Shaun Wright-Phillips Exclusive: Chelsea Will Pip City to the Title

author by Rob McLauchlan on 22/09/2021

Son of Legendary striker Ian Wright, Shaun Wright-Phillips enjoyed success at Chelsea, Manchester City and New York Red Bulls. Playing as a winger, he earned 36 England caps at international level and won the Premier League, FA Cup and Community shield at club level.

Speaking exclusively to BonusFinder UK, Shaun Wright-Phillips discussed his favourites for the EPL title, potential transfer market moves in January, rifts within the England camp and bantering his old man about Arsenal.

City scored six in Europe and then drew a blank against Southampton, in a long Premier League season will they rue not getting a proven No.9 like Kane?
It wasn't a great result for City, but it wasn't a bad one either since they still picked up a point, so it makes sure the teams above currently can't pull away easily. They will be upset with that result and I'm sure they will be trying to rectify it against Chelsea. As for the striker situation, I don't think they necessarily need to go out and buy someone, they just need that number 9 who knows the role. If there's someone who knows that position inside and out already at the club, then they will score a lot of goals because City always create a lot of chances.

Could Pep address that issue again in January, or will he wait until next summer for Kane or Haaland?
You never know with Pep and what he wants to do in terms of his transfer targets, but they do have a young lad doing really well at the club currently in Liam Delap. He's been impressive so far and you never know he could get his chance and do whatever he needs to do to stop City going out and buying a striker for big money.

Who is the best option for the striker role at the club currently?
I think right now they are fine playing Ferran Torres up there on his own because he makes those runs in behind and works tirelessly for the team. Even if he doesn't get the ball, he still tries to get into those positions when things aren't going right. From the attackers and wingers City have at the club currently, he will be the closest to a striker and we've seen that from his performances already this season.

With no striker signed at Man City, can you see McAtee and/or Delap getting a chance in the first team? Are they ready for the Premier League?
I really do think that they'll both get a chance to play, but you never know when that chance will come. I've seen quite a bit of McAtee, and he is a really good player but you know how it is at City, there's so much strength and depth at the club. They have to patient and wait their time, but hopefully they'll both have an opportunity to impress at some point.

How can City get the most out of Raheem Sterling this season?
It's a tough one because Jack Grealish has come in and done really well so far and on the other side Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus have had good starts to the season. We're used to seeing Sterling play off the left and he's been so used to playing every minute of every game he possibly can. I think him not playing as many games as he would like does lead to a loss of confidence. Once that confidence picks up again and he's back to normal he'll be straight back into the team because we know the quality Raheem Sterling has.

Why isn't it clicking for Sterling at the minute?
I think it's just a confidence problem within City, he's been used to playing week in week out even when you think he might get a rest. Raheem has been the one that will play the full 90 minutes out of everybody. There's so much competition for those wide areas at the minute and for whatever reason he's down the pecking order. It's a long season and there's a lot of games, so his time will come again, and he will produce for the team.

What have you made of the Barcelona-Sterling rumours? Given the cycle of the two teams would Sterling be taking a step down if he left in January?
I don't even think Barcelona would be able to afford him with their problems if I'm totally honest. That's why Barcelona have so many problems at the minute and why they can't keep hold of players or bring in those that they want. A few of the players have had to take wage deductions to bring in the new signings, so for me it's just a rumour. But with football these days, you never know.

Would City be wise to let Sterling leave?
Nowadays, if a club wants to keep a player or not, it's usually down to what the player wants to do. I don't personally think Sterling would want to go, but then again, I'm not a mind reader and I don't know what he's thinking. Barcelona have so much history and it's one of those that if there's any truth in the rumour then he might think about it.

What are your thoughts on Jack Grealish and how he's settled in so far?
I think he's settled in well, but we still haven't quite seen the Jack Grealish of Aston Villa last season. He was causing defenders problems every time he got the ball, but City play a completely different way which involves more passing and moving off the ball. For me, he's settled in really well though and I still think there's a lot more to see from him. I think for the price, people expect him to contribute with a goal or assist every game which isn't the case in football. I think he's handled the pressure of his price tag magnificently so far; he's gone in there and slotted in. He might not have produced what he has done in the past yet, but he's slotted into the team and he's playing well within the system. He's learning and adapting to the club very quickly.

What are your thoughts on Phil Foden's role in the next few seasons?
I think the little injury he had has been a setback to him, especially off the back of what he did last season. He would have started the season if he was fully fit, but now it's just about Phil getting back up to speed and showing what he can do. It looks like he will play off the right or across the centre at the minute because Jack Grealish seems like the first name on the team sheet on the left.

