“If there was an option of going for Gareth Bale - who is available and can have an effect long-term – then Arsenal will pay the wages. That would put the cat among the pigeons. There are a few rumours and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was available and £86m would be a snip. Bale can do everything and is one of the best players I’ve ever seen. He’s also commercially good. If they can get him for £86m they can more than manage the £300,000 a week or whatever he’s on. That would be the player I’d target.”
"Arsene has loyalty to his players"
It would certainly go down as one of the most sensational transfers in British history but Bentley insists only a superstar will suffice considering the calibre of player he would be replacing. As for Sanchez, whose clear agitation to leave the Emirates has proven to be a major disruption for Arsenal in recent months, the 7-cap England international suggests the blame should be shared around.
“Arsene has loyalty to his players. He’s had that through the years. That ruthless nature of Mourinho or Conte would mean they wouldn’t have Sanchez in the team. He’d be training with the reserves. I’ve been in changing rooms and it can be poisonous and have a negative impact on the team. By just being there. Arsene Wenger is probably the best manager I’ve been with but he’s a football purist and sometimes personalities come into play and that has an effect on what happens on the pitch. Sometimes you just can’t have those people involved.”
“Maybe it’s the dressing room. Tony Adams, Ray Parlour and Martin Keown would have managed the dressing room. They wouldn’t have accepted this kind of behaviour. I don’t think that strength of character is there now.”
"Ozil? He’s a luxury player that operates in that lazy manner"
The talented Chilean is not the only player presently unsettled in North London of course. His fellow contract rebel Mesut Ozil is also eyeing up the exit door having failed to commit to a new deal. Despite the German schemer’s lofty reputation Bentley believes it would be no big loss.
“He’s a luxury player that operates in that lazy manner. When things are not going well and the team is under pressure that is exposed. At Real Madrid he had the perfect set-up because he didn’t have to do the yards. The mentality at that football club was designed for him not to have to do that. Whereas in England you have to grind it out and run a bit and it doesn’t suit him to be honest.”
If the 33 year old has concerns over Ozil’s ability to influence games on English soil there is no doubting his outright admiration for Alexandre Lacazette, the Gunners’ record summer purchase who has surprisingly spent more time on the Arsenal bench this term than out on the pitch making defenders’ lives a misery.
“Lacazette has come in and hit the ground running. He’s answered the questions and he’s a goal-scorer – he should be playing. I don’t know why he’s not to be honest. You purchase a player and you want him to get confident so it doesn’t make sense to unsettle a player who has just come into a football club. I’d be playing him every minute of every game and there is no better period for him to play because he can be seen as the saviour of Arsenal. It’s bizarre. Maybe he is testing him?”
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s 184th North London derby the former midfielder – who once scored a famous and stunning thirty yarder in this very fixture – still has a foot in each camp having played for both sides. Yet he has no hesitation in picking the favourite to emerge with all three points on Saturday afternoon.
“Tottenham have the upper hand at the minute on quality. They are probably the better team. They’ve beaten Real Madrid in recent weeks and the confidence is high within each individual player. They’re probably the favourites and they’ve earned their right to be favourites. Arsenal are in a stale period and are having problems with their players. Their top stars are unhappy. So Tottenham are probably the favourites and are expected to win.”
"I don’t think moving into this new stadium without Kane or Dele Alli makes sense"
Should they do so we can assume their outstanding duo of Harry Kane and Dele Alli will each play a significant role and by doing so add a further nought to their respective values. Does Bentley believe both players will still be in the capital next season even if Spurs once again fall short in their title aspirations?
“Daniel Levy makes the decisions, not the players, and with the manager, the training facilities, and the new stadium in place it is a great place to play your football. There will come a point but I don’t think next summer will be that point. From Spurs’ perspective I don’t think moving into this new stadium without Kane or Dele Alli makes sense”
What also makes little sense is the persistent claim that Spurs are a ‘one man team’, overly reliant on their prolific striker. Bentley however approaches this hoary old jibe from another angle altogether, insisting it isn’t even an insult at all.
“Barcelona is a Messi team and Real Madrid are a Ronaldo team. Your best players are the focal point of the team and you build your team around your best players. That’s just the way it is and it’s not an insult. Harry Kane has emerged as the driving point of that team. You accept that and you encourage it and I think Kane is the type of player to respond to that responsibility. He’s not going to shirk from it. As long as the other players accept that and Harry delivers then you’re fine. If he’s banging in goals then he’s earning you money.”
Furthermore if he’s banging in the goals then Tottenham will remain in contention for their first title for several generations. With Manchester City currently looking so dominant however would defeat for either team this Saturday mean they can kiss their championship hopes goodbye?
“To be honest I think each set of individuals should be concentrating on just winning the game because it’s so important for the fans. All my mates are Tottenham and Arsenal and they dine out on it for the rest of the year. It’s a brilliant game to be involved in.”
David Bentley’s quickfire questions
Score prediction for Arsenal v Spurs:
3-1 to Spurs
Who will win the Premier League?
Who will win the Premier League Golden Boot?
Who will win the Champions League?