‘A Sit Down with John Barnes’ – 4th June 2021

Eagerly awaiting the European Championship we managed to squeeze in a chat with BonusCodeBets expert, John Barnes. The former Liverpool star talked about Trent Alexander-Arnolds injury, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, the play style of the English side, and other key topics moving into the offseason of club football. 

John Barnes: Trent Alexander-Arnold’s absence is not a great loss won’t be too detrimental to England

“I’ve never known such a fervour about one position on a football pitch before Trent got injured – and you could say it is probably lucky we already had three others in the squad! He is one of our best right-backs, but we have so many options in that position, so it’s actually not a great loss to England. It’s obviously extremely sad for Trent and I feel for him – but we have so much cover there, so it should not be detrimental to England’s chances. If Harry Kane limped off against Austria, I’d be sitting here being far more concerned for England. It’s also lucky for Liverpool that this bad-looking injury has happened in the off season.”

John Barnes: Trent’s absence actually gives Southgate a great opportunity to add balance in central midfield where we lack depth – James Ward-Prowse fits the bill perfectly

“There is absolutely no way Southgate should pick another right back as a replacement for Trent. It is not going to be a like for like. We have ample cover there, and now is actually a great opportunity to bring in someone in another position where we look quite light, for example in central midfield. Whoever comes in is not going to start and may get limited game time – otherwise they would have been in the initial squad. That player will not single handedly win England the Euros, so it is important who they pick is not there to just make up the numbers and actually could contribute something meaningful if called upon, maybe only for a few minutes. 

“It is all about balance – Jesse Lingard has had a better season than James Ward-Prowse, but for me we do not need any more attacking players, we have a wealth of those already in the squad. With the central midfield area, Henderson and Kalvin Philipps have had recent injuries, Declan Rice is just back from one – so if one of them breaks down again, we look really short in that area. So Ward-Prowse, who is reliable and great at set pieces as Trent is, would make sense to pick. He also played every minute for Southampton so is clearly fit and trusted by his club and would slot into the squad perfectly. 

“The biggest mistake England have made over the years is picking individuals who have played well in the same position, which really does not help the team. I felt the initial squad announcement had shades of that this time with the right backs and the attacking wide players -so this injury selection, while unfortunate, could help England’s lack of balance in central midfield and potentially stop a historic issue with our national side for decades.”

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John Barnes: The minute England makes changes, we look disjointed. It’s concerning we don’t have a set style of play which is cohesive to the whole squad

“We know who the first eight or nine players are going to be – they play with cohesion and authority. But you can see when we make lots of changes, we are disjointed because we don’t have a set way of playing. You saw when a host of subs were made that Austria looked much more like scoring. We need to develop a way of playing whereby if someone not in that core group comes into the team, they can slot into a cohesive unit. Even when I played for England we were at a disadvantage because we do not have a set style, whereas a lot of other leading countries do and their performances do not drop when they make wholesale changes. Currently that is lacking and it worries me, because at the moment we rely on an individual, usually Harry Kane, to win us the game – rather than the team. It works fine against lesser teams – but we come unstuck because of this against the better teams.” 

John Barnes: We have spent too much time developing technical attackers and not enough time developing strong defenders

“I worry about our defence. In the last decade, we’ve taken great lengths to develop the Sterlings, the Rashfords, the Mounts and the Sanchos, because that is all we’ve felt is needed to win games. Those number tens and attacking wide players are all fantastic – but I look at someone like Declan Rice or Harry Maguire, we should have four or five of them in our squad, as most teams do. England teams of old were big, strong and tough, building from a strong defence and defensive midfielders. Now I feel we have not developed enough of those types of defensive players with physicality – we have gone the other way to take more time developing technical players who are good on the ball. That comes to the detriment of a strong defence.”

John Barnes: Aaron Wan-Bissaka is the best right back in this country and was unfairly overlooked because he is not as good on the ball

“Look at Aaron Wan-Bissaka – he is our best right back by far in this country. But because he is not as good on the ball as the others, he got unfairly overlooked. So when we come up against a team like France, that is when you don’t need a marauding player who will be more comfortable whipping in crosses and free-kicks in attacking areas. Everyone is clamouring for attacking right backs or number tens, but do not pay enough respect to players who are out and out defenders or defensive midfielders. It doesn’t matter if Southgate plays four or five at the back, if you don’t have players who can defend properly, it is immaterial.”

John Barnes: If Steven Gerrard wants to become Liverpool boss, he won’t go anywhere near the Everton job. Nuno Esperito Santo should be the man the Toffees turn to

“At this moment in time, Steven Gerrard won’t move to Everton. If he harbours any ambition of becoming Liverpool manager in the future, which I believe he does, I don’t think moving to Everton would be a good idea for him in terms of ingratiating himself with the fans. Everton have big ambitions – if they want sponsors and a feel good situation to compete with the big boys, I don’t think Eddie Howe – as good a manager as he is – would fit that profile in terms of being at a huge club with huge budgets. I don’t think they will look for a manager as big as Carlo Ancelotti, who is an extremely tough act to follow – but I believe they will look for someone who is proven, has a bit of a profile and knows the European market where they will be shopping in, not the English market. For that reason, Nuno Espirito Santo is a good possibility and will be attracted by Everton if he does not get the Tottenham job. You won’t get a manager as big as Ancelotti, regardless. They have to set their sights a bit lower and be realistic about who is available in the current market.” 

John Barnes: Celtic will likely have to hire someone to work to a tight budget and within their means – Paul Lambert seems the standout choice

“After the Eddie Howe fiasco, Celtic could go for a manager who they will back to the hilt with a big budget to sign massive names and bring the good times back. But it seems increasingly like they will need to find someone who will be comfortable working with what they have at their disposal, and spend within their means. It means it will likely be a lesser name and accept the situation that they won’t have much money to spend. If it’s the latter, which I expect it will be, they should look at someone like Paul Lambert, who can go back to Celtic where he achieved so much as a player and will be used to working within a budget.” 

John Barnes: Liverpool only need signings if players leave – the squad is good. But Wijnaldum will go and Bissouma would suit the Reds over Tielemans

“Unless players leave, Liverpool do not need to go and sign players for the sake of it. If they had Van Dijk and Gomez available for more of last season, they would have finished even better despite their strong end to the season. It is understandable that they looked so insecure when they lost as many defenders. So with them fit, the exciting signing of Konate and with the quality already added to the front three with Diogo Jota. I expect Wijnaldum to go however, so while Tielemans would be a good signing, he clearly is not for sale and I am not sure he is worth the release clause fee. I feel they need the steel and toughness of Yves Bissouma, who we know is for sale and would be a great like-for-like replacement for Wijnaldum. That seems like a no brainer to me and fits the mould of a player Liverpool could benefit from to challenge for the league next season, more than Tielemans.” 

John Barnes: It is ridiculous to not see Gundogan or Foden on the Player of the Year list… Ruben Dias should win as he has been most consistent

“It’s ridiculous that Ilkay Gundogan is not even on the Player of the Season list, he had a terrific season often flying under the radar. Same with Phil Foden, it makes no sense to not see him included for his breakout season. For someone like Jack Grealish to be ahead of both of them seems strange given how much football he missed due to injury. Usually the Player of the Season award is based on the last two or three months, rather than performances throughout. It’s been a funny season as there hasn’t been one standout player for me, everyone has had ups and downs – even Kane and Mount have been in and out at times. Of the list, I’d give it to Ruben Dias as he’s been the most consistent throughout the season and showed why he will likely become one of the Premier League great defenders.” 

 


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