Emmanuel Petit is backing Chelsea striker Radamel Falcao to rediscover his touch and prove his critics wrong this coming season – but he believes Arsenal should be the Premier League favourites...
Petit spent time with both London clubs during a glittering career that yielded World Cup and European championship success with France and a Premier League and FA Cup double with the Gunners in 1998.
He believes Arsenal and Chelsea are the teams to beat in the 2015-16 campaign, which begins on August 8. The two English giants will have an early chance for bragging rights when they meet in the Community Shield on Sunday.
Once one of the most feared goalscorers in the world game, Falcao’s colours have been lowered in recent times, starting when he suffered a serious knee injury in January 2014.
He ended a miserable one-season, four-goal stint at Manchester United and headed south to join Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea squad which will be chasing a second successive Premier League title. Petit is confident the 29-year-old Colombian (pictured above in his Atletico Madrid days) will ultimately have the last laugh.
“I’m expecting Falcao to get his revenge,” Petit said during a visit to Singapore on Friday. “Since he left Monaco, the last two seasons were very frustrating for him.
“You don’t just lose your football (talent) on the pitch like this. I think it will come back for him.”
While he believes Falcao will prove his worth once more, Petit has questioned whether Mourinho has the depth at his disposal to chase both Premier League and Champions League glory.
He has little doubt, however, about the impact Petr Cech will have at Emirates Stadium. He is so encouraged, Petit has joined a growing chorus of pundits who believe the Gunners can win this year’s EPL crown, which would be their first since 2004.
“After nine years, Arsenal have won the FA Cup twice in a row,” he said.
“I really believe that this year will be their season. I hope so because what (Arsenal manager) Arsene (Wenger) is doing for almost 20 years now is unbelievable.
“I know he was under so much pressure because he wasn’t winning trophies, but they had a new stadium they had to pay back and had to be very careful on the transfer market.
“Now they are back and the stadium is paid for and everything is good. They have money in the bank and they have a really competitive team.
“For Arsenal I think the best buy is the goalkeeper. They’ve been missing a really quality goalkeeper for years and I think that can make a big difference.”
Petit was speaking at the launch of Eleven Sports Network, a new pay-television sports package that will debut on Singtel on Sunday night with exclusive coverage of the Community Shield.
Compiling of three channels, it will also broadcast the English FA and League Cups, the Italian, Scottish and Brazilian leagues, plus Arsenal and Liverpool’s club channels.
It will also be launching in Malaysia, Belgium and Poland and Group Managing Director Danny Menken is confident they have enough content for the ambitious venture to succeed.
“We started just a few months ago and everyone thought we were completely crazy,” Menken said. “But we’re here and we’re very ambitious and we’ve done it and we’ll keep doing it for the long term.
“We see that the industry is changing. First of all there’s a big shift of course towards the internet, streaming and digital. This is very important for us and we believe that sport is always one of the main drivers of innovation.
“Most households have moved to digital and the operators in the past were always trying to move their customers from analogue to digital by having exclusive sports rights and exclusive channels.
“We’re also of course trying to get subscribers from other operators.”
Eleven Sports Network is also hopeful of securing a deal with Starhub in Singapore that would expand its reach further.
Petit won consecutive Community Shields with Arsenal in 1998 and 1999 and will form part of the coverage on Sunday night.
During Friday’s presentation, the 44-year-old was asked to reflect on an extraordinary period of his career that began with a French Ligue 1 title with Monaca in 1996-97 shortly before he joined Arsenal.
“I think that year (1998) was the greatest year of my life as a footballer,” he said. “I won the championship with Monaco a couple of months before that.
“Then with Arsenal we won the double and then three weeks later we won the World Cup with France. When I came back with Arsenal we won the Charity Shield. I couldn’t ask for more than that. It was a dream for me.”