Julio Baptista Exclusive

Julio Baptista Exclusive


What formation should Arsenal play to get the best from Rice and Havertz? 

I like 4-3-3 a lot for Arsenal with Rice and Havertz, but maybe it depends on the game and sometimes you may need to be stronger in midfield with a 4-2-3-1. However it depends, for instance if you have good defenders, you can maybe play three centre-backs in a 3-4-3, which I also like a lot. 

But what I saw Mikel Arteta using most last season was a 4-3-3, which I think works well and it is the one I use now as a coach. 

Is Rice, Odegaard and Havertz the natural midfield line-up in a 4-3-3?

You need to find something for the new players Rice and Havertz. When you create a formation, the players need to be told exactly what they’re doing. You need to base your formation around the quality of your players. What is the best for the team? It depends on the quality of players you have. Sometimes for a 4-3-3 and sometimes you have players for a 4-2-2-2. 

With Rice and Havertz, can Arsenal go one step further and win the title?

I think with Rice and Havertz, Arsenal can go one step further and win the title. I think the team was only missing small parts last season. When you’re in first position for so long but lose in the final games, you’re missing a certain something. They failed where you can’t fail. 

English football is so competitive, you have more than seven teams who could win the league. 

Do you think Arsenal will do it, or are Manchester City too strong?

I think Arsenal are so close to winning the league. People enjoy what they did because it’s not easy to challenge Manchester City with young players and a young coach. It takes time to introduce something big like that, but if they continue as they are, they are one of the teams who can win it. Times have changed for Arsenal. 

Reports have linked Harry Maguire with a move to Chelsea. Given Arsenal suffered when William Saliba was injured, should they make a move for Maguire?

Arsenal bidding for Harry Maguire depends. Arsenal play high, so I think that the centre-backs need to be tall, but also very quick, because they play high, and when you are that high you need to be fast to recover when the ball goes over the top and teams are running in-behind you. 

He’s an incredible player but I don’t think he has the pace Arsenal need. 

Does Magurie make sense for Chelsea or is Thiago Silva still a better option at the age of 38?

Sometimes in football people create rules when it comes to players’ ages, which is wrong because sometimes a player can be in their late 30s and still give you what you need. 

Thiago Silva will not be 25 again but he gives you experience. You need the balance in the team to have this kind of player. Sometimes coaches and the press create rules for players. It always depends and Silva is incredible, I think he can continue although I would be surprised if he can do many more than one or two years. 

You spoke of Neymar being a good fit for Arsenal. Do you think the Premier League would be too physical for him, or is that an unfair analysis?

I think it is unfair to say the Premier League would be too physical for Neymar. French football is very physical and he’s made some incredible appearances there. For Neymar, Arsenal would be an incredible move because he needs a change in his life. 

He’s given his all for PSG but maybe they don’t give him what he needs. He needs something different. Players need to be happy. I haven’t spoken to him in a long time but a move would be the best thing for his career. 

Would you start Neymar over Gabriel Martinelli right now?

Gabriel Martinelli is an incredible player and he had an amazing season, but I think Neymar could play with him. 

When you have good players, you try to find the space in the team for all of them, but for sure Neymar is the kind of player you need to work around. You can put Neymar on the left-wing, in the middle or behind the striker. He can play in any position across the front-three, so can Martinelli. 

When people ask about fitting in players like Neymar, for me it’s rubbish. It depends on the players you have and the instructions you give them, he needs to know what they’re doing. 

Lucas Paqueta finished the season in fine form. Would he be good enough for Arsenal or Real Madrid?

I think Lucas Paqueta is good enough for Arsenal or Real Madrid, but I don’t know if he is what Arsenal need. He’s an incredible player though. He needs more time in the English league to confirm if he’s going to continue at that level. 

Harry Kane is being linked with Bayern Munich. Should he go there, or run his contract down and hold out for Real Madrid or Manchester United?

When a player has a contract like Kane does at Tottenham, the image in your head is a little different. But maybe he does need the move. He created so much at Tottenham, he’s like Francesco Totti at Roma or Thierry Henry at Arsenal, players who enjoyed so many years at their club, they create a personality and an image.  

But maybe he needs the move, he’s an incredible player and if he goes to Bayern or Real Madrid he will be a big success there. 

Real Madrid already have Vinicius Jnr, so is Kane a better fit for them than Kylian Mbappe?

Real Madrid are trying to create a new team for the next generation over 10 years. If you see who they have signed, they’re in their early 20s and I believe Florentino Perez is creating a new team for the next decade. 

If this is the way, then the real piece he needs is not Kane, but Erling Haaland because he’s young. I know Kane is incredible but I believe Haaland is who they really want, if you look at how they are trying to build this team. 

Fabinho is reportedly on the verge of joining the Saudi Pro League. Given he’s only 29, is that the right move for him?

I question if the Saudi Pro League is the right move for Fabinho. It’s a tough decision because you never know your best moment to leave. The salary is amazing, but the player has to balance that with what he wants. Does he want money or continue to strive for more in his career? 