You played with John Terry; how does Ruben Dias compare with JT?
I think if Ruben Dias keeps performing the way he is then he can reach those heights. But he's a long way off from John Terry, he did that consistently across his career where he was the main man all the time. There are definitely similar attributes between the two, the leader mentality, the way they play on the ball and the fact the both of them are always on the end of a block of a cross or shot. From watching Dias play since he arrived, I can say he's heading in that direction, but he's still got some work to do to reach those levels.

What has he brought to that defence?
I think as a centre back you need to read the game well and do your job back there. But if you can communicate to the rest of the team whether that be the guys in front of you, your fullback or your centre back partner then it's massive trait to have. He see's things happen way before other defenders see them, so if you can control as much as you can it avoids situations of being isolated in defence. He's come in and assured that defence and given the team a platform to perform. City were dropping a lot of points before he arrived, and he's managed to turn those draws or defeats into wins. Sometimes when City don't quite create the chances or score the goals in games, you can rely on that defence to keep clean sheets and at least come away with something from the game, so there's positives in that.

There was some back and forth between Guardiola and the Manchester City supporters' group, what did you make of that situation?
I hadn't seen or heard too much about it until it was mentioned to me in a passing comment. For me, it's neither here nor there, I think he's just saying he wants to keep up the support and keep fighting together. That's all I get from that, so I can't really see too much in the whole situation.

Did supporters take it the wrong way?
There would be no reason for it to be negative towards the City fans from Pep because they've already been pointing in the same direction. Both have been singing each other's praises, so it's just one of those things taken out of context maybe and I don't really understand it if it is an issue.

Two of your former clubs do battle this weekend- do you see Chelsea and City as the title favourites at this early stage of the season?
It's a tough one to call, we know City will possess the ball and create chances, but it's whether they can score or not. At the minute, Chelsea don't have to play as well as Chelsea can to come away with wins. Look at the Aston Villa game, it wasn't a 3-0 game, but they scored their three chances. The Spurs game as well; in the first half Chelsea were being caused all sorts of problems before they stepped it up in the second half. Chelsea seem to be so resilient at the moment and it doesn't matter who's playing in what position, they're so unified as a team and it's scary to see for the rest of the Premier League.

If you had to pick one for the title, who would it be?
I have to be honest and right this second, I think Chelsea would pip City to the title. The fact that they don't have to play well and still come away with 3-0 wins is unbelievable and Tuchel has even said they haven't played well yet. He still wants more from his team and wants them to play his way still, but they're coming away with these wins still. If I could be a manager and say that every week, then I'd be over the moon.

How has Tuchel transformed this Chelsea team?
I think when Frank Lampard was in charge the attack looked really fluent, but they were conceding too many goals. Tuchel came in and assured that defence up, at first it looked like the defence and midfield were two separate teams. As soon as it started coming together, you can see it runs like a well-oiled machine. They might not always play attractive football, but they get results, and they don't mind not having the ball in spells because they can hit teams on the counter. They've got so many options within that squad and it's quite nice to see the quality on show every week.

Racism within football is still a massive issue – what do you make of the current protections afforded to players and the taking of the knee? Do you think they are adequate measures?
I still think more needs to be done to try and stamp it out of the game, but I still think everyone has come a long way in trying to get rid of this problem. I've always said that the scary part is the kids in the stadiums and people making them think that it's a good thing for them to be like that and behave in this way. It's definitely not ok and I think it comes down to pure ignorance and a lack of education. If we all stay unified and continue to move in the same direction, then at some point the tide will turn.

Ian Wright  and his son Shaun Wright-Phillips

Do you ever banter your dad off about Arsenal's current situation?
Which teams are you supporting when Man City and Chelsea play Arsenal? To be fair I don't say too much to him, especially over the past five or six years. But when Arsenal beat City in the FA Cup after Arteta had first joined they won 1-0 and defended for the whole game. Soon as the game ended, I had a text from my dad, and I was thinking I've been so good over the years and you've just hit me with that. It was nice to do the game a few weeks ago on the Premier League show and be able to console him while he was so angry and agitated at that result. I grew up following Arsenal because of my dad, it is quite sad to see what's happening there, but with football there's a lot of ups and downs. Hopefully Arsenal get it together eventually.

Do you think England will ever win anything under Southgate? Is the nature of the Premier League a blocker to team cohesion and exhaustion from fixture congestion?
I would honestly say Southgate would get England over the line in a tournament because he's done something no other England manager has done in my lifetime. He got us to a major final and it's huge, it's a massive achievement. Now the boys know they can get there, they'll be calmer and more relaxed, so they'll know how to play if they get to that situation again. I definitely believe Southgate and England can do it, I would back England all day long with the quality they now have. There's a lot of attacking flair backed up by the defence, so it's definitely a possibility they can do it.

