Feature

Game of Two Halves

Game of 2 Halves - Alexis v Pires

Journalists Julien Laurens and Isaac Moore address either side of this month's debate: Robert Pires v Alexis. This article first featured in the October issue of Arsenal Magazine. 

 

 

Francis Coquelin adorns the October issue of the Arsenal Magazine

Francis Coquelin adorns the October issue of the Arsenal Magazine

 

 

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Robert Pires

Julien Laurens Freelance football journalist and a leading authority on French football

For me what Robert had on Alexis was the impact he always seemed to have on the biggest game of the season – the north London derby.

In fact, no Arsenal player has scored more goals against Tottenham than Robert. He never lost against them and netted eight times against Arsenal’s biggest rivals. When you have those kind of stats against your biggest rival, that makes you an icon at the club.

Alexis is still a long way behind in that regard because Robert was so important in those games. He always says when he saw an Arsenal fan in the street he had the feeling he would never lose against Spurs.

Hopefully Alexis will get to that point but Robert was the player that Spurs didn’t want to face, because he was so good against them every time.

Away from that, Robert was so consistent. Once he had adapted to the pace and the physicality of English football, he got the best out of himself. He always seemed to deliver a goal or an assist every week. It would be really rare not to see him at the top of his game.

01:42

The best of Pires

I think that’s what made him such a great player for the whole time he was at the club. You knew with him that goals or assists would come, or he would make a difference on the pitch to help the team win. Of course he was an Invincible too and played a key role in that achievement.

I would love for Alexis to match that but he has a long way to go yet. Robert also showed a lot of mental strength to come back from his cruciate ligament injury. At the time, in 2002, he was the best player in the country and at Arsenal – there’s no doubt about that.

It was a big blow when he picked up that injury but he came back even stronger. He was just a joy to watch in his prime.

Robert had such a good relationship with Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy on that left-hand side. I don’t think there have been many better partnerships on the left flank in the Premier League or in Arsenal history. He was a fantastic player.

ALExis

Isaac MooreFootball journalist for Hayters 

I just love watching Alexis. There’s that element of the unknown whenever he gets the ball because you’re not sure what he’s going to do. He has it all – he can shoot, he can pass, he’s incredibly skilful and is one of those players who brings you out of your seat when he’s in possession.

The way he adapted to English football was so impressive too, especially considering he had played at the World Cup during that summer. While Arsenal do have a Spanish- speaking group of players, there aren’t many Chileans in the Premier League, yet he adjusted to Arsenal and London seamlessly.

When Robert Pires was at the club he had a lot of French players around him, which will have made it a lot easier for him to settle. And when you compare Alexis’ first season to Pires’, I think the Chilean was more convincing.

He made an immediate impact and scored vital goals from the start – just look at that crucial winner against Besiktas last August. Whenever Arsenal needed somebody to step up last season, Alexis would be the man.

01:45

The best of Alexis

He’s a showman and has scored a variety of stunning goals during his time in London – be it that free kick against Southampton, the volley against Manchester City or his excellent long- range strike in the FA Cup final.

Of course Pires scored lots of great goals for Arsenal too but he was playing in a team alongside the likes of Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Freddie Ljungberg. During last season, Alexis was so often Arsenal’s talisman, especially when Olivier Giroud was injured during the first few months of the campaign.

His energy, willingness to track back and all-round workrate is so refreshing to see. Alexis is one of Arsenal’s best players going forward but he has an impact defensively too, constantly tracking back and helping his full back.

He’s a real team player and at times last season you got the sense when watching Arsenal that his influence really drove the team forward.

Of course Pires was a brilliant player for Arsenal during one of the most successful eras in the club’s history, but if Alexis continues to play the way he did during his first season I’m confident he will write his name into Gunners folklore.

 

 

Alexis

Alexis

 

 

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