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Ray Wilkins exclusive interview

Ray Wilkins speaks to Sportingbet exclusively about Chelsea, Manchester United, City going unbeaten the whole season, the managerial merry-go-round, retrospective bans for diving and much more.

On whether Conte is being unfair on Willian…

"I'm an enormous fan of Willian. He dragged that Chelsea team over the finish line a couple of seasons ago. He's a wonderful player. Against Qarabag he was absolutely outstanding. His goal was a fluke, no doubt about it, but he's got another point for the club. He should be playing more but it's a game of opinions, and the only one that matters is the manager.

"Pedro has been outstanding and Hazard you can't leave out, so he's going to struggle to get in the team. I think Chelsea should go 4-4-2 though. At Stamford Bridge, they should be more attacking and go for it, sling in all the attacking players and have a goal fest. Chelsea don't need to pack out the midfield with players, as they dominate possession most of the time at home anyway. They're playing reserved, just go for it. Italian coaches are much more cagey, looking at the tactical aspects, but sometime you just need to let players loose.

"Willian has to get over the fact he's not playing. As long as he performs when he gets on the pitch, he'll get more opportunities."

On Frank Lampard's comments that there's too much pressure on Morata and the need for another striker…

"I agree with Frank's comments. I think they need another striker of quality. Batshuayi is not my cup of tea. I'd have had Abraham or Solanke on the bench instead. I would put Hazard up alongside Morata and go for it. They would give teams absolute hell. If you release Hazard of all defensive duty, he will cause havoc in the opposition half."

On Hazard and if he's too reserved in his play at the moment…

"I think he's just trying to get the ball more. Naturally attacking players, when they aren't getting the ball, look to drop deeper to get it. You can't do anything about footballers wanting to drop back deeper to receive the ball. He needs to be on the ball more, he's electrifying and as soon as the ball touches his feet, the whole of Stamford Bridge comes alive.

"As long as Chelsea are competitive, I don't think Hazard will leave. He's in the best city in the world, in the best league in the world and with a club that is always looking to improve. Of course Real Madrid can attract any player, because of their history, but Chelsea is also a very attractive place to be and the club is always in the hunt for major trophies – so I don't see the urge for him to leave.

"If Chelsea don't make the Champions League, players like Hazard will disappear though."

On David Luiz going to Manchester United…

As far as I’m concerned, David Luiz can go to United tomorrow as a centre-half. If he goes as a holding midfielder, I wouldn’t let him leave. David Luiz, as a centre-half, does not fit the requirements of a top level football club – he makes far too many errors.

I don’t think Jose Mourinho will have David. He wants to keep clean sheets and beat opposition one or two nil and with Luiz, he will struggle to do that.

On Andreas Christensen and his performances for the club…

“I don’t know his character, but from what I’ve seen of him, he’s rock solid. He does not get ahead of the ball. David Luiz gets ahead of the ball when they play a three at the back. Christensen is a proper defender, he defends for his life. No nonsense with the ball, he gets it and gives it.

“I think his time in Germany with Monchengladbach has done him the world of good. I remember seeing him play for Chelsea against AFC Wimbledon and Akinfenwa gave him the worst time possible, he beat him up, but playing in Germany toughened him up. He’s an outstanding addition to the squad and I wouldn’t be surprised if Conte stuck with him for the rest of the season.”

On the January transfer window targets…

“When you’re Chelsea, or any top club for that matter, you’re always looking for Champions League calibre players, most of which are already playing for teams in the competition and therefore are registered and won’t be able to play in European competitions for you. You have to look at teams who have had the unfortunate situation of dropping out of Europe.

“It would have been lovely to see Bayern Munich knocked out and Robert Lewandowski come to Chelsea but that’s unlikely to happen. He’s a player I’d love to see come to Stamford Bridge.

“Unless they pull a gem out of the bag, it’s a difficult to window to play in.”

