A host of former Arsenal players launched their upcoming match with Real Madrid Legends yesterday.
We popped along to the event and wangled a few minutes with some of those in attendance, including Robert *SwoonyMcSwoonface* Pires and Jeremie *I taught Hector Bellerin a Cockney accent* Aliadiere.
It was great fun. And the upcoming match on 8 September is for a cracking cause. You can read more about that at the bottom. For now though, here’s the transcript of our chat with Bobby and Jeremie.
A good day for France the other day…
Jeremie Aliadiere: A very good day.
Robert Pires: A very good day.
Did you guys have a chance to celebrate, were you with friends and family?
JA: To be honest no, my close family, they are all English so they couldn’t celebrate.
RP: I was in Paris yesterday, I was working for TV. It was amazing with the fans, especially the parade on the Champs Elysees. For the country, it was very good.
It nearly happened for England, but maybe next time…
RP: I hope for you.
JA: I’d have liked to have seen France and England in the final.
Looking ahead to the Legends game with Real Madrid, you both played in the last game [at the Santiago Bernabeu], it must have been an amazing experience to be back playing in front of so many people.
RP: It was a very good moment. We played against [Real] Madrid, they are one of the best clubs in the world. Of course, the most important thing is to raise money for the cause. Last time it was for the Madrid Foundation, next time [on 8 September] it’s for the Arsenal Foundation. The most important thing is to help the people.
JA: For sure, that’s what we’re here for. We’ve had our career. We’ve played all those big games. Now it’s about having fun, seeing each other and raising as much money as possible.
It did look like it got quite heated out there, Luis Boa Morte was particularly annoyed with the referee…
RP: He was very upset about the ref! But I like this attitude because we’re still professional. Yes, it’s a friendly game, it’s for the Foundation but when you’re on the field, you want to win. The next game is at the Emirates, hopefully a small revenge for the guys. We’re ready for the game.
You guys are obviously in pretty good shape, it’s not been long since you were at the highest level, do you prep for these games, do you put yourself through your paces in the gym?
JA: Me, no. I work every day pretty much, apart from weekends so I don’t do anything extra. I keep myself fit anyway. I train as much as I can train football-wise anyway. I’m always in the gym working, but nothing special.
During Arsene’s time, particularly in the first half of his tenure, much of pre-season was done in the Alps, in Austria. Now there’s a lot of travelling, do you think this type of preparation is as good…or just a part of the modern game?
RP: It’s the modern game. Football is a business. Arsenal is a big club and a big brand, if they have a possibility to go to America [they should take it]…I know next week, they go to Singapore for a small tournament with Atletico Madrid and Paris Saint Germain, it’s good for the business.
JA: To be honest, all the teams do it these days. It’s not like you’re the only team and then you can complain that the team travelled too much. All the teams go to America, Asia or Australia. It’s part of the modern game.
Does playing summer tournament football like the World Cup affect your preparations?
RP: The most important thing is that you’re ready in your mind, then the body…it can follow. The question is, are you ready? If you’re ready in your mind, you can play all the games, you can travel always. We are professionals. I like it when I played every three or four days.
You build a rhythm…
RP: Yeah, exactly. If you find the tempo or the rhthym, you can play every four days. Normally, you’re still young and you’re ready for this.
There’s been a lot of changes at Arsenal in the last few months, a new manager, some new signings. They are going through pre-season training and there’s been a lot of chat about the players being subjected t double sessions, as if this was unusual. Is it unusual? Or were you guys doing the same, we just didn’t hear about it?
RP: I think it’s normal.
JA: It’s definitely normal.
RP: It’s pre-season. You need to work hard, two sessions per day. I’ve met the new manager, he loves to work. When you’ve rested for a month you need direction, the body is very important. Double sessions are normal.
JA: They set you up for the season. You have a good preparation for six weeks, obviously it’s hard, but when you get to the season you feel prepared, you feel fresh. Everybody goes through that. It’s the ‘after holiday’ work.
RP: And they won the first game against Boreham Wood…
Oh yeah, it’s easy now. It’s coming home…
RP: Yes, exactly, it’s coming home!
When you look at the new players that have joined Arsenal this summer, is there anyone in particular that excites you?
RP: We signed four players, no?
Five, including Matteo Guendouzi.
RP: Ah, the French guy. You know him, no?
JA: Yeah, I know him. I played with him a couple of years ago [at Lorient]. He’s a very good talent, he’s very mature on the pitch. I think Arsenal will do him good in his attitude outside football. He’s not ready yet. But I’m sure that working with big players, in a big club will make him realise what professional football is!
RP: For me, the best signing is the manager, Unai Emery. You need to start a new page, a new era. I think all the fans are very excited to watch [the team], especially how they do in the Premier League. When you are a guy like Unai Emery, he won in Spain and France, I think he’s a good manager to follow Arsene Wenger.
As you’ve played with Guendouzi and you’ve experienced being a young player walking into a dressing room of international stars, what’s the one piece of advice you’d give him?
JA: Work hard! And listen! I’d just listen and keep looking at the guys. You learn a lot, not even by talking, but by the way they train, the way they do stuff. I feel these days that the new generation of young players, I’m not going to say they are arrogant, but they are more prepared in their mind, they have got a lot of confidence in themselves and that’s what you need.
Robert and Jeremie will be playing for the Arsenal Legends when they take on their Real Madrid counterparts at the Emirates on 8 September. The two sides met in the Santiago Bernabeu last month with the likes of Robert Pires, Sol Campbell, Ray Parlour, Anders Limpar, David Seaman stepping out for the Gunners and Raul, Figo, Clarence Seedorf weaving their magic for the Madrid’s Leyendas.
All proceeds from September’s match will help The Arsenal Foundation and Save The Children provide specially-devised coaching programmes to help build the physical and mental resilience of vulnerable children in the slum communities of Indonesia and Syrian refugee children in Jordan.
Tickets for the Legends showdown are still available and available from £20. It’s a great day out, particularly if you’re looking to introduce kids of your own to football. Book tickets here.