Did you notice any rifts when you were in the England camp?
I didn't really pay too much attention to it to be honest, I was just happy to be there myself. I'm representing my country and I couldn't care less about little things going on around the hotel. I think the difference between then and now is it back then the players didn't come through the younger sides like they do now. A lot of us were just picked when we were doing really well whereas the Southgate era a lot have been to tournaments together in the younger teams. A lot of the players are friends and still play together, so they've all known each other for a lot longer. When I went to England squads for the first time, I hardly knew anyone, I only knew of them. So, you had to try and build those relationships whereas the England team now they already have those relationships whether that be through the younger teams or even on social media.

Can Callum Hudson-Odoi get back into the England set up and does he have a place in the Chelsea squad?
I think whether he decides to realise his full potential or stick to being a fringe player is totally down to him. If he wants to be in and out of team and play a role that he is doing now, then you stay at Chelsea. But, if you want to play regular football and show everyone why Bayern Munich were thinking about buying him, then he's going to have to walk away and prove to people how good he is.

You joined Chelsea in 2005 after Roman Abramovich's takeover. How good was it there playing with the likes of Robben, Terry, Makelele? Training must have been intense?
The tempo was completely different and there was a step up in quality as well. It only got worse when Essien joined because Mourinho was at the point where he was thinking about getting the players to train with shin pads on. There was so many tackles flying in, and training was really competitive, but to get the chance to play with players like that and win trophies with that team was a dream come true. It was something that was an amazing time, the fans were superb, Roman Abramovich was amazing and Mourinho, I thought he was a fantastic manager and a great man in general.

Any regrets of not winning a Champions League in that period?
I don't think there's any regrets, but we'll be disappointed that we didn't manage to. Every game and every session, that team gave 100% regardless of the result.

You worked under some fantastic managers, such as Jose Mourinho and Roberto Mancini. How did their styles compare and who did you prefer playing under?
If I'm totally honest I preferred playing under Mourinho between the two of them. When I was under Mancini, he wanted me to play his way and sometimes in football it doesn't work like that. If his way isn't working then there no scope to try something else, he wanted you to play his way regardless. I think it works with some people and he went on to do great things with City, I respect him as a manager and the career he's had, but it didn't work with me. Mourinho would give you instructions, but he wanted you to play in your own way and that's something that suited me a lot better.

Did it improve you as a player moving to Chelsea?
I think I was in a similar position to Jack Grealish when I joined Chelsea, every time Villa had the ball they would look for Jack and it was the same for me when I was first at City. Whenever we got the ball to break, they looked on my side, but when I went to Chelsea I had to learn that there's players there who can do exactly the same as me. It might be in a different way, but they would still cause problems so I couldn't expect the ball every single time. Every time I had the ball, I couldn't expect to beat a man and get a cross in or go on and score a goal. It taught me to be a more patient player and a different sort of player.

Who was your toughest full-back opponent?
I think it was definitely Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge, that's not just because they were great defenders either. They made me use a third lung which I didn't know I had, and I couldn't save any energy up against those guys. They would keep you up and down the pitch for the full game.

Is there anyone you'd struggle against right now?
The way I'm looking right now then it would be everybody. Even when I played against the best I wouldn't back down from the challenge, I just always knew it would be a tough game. They'd get the better of me and I'd get the better of them sometimes, but there was never anyone I was scared of coming up against. Anyone that had a bad game I would take advantage of I can say that. But if I have to pick one person playing now then I'd say Kyle Walker because he's very quick and very strong.

You've played in the MLS with NY Red bulls and Phoenix – how does the MLS compare to the Premier League/English football?
The travel was bonding time as players, we'd all have our Nintendo's and there would be 8 of us just playing Mario Kart from the time we left the training ground to the airport. We used to ask random people if we could swap seats just so the Bluetooth could reach each other. Some of the journeys were quite long and draining at times, but in terms of the games it was down to the thought process. In the Premier League you had to think quickly, and you'd already know where the ball is going whereas some of the players in the MLS didn't have that. The ball would come to them, and they'd decide what to do, but the chance may have been gone by then. The tactical side of things wasn't quite there either, so if you're comparing to the Premier League, then it's a long way off.

Will the MLS continue to improve?
I think it will take a long while to get the MLS to where they want it to be. What they're trying to do would work within England because kids don't miss crucial two years of training and education. In America, it would be just education and then training once or twice a week and it's not enough whilst you're learning your trade. The crossover between kids' football and men's football is a lot to take in and they expect kids to jump straight into it. Some people can do it, but the majority don't, and they end up retiring early because of it. I remember two lads being first and second draft picks and they had to retire because they weren't earning enough money to sustain it. They weren't playing enough, so they just went on to get normal day jobs, so there's a long way to go for the MLS.

Do you have ambitions to become a coach?
I don't know yet, I'm just enjoying my work doing punditry with the Premier League and enjoying my ambassador role with City. At the minute, I'm just enjoying being a fan, being able to watch the games with a few beers and studying the games when I do my punditry work. I'm enjoying my time away from football in that way at the minute.

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