Joleon Lescott exclusive interview

The ex-Wolves, Manchester City and Everton star discusses managers, priorities and more about his previous clubs.

Joleon Lescott | Sportingbet

MANCHESTER CITY

What do you think of Manchester City’s start to the season?

"Manchester City haven’t started the season off as well as last season, but you have to look at the injuries within the squad that have affected how many points Manchester City have been able to gain this season."

Should Manchester City fans be worried about how far they have fallen behind Liverpool?

"Manchester City fans should not be worried about the distance between themselves and Liverpool as they know that Manchester City have the capability to get up and go and win games. However, it’s Liverpool’s title to lose at this stage so if Manchester City end up on a winning streak and Liverpool falter, the table could look a lot different.

"Both teams have the potential to win the Premier League but as it stands, Liverpool have to be the more likely. They would have to lose several games for Manchester City to win the Premier League so City have to be ready should that happen."

Do you think Manchester City are still title contenders this season?

"Manchester City are still capable of winning the title. The squad are capable of going on a winning run of 15 or so games, but the deciding factor at the moment is Liverpool and whether they will drop any points. This makes it difficult for Guardiola and Manchester City as their season will be dependent on another team. However, Manchester City are more than capable of going ahead and winning the games needed so for now they are still in the race for the title."

Manchester City host Leicester this weekend, do you think Manchester City can get a result out of that game?

"Manchester City can get a result from this weekend’s game against Leicester, especially after last week’s results. Manchester City come in to the game on the back of two great League performances and this will give them even more confidence to take the points they need from Leicester.

"The Etihad is difficult to play at and although it will be a tough game, I’m confident City will get the points they need. It’s an important game for Manchester City, they need all the points they can get to close the gap between themselves and Liverpool."

Should Manchester City focus their efforts on the Champions League or the Premier League this season?

"Winning the Champions League would be ideal for Manchester City but winning the Premier League would be the greatest achievement in their era. To win the Premier League with the gap at the moment would be incredible.

"But neither the manager or the players will be aiming towards just one goal, they won’t be prioritising any one game, they will assess each game in its own right."

How do you assess Guardiola’s impact at Manchester City?

"I think that Pep Guardiola has done an excellent job at Manchester City. No one can fault the job that Guardiola he has done so far, he has transformed the club and the Premier League. His style of play is unmatched and he deserves a lot of accolades for the work he has done at both Manchester City and for the Premier League. Winning the Champions League would only enhance Guardiola’s reputation further, at Manchester City and across the Premier League."

Where should Manchester City look to strengthen in the January transfer window?

"Manchester City could look to strengthen their defence in the January transfer window which would help with their defensive injuries. There aren’t many other areas on the pitch that Manchester City would look to strengthen but defensively, they could do with a helping hand. However, buying in January is risky and players are at a higher premium so they could miss out on the window and carry on for the rest of the season without any new players."

Do you anticipate any players leaving Manchester City in January?

"I would be surprised if any players left Manchester City in January. The players at the club can see, and share in, Guardiola’s vision for Manchester City so there’s no reason why they should move from the club when the vision is so clear."

Who has been your player of the season?

"Kevin de Bruyne has stood out for me this season for Manchester City. He has a level of consistency that is unparalleled and he is fresh at the moment after being in and out of games due to injury last season. Kyle Walker has also risen to the challenge of new players coming in and you can see how well he is doing from the rate at which he features in games."

Kevin De Bruyne | Sportingbet

How much has Aguero’s injury affected Manchester City?

"Sergio Aguero’s injury has been massive for Manchester City, as he’s such a big player for Manchester City. However, Gabriel Jesus has done exceptionally well to come in and start scoring goals and fill the void that Aguero has left.

"Jesus has fitted in well to the Manchester City team and he could well keep his place in the squad when Aguero comes back from injury. Guardiola will pick whoever fits well to the opponents and that could well be Jesus over Aguero for some games."

Jesus has said he’s struggling with the expectations at Manchester City. Is there too much pressure being put on the players?

"The pressure Jesus is feeling at Manchester City can be put down to his age. Jesus is young, so this will be the first time he has felt any real pressure from a club. He has said that he feels the pressure but from the way he’s playing on the pitch, it hasn’t translated over so hopefully he is managing this well."

Guardiola’s handling of Phil Foden has been called into question by some pundits. Is he handling the youngster in the right way?