I always preferred to strive for more in my career. I received offers from Qatar, but I never considered it because I believe people won’t recognise the incredible career you have had.  

They have time to go in three years, Fabinho will only be 32, this is a good age, but now? He plays for Liverpool and he’s an incredible player so I don’t think this is the right moment for him to move to the Saudi Pro League. 

Brazilian star Oscar moved to China from Chelsea when he was young. Was that the wrong move?

I believe Oscar moved from Chelsea to China when he was too young. When you are creating your career, you have to think carefully about the right move. Maybe you won't receive as much money, but you are building your career. You need incredible focus and your team needs to be fighting for the top honors. 

But in the end, sometimes this doesn’t happen and players get tempted by the money. It will help your family for sure, but at what cost to your career?

I think Oscar was too young to move to China and it wasn’t the best move for his career. 

Chelsea have just signed 18-year-old Angelo Gabriel. What can you tell us about him?

Angelo Gabriel is an incredible player, for someone so young. He has a great left foot, but he can play across the front-three and also behind the 9. He’s a strong runner, he has incredible skills, especially dribbling, and I think it will work well at Chelsea because he’s so talented. 

When players move from Brazil to Europe, they need time to complete their game but he’s an incredible talent. 

Arsenal have been linked with another Brazilian youngster, Bitello. Would he be a good fit for the Gunners?

Bitello is a little different to Gabriel, but I think he’s someone who plays more in the space between midfield and attack. He’s very quick, can play on the left, right or middle. I think Arsenal would be a great move for him. 

Can Carlo Ancelotti win Brazil their first World Cup in 26 years?

Carlo Ancelotti is the best coach in the world. I think he has the ingredients to help Brazil win the World Cup but it depends on the situation at the time, the players he’ll have, but he’s an incredible coach. 

Maybe he is the solution for Brazil. 

You played with Ronaldo, Beckham, Zidane - who was the best you played with?

I played with amazing players, but the one who showed me the most in games and training was Zinedine Zidane, he was incredible. 

The speed of his thinking, finding solutions during games was incredible. 

Toughest opponent?

My toughest opponent was John Terry, he was really tough. Rio Ferdinand was difficult too, they were both incredible players. 

Terry was so strong, he was aggressive and always attacked the ball. He was smart too, and he could play. 

You mentioned Neymar being a good fit for Arsenal. Is there anyone else you would like to see at the Gunners?

Arsenal have an incredible team but I don’t think they need more, although maybe they need different characteristics in there. Someone who can offer something different in defence to Gabriel when Saliba is injured. 

Messi or Ronaldo. Where do you lie in the debate?

If you had Messi without Ronaldo or Ronaldo without Messi, you would be missing something. I think it’s been an amazing era, they are both better because of each other. The competition between both has made both of them want more. 

This creates this incredible rivalry. I like both and it depends what you need in your team. 

Arsene Wenger was often criticised for his teams not being physical enough. Was that fair?

I don’t think it was fair when people said Wenger’s Arsenal teams were not physical enough. Football is not just about power, we had incredible players but we had strong players too, me, Henry, Emmanuel Adebayor, Emmanuel Eboue. 

The most important thing in football is not power but the speed you think, your solutions to things that happen in the game. I’m a coach now and it’s the best thing a player can do. 

You need to create a mentality for players to come up with the best solutions, it’s not about the power. When you have intelligent players, that’s the best thing. 

You played with Thomas Gravesen. What was he like in the dressing room?

Thomas Gravesen was an amazing guy when I was at Real Madrid. He was a different person, but a very good person.  

How did you find David Beckham?

Wow, David Beckham was top-level, as a person and a footballer. He did the simple things so well. I’ve played with the best in the world and I tell my players now, the bigger the player, the more simple they are. 

The simplicity he had was amazing, he’d always stop to do photos, he was very humble and gentle. He was incredible. 

Your ex-teammate, Wesley Sneijder, said he could have reached Messi and Ronaldo’s level if he’d applied himself more. What did you think of those clients?

All players believe they can do more because you compare yourself to other players. We all think if we had done this or that, we could have ended up at this level. I think he had an amazing career, he won the Champions League and Serie A, he was important to Jose Mourinho but maybe he felt he was missing something. 

But he had an amazing career. 

What was it like playing with Antonio Cassano at Real Madrid?

Antonio Cassano was a player who perhaps didn’t look after himself in the way he should have. In Madrid, he didn’t quite take care of his conditioning and the food he was eating. In Madrid, he didn’t care about those things. It’s different now, players now are in incredible condition and have professionals to help them stay in peak condition. 

They have amazing information now and we didn’t have that back then. 

Cassano was a very funny guy, an incredible talent. He couldn’t quite express himself in Madrid. He liked to party! 

Do you think Ronaldo, R9, was unfairly criticised for his conditioning?

Ronaldo was one of the best players in the world. He suffered a lot with injuries. But with special players, you have to know what they can’t give to you too. I need you to run behind the centre-backs, I need this or that. He might not be able to provide that. 

But these players are different. Players like Ronaldo, Henry, Roberto Carlos, they have something different. 

You need to recognise this. He’s on another level. 


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