On Chelsea's title challenge…

"It's always a great result to take points off Liverpool at Anfield. A title challenge is difficult this season because City have beaten Chelsea comfortably already and unless some of the big six start taking points off City, which they haven't done yet, then I fear the title race could be over by Christmas and they're romping away with the title. The crucial games will be the two United games against City, with Spurs also having two bites at them, and then Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool also pulling points off them with one game remaining. That's the only way I can see City not winning the title. There is a long way to go though.

"When you play against City, you have to knock them over and take them out of their stride. For as wonderfully as City have played this season, they are getting their fair share of luck. Kompany should've gone for that challenge on Jamie Vardy, which could've changed that game and then they get away with one against Huddersfield as well. They are getting the rub of the green at the moment and who knows how long that will continue."

On Manchester City going unbeaten the whole season…

"They are a wonderfully gifted team but with the current game and how competitive the league is, it would be incredibly difficult in this climate. If they did so, it would be incredibly impressive. The Arsenal 'Invincibles' would beat them comfortably.

"It will be interesting when they go up against United, who are so physically strong and imposing that all it takes is a set piece to go against you and that run is gone. United have to utilise their size against City if they're to get all three points. At the moment, City are playing like Pep's Barcelona team in 2010-11."

On if it's upsetting seeing former Chelsea players like Salah, De Bruyne and Lukaku doing so well elsewhere…

"Not at all. Those players were in the lower echelons of the first team squad when they were at Stamford Bridge. The biggest credit to them is that they left, they worked hard and made Chelsea regret it. If you're not playing, leave and play somewhere else. Nathan Ake did the same and moved to Bournemouth – he's a wonderfully gifted player and playing regularly there has done him the world of good.

"I applaud them as it takes a kind of player to leave a comfortable wage and living at Chelsea in search of proving yourself."

On whether Jack Wilshere should leave Arsenal on this basis then…

"He has so much to offer Arsenal. I'm baffled by Arsene's comments that Jack should be in the England set up when he can't step up and put him in the first team for Arsenal. Jack has to leave for me. It's evident he's only playing a bit part, and he's too good for that. I get a little bit miffed by that, because if it doesn't change – he needs to leave."

On Mesut Ozil moving to Manchester United…

"I would have sold Ozil in the summer, the same with Sanchez – it's embarrassing. I find it quite sad that the club have allowed Wenger to take the stance of not selling them, potentially costing the club £120million in fees that they're now not getting.

"Mesut Ozil won't go to Old Trafford because he doesn't have the work ethic that Mourinho looks for in his players. I actually see Willian as being the likely player to head to Old Trafford. Jose is an enormous admirer of Willian and he would be a special signing for United, but I pray that Chelsea don't let him go."

"Ozil needs to go back to Germany, enjoy his football again and get around the pitch as he likes doing. In the Premier League, you're expected to work hard defensively for your team, and I don't think Mesut does that enough. Against Spurs, he was excellent in doing that, tracking Christian Eriksen, but he needs to do that every game, it can't be one game in 20."

On Paulo Dybala moving to Manchester United…

"If United sign him, good grief City will have to watch out. He's one of those skilful South American players that will light up the Premier League. If I was a head of scouting for a top six club, I would tell them to go to South America to scout small, skilful centre-forwards because these guys are becoming world class players – like Dybala. He's a magical footballer, works hard on and off the pitch and would be a credit to the Premier League.">

On Fellaini moving to PSG…

"I can't see that happening. Why would PSG need Marouane Fellaini? He's not a Manchester United player, so why would he think he has a chance at PSG. He's a good footballer, but United should be featuring excellent and world class players. He doesn't fit United's bill, so I'm not sure why he's potentially going to France."

On Romelu Lukaku and the lack of consistency at the moment…

His record recently is going against him, but the main problem for him is that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is coming back – which will add more pressure onto him. You can see he's snatching chances and rushing his play a bit. He's probably trying too hard knowing he's got a world class player ready and waiting on the bench to take his place. Zlatan is a monster. He's physically stronger and hungrier than when he went away. Lukaku needs to get that out of his head and then the goals will come back."

