A Sit Down with John Barnes – 10th June 2021

With England’s first match in the European Championships fast approaching and the transfer window heating up, we spoke with BonusCodeBets ambassador, John Barnes. The former England midfielder welcomes the addition of Ben White to the squad, says the Three Lions can cope without a set system and discusses why Liverpool don’t need to spend big this summer.  

John Barnes Exclusive: England’s lack of a set system has been enough to get us to the quarter finals of tournaments

“I am not overly concerned that England are going into the tournament without a set system and way of playing. We can get by without it – probably not necessarily enough to win the tournament, but we still have a chance. 

“It would be better if we had a recognised system aligned to the individuals in it, but we haven’t. We’ve never really had one, which is probably why we [England] haven’t won a major tournament for a while. However, with the individual players we’ve always had, that’s been enough to get us to the quarter-finals and semi-finals of tournaments. 

“We have better individual players than a lot of teams who have a system, so we will cope during the tournament. Look at the performance of Jack Grealish in the friendly against Romania – he can do something special, so this team can always score goals and create chances. 

“I’m not sure Gareth knows exactly how we’re going to play, with three or four at the back. He’s going to look at the individuals who may be in form and put them in. We don’t have to rely on a system – we never have. It’s my personal view of how I believe football should be played but, obviously, England don’t seem to do that.” 

John Barnes Exclusive: Southgate’s choice of formation will determine whether or not Jack Grealish starts against Croatia

“Jack Grealish did well against Romania but does he start against Croatia? It depends who else is in the team. 

“If England play three at the back and two wing-backs, then are you going to play him [Grealish]? If you play four at the back and three up front, with two wide men, Sterling and Rashford, with Kane, do you then start him?

“Jack Grealish isn’t the first name on the team sheet, it’s not as if he has to start and we have to build the team around him. He’s still not a main England player and what will determine whether he plays or not is how Gareth Southgate wants to play.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Ben White’s versatility secured him his place in the England squad


“Ben White’s selection for the England squad in place of Trent Alexander-Arnold was no surprise at all. Jesse Lingard has had a fantastic season, and so has James Ward-Prowse, but what Gareth Southgate is looking for is versatility. 

“It’s a bit of a tell-tale sign in terms of Gareth’s tenure, whereby he isn’t sure whether he’s going to play three at the back, four at the back, two or three in midfield. Therefore, you need versatile players who, if you decide to change your system, are able to adapt to that. 

“Ben White can play as a holding midfield player, in a back four, or as one of three centre-backs. That versatility probably put him ahead of players who might have had a better season than him.

“Look at the versatility Reece James and Kyle Walker have, they can play in a back three, a back four or at wing-back. Gareth has enough attacking midfield players to cope with any formation, but in defenders he’s looking for versatility.”

John Barnes Exclusive: England shouldn’t be worried about Scotland, but they must respect them

“England should go into all their games at the European Championship respecting their opponents. All the teams are there for a reason. If you’re not on your game and you’re complacent, you can come a cropper.

“However, England haven’t had too many slip-ups in recent years in terms of beating the teams they should beat. There haven’t been many upsets since the defeat to Iceland at the Euros in 2016. 

“So England shouldn’t be overly concerned about playing Scotland, but they have to respect them. They mustn’t be complacent and I’m sure they won’t be.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Edouard would be a good signing for Leicester, but it doesn’t mean they’re challenging the ‘Big Six’

“Leicester City signing Odsonne Edouard from Celtic would be a good move for the club, but it can’t be read as a statement of intent that they’re looking to challenge the big boys. 

“When you’re talking about Mbappe and other world-class players, like a lot of the other top clubs in the Premier League are, Edouard isn’t one of those. If Leicester were challenging the big boys, they’d spend £100million on a player and pay him £200,000 a week, but that’s not the case.

“In Edouard they’re getting a very good player for, relatively speaking, not a lot of money, but that’s the market they’re actually shopping in.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Martin Ødegaard would be a good signing for Arsenal, but they should be focussing on signing defenders

“If Arsenal are trying to sign Martin Ødegaard on a permanent contract from Real Madrid, they must like him. He was on loan there this season and did well, and Mikel Arteta must feel that he’s someone who can move the club forward. 

“Arsenal know what he can bring to them, so he’s not a gamble. As to whether his signing is a priority, in this day and age you get what you can at the time or you run the risk of not getting anything. 

“Arsenal have Aubameyang and Lacazette, which doesn’t seem to have worked out, so they need a striker. They need defenders too, they have looked weak at the back for some time. They need defenders more than they need an attacking midfield player.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Haaland would make Chelsea title contenders, but not favourites

“If Chelsea sign Erling Haaland, they’ll be very strong next season. It’s not that Chelsea don’t score goals, but they could do with someone who is more clinical.

“It’s clear that things haven’t worked out for Tammy Abraham under Thomas Tuchel, while Timo Werner is not an out-and-out goalscorer. 

“Haaland would improve most teams in terms of their goalscoring, and he would improve Chelsea and make them title challengers, but it wouldn’t make them the favourites ahead of Manchester City or Liverpool.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Paul Pogba respects playing for France more than he does at Manchester United

“Paul Pogba has always played better for France than for Manchester United, because he has a different attitude when he plays for his country. 

“He is much more respectful of the French national team and his team-mates, in terms of not seeing himself as the superstar, the most important person. Whereas when he plays for Manchester United, there are times when he wants to dominate the whole situation, and he doesn’t do that for France.

“That’s been the case for a few years, including when they won the World Cup in 2018. He puts in a much better, much more professional, committed, determined, humble performance for France. 

“For United, maybe because of his price tag and because he feels like a superstar because he cost £90million, he tries too hard to do special things.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Having Virgil van Dijk back is like a dream signing for Liverpool

“I don’t see Liverpool making a marquee signing this summer, unless one of their marquee players goes. 

“Having Virgil van Dijk back to fitness is like a new signing. Ibrahima Kounate has come in to play alongside him, and Liverpool still have Joel Matip and Joe Gomez. Once Liverpool get their defenders and midfielders back, as long as they keep the nucleus of the team, they have what they need. 

“But with the Konate signing, Diogo Jota, who can play in the front three or midfield three, and players like Divock Origi, Xherdan Shaquiri and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain still in the squad, unless Liverpool lose players, it’s difficult to determine what they need. 

“There are teams, like Arsenal for instance, who need to bring players in to go straight into their team. Liverpool don’t need that. They don’t need to buy an Erling Haaland to come into the team, unless they lose one of the first XI.”

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