"Guardiola is doing everything right for Phil Foden. No one can question his dealings with younger players, he manages them exceptionally well. For Phil Foden to be consistently in the Manchester City team at the age of 19 is brilliant and not many other players can say they have had that opportunity. The majority of the players in the current squad weren’t playing first team football at 19 so this is such an achievement already for Phil.

"He will improve and grow at Manchester City, and he loves the club. He needs to be patient in terms of game time and know that he is competing with some of the very best players and I would question who isn’t playing well enough to be dropped in the current Manchester City squad."

How much confidence can Manchester City take from the win against Arsenal?

"Winning against Arsenal will have boosted Manchester City’s confidence, especially coming back from losing the derby to have two big wins. Losing against Liverpool wasn’t great but Manchester City had a job to do to come back and they did it professionally."

EVERTON

Will Everton be in danger of relegation at the end of the season?

"My heart says that Everton will be safe this season but looking at it at the moment, it would be naïve to say they definitely won’t be in trouble of relegation. Being near to the bottom of the table coming up to Christmas obviously isn’t good and it’s been difficult for Everton and their players. However, I think they will get away from the bottom soon and I would certainly expect them to avoid relegation."

Who would you like to see take the Everton job?

"David Moyes and Carlo Ancelotti are the two favourites to take the Everton job, both are great candidates but the most likely option for me would be David Moyes making a return to Everton. He knows the club inside out, and although Ancelotti is a top-class manager, he may not fit as well for Everton.

"Ancelotti leaving Napoli would have derailed Everton’s thought process and it’s great that they can attract top class managers despite their position in the Premier League, but I feel David Moyes would suit the club more and may be the best bet to get the club out of the relegation zone."

Where do you think Duncan Ferguson, or Everton’s new manager, need to strengthen the squad in January?

"If Everton buy anyone in the January transfer window, they will need to make sure they find the right fit, and avoid the risk of someone coming to the club who can’t play for the rest of the season.

"They could look to find a striker, but whether they will be able to find someone who fits the club is a different matter. It’s a hard decision to make and the powers that be will make the decision that will fit best for the club."

Was Andre Gomes’ injury a huge blow for Everton?

"Gomes’ injury affected Everton but all of their players are important to the team and when one is injured, that is felt across the pitch. However, Everton have built a squad where they get their strength from across the pitch, and even with Gomes’ being out, you can tell that the team has pulled together."

Andre Gomes | Sportingbet

What do you think of Calvert-Lewin’s potential?

"Calvert-Lewin is probably one of the best young prospects currently at Everton. Calvert-Lewin is progressing well and he will continue to progress with the correct manager, coaches and care towards their career."

Who has been your Everton player of the season so far?

"Richarlison stands out as player of the season so far, he plays in a number of positions and scores goals so that makes him versatile and the best player for me at Everton this season."

How far away are Everton from being able to compete on the same stage as Liverpool?

"Everton are four or five seasons away from being able to compete at the same level as Liverpool – but 95% of the Premier League are also unable to compete on that level.

"Klopp has cultivated a team full of players that have developed with Liverpool over the course of a few years and they’ve been growing that every year. It’s not a one or two season project to be able to compete against Liverpool, other clubs will need to take four or five seasons with a consistent manager in charge and clubs will need patience to be able to get to that point. Not a lot of clubs have that patience and changing managers every couple of seasons like Everton have, won’t help with the consistency and end vision for the club."

WOLVES

Wolves were on an unbeaten run up until their loss against Tottenham this weekend - will the loss have affected their confidence?

"Wolves have done so well to go on such a long unbeaten streak but the loss won’t have affected their confidence. This Wolves team are smart and will know that they couldn’t have carried on all season without a loss, and they will have prepared for this. The team will pick themselves back up again and know that playing Tottenham was always going to be a difficult fixture.

"Wolves have two massive fixtures coming up and they will work on preparing for those fixtures."

How will Wolves fare playing Manchester City and Liverpool within 48 hours of each other?

"Wolves have previously played well against better teams in the Premier League so I am sure they will turn up to compete against both Liverpool and Manchester City. Both teams will be approaching their game with Wolves with caution as Wolves have afforded themselves respect across the Premier League with their style of play. That’s not to say that it will be easy, they will be difficult fixtures and Wolves will need to prepare but could get a result."

How are Wolves coping with the pressure of the Europa League?

"Wolves have done so well to cope and compete in the Europa League and get through to the round of 32, whilst still maintaining their position in the Premier League. I think they can be competitive with any of the teams in the Europa League.

