I feared I would die in a drunken session with Ray Parlor when Arsenal won the double – now I support Mikel Arteta’s title chaser
GILLES GRIMANDI feared for his LIFE during a drinking session with Ray Parlor at Arsenal.
Former French ace Grimandi, 52, joined in the summer of 1997 when the infamous “Tuesday Club” still existed.
It was helmed by the likes of Parlor and skipper Tony Adams and Grimandi told SunSport: “I’ve only just started speaking English but I like good company so I wanted to go.
“I went one day and met a lot of good drinkers. After a while I said to Ray, ‘I have to go home or I’m going to die!’ Ray laughed.
“I was very surprised. Another day a French player was smoking and the English players were shocked.
“But the day before they were totally drunk and it wasn’t shocking. We had very different approaches to drinking and smoking.”
15 years later and for the first time in a long while, Arsenal are firmly at the top of the Premier League.
And high up in the French Alps, a former two-time Gunners Double winner is beginning to believe Mikel Arteta has what it takes to emulate the great Arsene Wenger.
Former French star Gilles Grimandi, 52, became something of a cult hero from north London from 1997 to 2002 – winning two Premier Leagues and two FA Cups.
In his first season in England, he was part of an incredible dressing room that closed a 12-point margin from February 1998 to guide Manchester United to the title.
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Twenty-five years later, Arteta’s men are the ones being chased, five points clear with a game in hand over Manchester City heading into the home stretch.
But speaking of his birthplace of Gap in south-eastern France – 750 meters above sea level – Grimandi sees the similarities between past and present.
Ex-midfielder Grimandi told SunSport: “To win the title is about confidence.
“You can play with the same players in another season and only finish in midfield.
“It is important that the coach convinces the players that they can do it. That is not easy.
“In that 1998 season we had problems. We were many points behind Manchester United.
“However, Arsene convinced us even then that we could come back. We didn’t believe it at first, but he always believed we could.
“Once it’s in your head, if you believe you’re strong enough and start getting results, you can win a title.
“Every time we went to a game, we were convinced that nothing could happen, that we were going to win.
“I wasn’t there for the Invincibles – but it felt the same way.
“Likewise, Mikel Arteta is convinced they can do it and I’m more confident now than ever.
“I am an optimist because I would like to see Arsenal win the title. But they now have the confidence to beat everyone.
“Even if they lose to Manchester City next week, in their heads they are convinced that it can be done. It wasn’t like that before.
“They haven’t made too many mistakes this season and I can’t see what will happen if they lose the title. They will and I really hope they do. They earn it.”
It has been almost four years since Grimandi was active in football.
His short tenure as Technical Director of Nice, working alongside old friend Patrick Vieira, ended in October 2019 after Sir Jim Ratcliffe bought the club with INEOS.
Before that, he was a scout for Arsenal for 13 years, where from 2006 he witnessed the club’s slow decline and the increasing difficulty of attracting players to transfer.
He recalled: “Scouting is about finding players, but also about missing them. For me it’s Kylian Mbappe. We just couldn’t convince him.
“In June 2013 his contract expired and we met him in February. If we could have persuaded him, he would have changed clubs – but then he chose Monaco.
“Arsenal didn’t always do their best so it was quite complicated. In the beginning it was easy, as soon as we spoke to a player he wanted to sign it.
“However, if you don’t get results, it’s difficult to get top players to help the team.
“That’s why it’s important to stay at the top for as long as possible. It’s so much easier.
“But people like Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah, whose development I’ve watched, prove that you should never forget the talent you have at your club, even in difficult times.”
By his own admission, Grimandi wasn’t “particularly talented,” arriving in July 1997 to a dressing room full of veteran stars and intimidating characters.
But it didn’t take long for the physicality and aggression of this squad to rub off on him.
In October 2000, Lazio’s Diego Simeone required six stitches after being hit by Grimandi in a Champions League clash.
The Frenchman was also sent off in September 1999 for blatantly elbowing Barcelona’s Pep Guardiola at the Camp Nou.
When reminded of these incidents, Grimandi stated: “If you’re not physical, you can’t win trophies. We knew that any opponent would have a hard time against us.
“Maybe we were missing some physical skills in some of the more mature players. But our character was exceptional with Vieira, Martin Keown, Tony Adams and Dennis Bergkamp.
“Thinking back over the five years, I now realize what it means to win trophies. But you also spend time with people you never forget.”
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/7334981/grimandi-ray-parlour-arsenal-double-arteta/ I feared I would die in a drunken session with Ray Parlor when Arsenal won the double – now I support Mikel Arteta’s title chaser