"Mourinho is the magician at keeping players pecker's up and managing superstars. He's quite right to back Romelu and give him the confidence he needs. One of Mourinho's greatest attributes is that he knows how to work his squad mentally and keep them all on the same page. The toughest challenge for such big club isn't necessarily the tactics, the style of football or such, it's managing the players, the superstars on excessive wages and he's a master at it. How he keeps Lukaku, Pogba, Zlatan and the rest on the same page and all fighting for him is beyond unbelievable."

On Anthony Martial's renaissance this season…

"He's a foreigner. I think he's finally adapted to the Premier League after a few seasons getting used to English football. I put Rashford and Martial together, and the one thing the latter has is the calmness to score. For Rashford, I think he lacks the calmness in front of goal and that's why I'm picking Martial over Rashford for United at the moment."

On Jesse Lingard…

"I think Jesse's role is coming off the bench, he's not starter quality. He's done very well as a homegrown player, but at best – he's a bit part player. The problem is that he's on a very handsome wage at United, which he won't get elsewhere, so in his situation why would he move. He needs first team football, but at the same time he's earning a lot of money at his home club. Theo Walcott at Arsenal is in a similar situation."

On Henrikh Mkhitaryan and why he's fallen out of favour…

"He looked really strong at the start of the season. We were seeing Borussia Dortmund Mkhitaryan at the start but it's all gone down the pan. The pressure at Old Trafford is to perform week in week out and unfortunately the lad couldn't do that. I believe Jose could sell Mkhitaryan in January to fund the transfer of another big name to United."

On if Manchester City are the best team in Europe…

"It's a tough call between them and PSG. The one thing going for PSG is that they've got a better front three, which is amongst the best, if not the best, in the world. Manchester City, considering the league they play in, come out on top, slightly, based on the competition they face week in week out."

On Oumar Niasse's ban for diving…

"The dive was appalling. I would've given him a red card immediately. I think the main thing about diving at the moment is the effect it will have on future players. You have to think those growing up worship these superstars and to see them fall over and simulate will only encourage young kids to do the same. It's not good for English football and it's not good for the Premier League in particular. You have to get rid of this situation.

"I don't understand why so many referees are giving so many fouls outside the box but the equivalent challenge inside the box is not given. That's completely wrong. It doesn't matter when the foul occurs, give the penalty if you'd give a foul outside the box. I'd like to know why this doesn't happen.

"Refs and linesmen have so much pressure nowadays and I understand how split decision it is, but a precedent should be set that if it's a foul outside the box, it should also be awarded the penalty if the same foul is made inside the box."

On David Moyes at West Ham and whether he can keep West Ham up…

"I think David will keep them up. When you're struggling mightily and working your backside off, you need a manager who has credentials to manage in the Premier League – to help get the club out of the situation they're in.

"The finger needs to be pointed at the players. There is only so much a manager can influence. It's up to the players to pull themselves out of this hole. Liven yourselves up and get some results and then the situation will look a lot better.

"He's on a six month job, he's fighting, the clubs fighting and they need to assess where they are by the New Year."

On Alan Pardew managing West Brom and whether it's the right move…

"Alan has enough players at the club to get them back up the table. West Brom are by no means a lost cause, they've got one of the best squads they've had in years, some really super players. It's time the talent started standing up and performing."

On the Christmas fixture congestion and whether it's a problem…

"It's been going on for years and it's utter rubbish. The Christmas period is the best time of the year for football. Everyone is so happy and it's lovely to support your club over Christmas. More football is always a good thing."

On the World Cup draw this week and who you'd like England to draw…

"I'd like us to have the hardest group possible. We do well against the bigger nations, but we always slip up against minnows we're expected to beat. I'd like us to get strong teams and then really go for them, rather than worry about losing against the teams we're expected to beat comfortably."

On who should be captain for next summer…

"Eric Dier. He's solid, plays at the heart of the team but he needs to be playing in the first 11. He's already shown he can handle the captaincy in the few games Gareth has given him the armband."

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