"The success so far in the Europa League is completely down to the squad and the manager and is representative of how the club has developed in the past three years under Nuno Espirito Santo."

Nuno Espirito Santo | Sportingbet

Will Wolves be able to finish in the top half of the Premier League this season?

"I would expect Wolves to finish top ten this season. They will be aiming for top six this season and their success won’t be coming as a surprise to them so they will be able to deal with this challenge appropriately. Wolves will have planned for European football, and the challenge of the Premier League so they definitely have it in them to be able to finish top ten or higher this season.

"There are no European games until February now so they don’t have the heavy schedule to hold them back and there is always the January transfer window that they can strengthen in for the remainder of the season. Whilst Wolves are hitting the 45-game mark, other teams will be hitting the 30 game mark as other teams haven’t been involved in European competitions so it’s great to see Wolves competing with the top clubs and managing Europa League commitments."

What do you think is the vision for Wolves in the coming years?

"I think the vision for Wolves is to break into the top six and I think the club believe that and therefore will make it happen. They have been progressing steadily for the past few seasons so I think they’ll be preparing for further progression and a bigger challenge."

Would another club be able to tempt Nuno away from Wolves?

"I don’t think that Nuno is going anywhere right now. He will be pleased with the set-up he has at Wolves and how much freedom he has across the players and the management, so it wouldn’t make sense for him to move anywhere.

"Nuno will be happy to see out what he started at Wolves and if it comes to the point where he feels he can’t take Wolves into a consistent top four position, that’s when he may feel the time is right to step back but I don’t think he will feel the need to leave this project right now."

Adama Traore has excelled recently, why do you think this is?

"Traore is maturing and is getting more and more experienced as his confidence grows, and that has to be attributed to the manager, staff and his team mates at Wolves.

"He is still very young and there’s so much more to see from him but right now, you can tell that he has been given the backing to grow his confidence as a part of the squad. Traore will only excel as time goes on and it’s evident to see that this is being noticed with his national call up to the Spanish side, which isn’t an easy side to play in."

Who is your player of the season so far at Wolves?

"There isn’t one standout player at Wolves this season, I believe that they are one of the best teams as a whole. The team all come together and play so well as a team that it’s difficult to pick out one individual, but to call out one man, you would have to mention Conor Coady.

"Coady is consistent in his game play and leads the team well as captain and that can’t go unnoticed. You also can’t forget to mention Raul Jimenez, he is consistent in his goal scoring and most teams need to score goals so Jimenez needs to be in that conversation. "

Conor Coady | Sportingbet

Where will Wolves need to strengthen in the January transfer window?

"Wolves have had a couple of defensive injuries so could look to strengthen the back line in January. Wolves have had a couple of injuries in the same position this season and it’s meant that they haven’t played as well as they should have, so bringing in another defender may be a consideration."

Willy Boly is out injured at the moment, how important is his return to the squad?

"Willy Boly is a top quality player and defender and has been missed with his injury. I’m unsure whether he will come back into the team straight away as that’s dependent on what form he is in but he will only enhance the team."

ASTON VILLA

Aston Villa are just about out of the relegation zone based on goal difference. How do you think their season has gone so far?

"Aston Villa fans won’t be happy with their start to the season but in truth, it would be an achievement for Villa to be avoiding relegation. Coming up is never easy and they were always going to struggle as they arrived in the Premier League without an identity – they have very good players but it was down to those players, rather than the system, that got them promoted. They are certainly good enough to avoid relegation but it is going to be a big fight."

How do you think Dean Smith’s handled the Premier League so far?

"Dean Smith has done well in the Premier League so far with a good group of players. I think he is the right man for the job – he is a Villa fan which will allow the club and fans a little bit more patience with him. Even if Villa were to get relegated this season, I would expect him to stay at the club and get them promoted back to the Premier League. He has the experience of doing it before – he will be hurting and with a point to prove – but let’s see come the end of the season!"

Where do Aston Villa need to strengthen their squad in January?

"Aston Villa may look to strengthen their attack in the January Transfer Window and if they do they may look to sign someone with Premier League experience. They did invest money on forwards but it is a struggle to adapt to the Premier League. If Villa want to stay in the Premier League, they need to score more goals so this is an area that perhaps needs to be addressed."

Aston Villa face Southampton this weekend. How do you assess their chances?

