The ex-Indomitable Lions defender has compared his generation of the national team and the Gunners squad which went the entire season unbeaten
Former Arsenal defender Lauren Etame-Mayer says the Cameroon team was on par, in terms of competitiveness, with the Gunners Invincibles who won the 2003/04 Premier League title.
Mayer was part of the Arsenal squad which went all season unbeaten to finish the season 11 points clear of second-placed Chelsea, having won another Premier League crown two seasons earlier.
He was also with the Cameroon squad that had won the 2000 Olympic gold medal and the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) that year, as well as the same tournament in 2002.
The likes of Samuel Eto’o, Rigobert Song, Patrick Mboma, Marc-Vivien Foe, Geremi Njitap, Salomon Olembe and Raymond Kalla formed that Indomitable Lions team.
On the other hand, the Invincibles included Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp, Freddie Ljungberg, Kolo Toure and Robert Pires.
While assessing the strengths of the teams, Mayer feels the Cameroon team would have prevailed over the Invincibles in African competitions, while Arsenal would come out victorious in the Premier League.
“In a league game or in a tournament? On the pitches that Cameroon had to play on: Burkina Faso, Togo and so on. Put Xavi, Iniesta, the great Barcelona players on those pitches, let’s see if they can play the same fantasy football,” Lauren told the Mail .
“It’s two different teams, two different competitions. I would say Arsenal if you’re talking about a competition like the Premier League. But put the games in Africa playing in 35, 40, 45 degrees and I’m telling you that Cameroon wins.”
Arriving at Arsenal from Real Mallorca in 2000, Mayer went on to spend seven seasons in North London.
The Cameroonian was a regular right-back at Arsenal, having been converted into that position from being a winger by Arsene Wenger.
“What the manager really wanted was for me to play at full-back, he just didn’t tell me that at first,” said Lauren.
“Wenger would look me in the eye and say: ‘Top players can play in any position; if you understand the game, and are as gifted as you are, you can do it.’ “When someone gives you that sense of security and shows you he trusts you, that’s the best thing there is. He had that ability to convince everyone.
“I was a bit worried. At a team like Arsenal, there are four or five players in your position. We had [Ray] Parlour, [Jermaine] Pennant on one side, and on the other you had [Giovanni] van Bronckhorst, Ljungberg and Pires. So I went to the Olympics, thinking bloody hell, if it doesn’t go well, maybe I won’t get back in.”
Not only Mayer was transformed into a defender by Wenger.
“Wenger modified things bit by bit. He wanted offensive players in defensive positions,” Mayer said.
“Ashley Cole was a winger, not a full back. He converted him. I was a winger, he made me a full back. Kolo Toure played in the middle of the Ivory Coast midfield and he put him at centre-back. “[Pep] Guardiola has perfected what Wenger did. That idea was there with us.”