to Arsenal on Sunday for their final game of the 2016/17 campaign. Ahead of the clash at the Emirates, we spoke to former Blues and Gunners striker Francis Jeffers.
The boyhood Evertonian – now the Club’s Academy striker coach – moved to north London from Goodison Park in 2001, and gives his thoughts on Arsene Wenger, Arsenal’s season, and the Toffees’ chances this weekend.
Do you still follow Arsenal’s results, and what’s struck you most about their season?
You always look out for your former clubs. I’ve seen the games that have been televised and I tend to watch every game that’s on TV - and Arsenal are on quite a bit.
I think it’s been a disappointing season for them and I don’t think the situation regarding the manager’s future helps the players. I just think maybe the uncertainty has not helped their cause for the Champions League spot.
Has it surprised you that they are outside the top four going into the last game of the season?
They’ve underperformed but when you look at it, there are a lot of strong teams in the Premier League. You look at the way Manchester City struggled at one point and everyone was expecting them to run away with the league.
There’s no given that you are going to finish in that top four, no matter how many good players that you have got.
Alexis Sanchez has been their star player. What element to his game catches your eye the most and how do you stop him?
His goals record is top drawer. He reminds me of Luis Suarez in how he creates and scores goals. What stands out is the way he puts himself about. I would say he works harder than most strikers in the Premier League. He’s a team player so if you have a striker that does all that and chips in with the goals, you are on to winner.
Do you back us to do well on Sunday?
Arsenal are still going for the Champions League and can catch Liverpool. It’s a massive game for them but there’s no pressure on us. The pressure on them will help us, for me.
It’s mad to say but some are of the opinion that if they fail to get in the Champions League, then Arsene Wenger will go. It’s sad to hear because he’s been an unbelievable manager. He’s a manager I played for and I wouldn’t have a bad word to say about him.
He never gave me that much football time but he did sign me. When I was there, the glory days he brought to the football club were second to none. I would like to see him stay on because I think he still has loads to offer but I’m not sure all the fans would want that.
I think we can use that to our advantage. I’m not sure it will be a full house - I saw the game the other day and I’m not sure the fans will turn out in their numbers. We can use all these negatives and turn them in our advantage.
Although you say Wenger didn’t necessarily play you that often, how did he help your game?
He’s a great man, a great fella and someone really nice to be around. He was really fair and I don’t hold any grudges against him. He was the man who signed me and I wasn’t good enough to get in the team - those are the facts.
He was a man of his beliefs and he never went away from them. Maybe that has cost him a little bit in recent years. He was all-out attack but he gave you a freedom to play football and never put any burdens on you, especially the attacking players.
He was top drawer but it was a successful time for Arsenal then. I was around Arsenal in the very good times. He’s a man I have loads of respect for.
The race for the Golden Boot…Harry Kane has gone above Romelu Lukaku by scoring four in midweek, meaning Rom has to score a few at the Emirates to get close.
You never know but Rom can score two against anyone. In terms of goals, Rom can score goals again the best of them and he will have to do that at the weekend to get back involved in the race for the Golden Boot.
It’s been said that since the Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Steve Bould days that Arsenal haven’t got that area right. They’ve always had a fine array of attacking players but not quite sorted out the defensive issues.
The three-at-the-back in recent weeks is not like Arsene. But when you come under pressure and are desperate for results, you always try to find a way to win games and they’ve found some form.
Rom can score two goals against any side - and I hope he can this weekend.
Rom has been right at the top for most of the season but watching Harry Kane the other night, you can’t take anything away from him. If he wins the Golden Boot he deserves it. You’ve got to remember he missed a few months of the season and it’s a serious achievement to miss that much of the season and still finish with the Golden Boot.
May the best man win but, of course, I’d love Rom to do it because he plays for our club.