"Aston Villa face Southampton in what is a massive game this weekend and I think that Villa will do enough to win the game. Both teams are under a huge amount of pressure but I think the home advantage will be major factor. Villa Park is an intense atmosphere, if Villa start strongly then the fans will get behind the team and give them the push they need. At the same time, if Southampton get an early goal, the atmosphere at Villa Park could make it a tense environment."

How big of a miss will Tyrone Mings be during his injury?

"Tyrone Mings will be a massive loss for Aston Villa during his injury. He’s adapted to playing in the Premier League very well in a way that not many defenders have. He’s worked his way into the England Squad this season so he’ll have a high level of confidence at the moment. No doubt, he’ll be working hard to get back as early as possible so he doesn’t lose his place ahead of the Euros."

Tyrone Mings | Sportingbet

Do you think Jack Grealish deserves an England call-up?

"Jack Grealish has been brilliant this season and should certainly be in the mix for an England call up. He’s been playing at an amazing level, especially when you consider that those around him aren’t at the level of some other teams, so that is a real credit to him. Of course, he is still young but he has embraced the role of captain and taken it in his stride, which has taken him up another level."

WEST BROM

West Brom look like they could be headed back to the Premier League. How do you see their chances of promotion?

"West Brom look like the team that are most likely to get promotion this season, they’re the one team in the league that look likely to go up. Their current form and style of play is brilliant at the moment. If they are able to keep this up, the Premier League could be a great place for the Midlands with the likes of Wolves and hopefully Aston Villa there as well."

GENERAL PREMIER LEAGUE

How do you think Liverpool will fare over the festive period with their intense European schedule, the title race and the Club World Cup?

"Liverpool looked destined to win the Premier League this season, they are the only ones that can stop themselves from winning the league – they have effectively five matches leeway at this point. Yes, they have a really busy festive period but Klopp has prepared his squad for this, he is happy to rotate and utilise the players that he has. They also have the January Transfer Window coming up so can decide to address any areas that might be lacking then, to see them through to the end of the season."

How impressed have you been with Mourinho at Tottenham so far?

"Mourinho has been brilliant at Tottenham but it hasn’t come as a surprise, they were a perfect fit. Mourinho is one of the best managers around, very astute with great man-management skills. Spurs already had the quality and players, he has just brought in the mentality. With the quality he has, they could challenge Liverpool and Man City next season but a lot will depend on whether he is able to strengthen the squad with the players that he wants – I don’t think Tottenham will be too active in January but they may be in the summer."

Chelsea face Tottenham this weekend. How do you think that game will go?

"The Tottenham vs Chelsea match will be close but Mourinho’s experience will edge it for Tottenham. Chelsea are an exciting young team and I love watching them play but Tottenham’s experience will show and they will get the result."

How would you rate Lampard’s time at Chelsea so far?

"Lampard has been a huge success at Chelsea so far, his appointment at the club came at the perfect time for all parties. Chelsea were starting to lose some of their identity and culture and Frank has brought that back to the club alongside Jody Morris who is a fantastic coach. Given the transfer ban, Chelsea needed someone who could bring them all together and there is no better person. He has done a fantastic job."

Frank Lampard | Sportingbet

With the transfer ban lifted, who do you see coming to Chelsea in January?

"I wouldn’t be surprised to see Chelsea active in the January Transfer Window now that the ban has lifted, they still need to fully recover from losing Hazard in the summer and must replace his goals. The team have done a fantastic job but they need to replace what he brought to the team. I think they also need to look at investing in an experienced defender, they have a lot of talent at the back but there are a lot of games and you need experience to see you through at the business end of the season."

What do you think of Manchester United this season?

"Manchester United have shown what they are capable of in the past few weeks, they are on the right path now – they just need to stay consistent. Obviously barring Man City and Liverpool, most teams can struggle with consistency, but once they iron that out, they’ll be in a position they want to be in. They are a long way off from challenging from the title but it took Liverpool time to get to where they are as well, but they look to be heading in the right direction."

Are there any players from across Europe that you’d like to see in the Premier League?

"I’d love to see Mbappe in the Premier League but then all fans would, it’s whether he is available, but he is a player that could make a big difference for any Premier League team. I don’t see it happening for the time being."

What do you think of VAR?

"I’m not a fan of VAR, it isn’t doing anything to help the game and is certainly not working in the way that people want it to be. I’m just happy that I’m not playing now that it is in use!"

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