Ahead of England’s semi-final against Denmark on Wednesday night and with the summer transfer window open, we spoke with BonusCodeBets ambassador, John Barnes. The former Liverpool and England midfielder shared his thoughts on England’s two key players so far, Declan Rice being a good fit at Liverpool and Timo Werner’s short-lived career as a number nine at Chelsea.
John Barnes Exclusive: Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips have been England’s most important players at EURO 2020
“I’m now much more confident about England’s chances in the tournament than I was before the Ukraine match. That was a great performance, our best of the tournament.
“Harry Kane scored two goals and is looking back to his best. If England are going to go further in the competition and win it, we need Harry Kane in that kind of form. And again we didn’t concede a goal, which is a bonus.
“I’ve said before that the leaders in the team needed to be Kane, Sterling and Maguire, and all of them stepped up in Rome, but the important part of the team are the two midfield players, Phillips and Rice. They’re the main reason we haven’t conceded a goal so far.
“Opponents have got at our back four easily at times – look at the Scotland game – but those two players have really protected the back four, so they deserve special credit.
“People are saying they [England] should leave one of them out, because they think the solution is to play more attacking players, but the balance they give the team is so important.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Eriksen factor won’t swing it for Denmark – but England must not be complacent
“Denmark are a good team, that’s why they are where they are. They’ve got the added impetus and togetherness because of the Christian Eriksen situation, but that alone is not going to make them win.
“Every team that has got to the semi-finals, has had to have that togetherness and determination, regardless of whether they’ve been through that sort of situation.
“I’d like to confidently predict an England win on Wednesday – but I predicted France would beat Switzerland! England are going to have to be very careful. They must not be complacent; they must put in the sort of performance they did against Ukraine. They must approach this game as if they were playing against France or Belgium, or one of the other top teams, because if they’re complacent they could lose.
“In terms of team selection, Gareth Southgate has clearly made up his mind to play two midfield players, plus Kane and Sterling, and that means there’s only room for one out of Sancho, Grealish and Foden, even though they all deserve to be in the team. But he’s not going to play all of them!”
John Barnes Exclusive: Chelsea will stick with Timo Werner, but not as their centre forward
“One of Germany’s problems at this tournament was that Timo Werner is not a natural goalscoring No.9. In the past, Germany have always had a player like Miroslav Klose or Jurgen Klinsmann. Germany play a very good, creative brand of football, but they need a No.9 to score goals, as everyone does.
“All the top teams have that, and Germany have missed that. We all saw Werner’s chance against England, and when he plays for Chelsea he’s missed chances too. I don’t see him as a classic No.9. He adds value to the team in terms of what he does, but he’s not a centre forward.
“Chelsea will persevere with Timo Werner, but not as a No.9. He’s creative, he’s quick, but if you want someone to score 30 goals a season, it’s not him.
“Chelsea won’t look to play him as a centre forward. They’ll probably look to bring in a centre forward, but they will persevere with Werner because he can add value to the team.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Declan Rice would be a good fit for Liverpool
“There have been suggestions that Declan Rice is a target for Liverpool and he would be a good fit for them. Liverpool like central midfield players who work hard.
“Declan Rice isn’t going to come in and score lots of goals, he’s not going to be creative, he’s not a midfield player like David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne or Ilkay Gundogan, but Liverpool don’t need that.
“The kind of players Liverpool need are players like Rice or Yves Bissouma, hard-working midfield players who get the ball forward, make tackles, win the ball and keep it quite simple.
“He’s similar to Jordan Henderson in that way. So if he wants to come to Liverpool, he has the right profile for them.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Nuno Espirito Santo suits Spurs and is the right appointment for what they need now!
“The appointment of Nuno Espirito Santo as Tottenham boss in succession to Jose Mourinho shouldn’t be seen as a backward step.
“The brand of football he plays – he got his Wolves side playing attractive football – and the kind of players he will be able to bring in, mean he can improve Tottenham in terms of where they want to be.
“He won’t be signing players for £100million like Manchester United or
Manchester City, but he’s got good players at Tottenham and, with the market they operate in, he’ll be able to sign players for £30-£40m. He suits the profile of Spurs and where they are at the moment.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Sancho is a great signing, but what United need is a centre forward
“Manchester United have signed Jadon Sancho – now what they really need is a centre forward. United already had players who can operate in wide areas, such as Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford. You can understand them taking the opportunity to get Sancho, who’s a good young English player, but their priority now should be a central striker.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Ibrahima Konate in pole position to partner Van Dijk
“It will be interesting to see who starts in central defence for Liverpool alongside Virgil van Dijk next season. In the long term, Joe Gomez will be fine, but he’s young and he’s had his injury problems.
“But having splashed out so much money on a centre-back in Ibrahima Konate, they’ll probably start with him alongside Van Dijk – presuming Van Dijk is fit for the start of the season. But it’s always good to have competition for places.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Tough decisions for Phillips and Williams
“Liverpool youngsters Nat Phillips and Neco Williams have big decisions ahead of them. Is it time for them to go off and make a name for themselves in the first team at other clubs? Because if they stay at Liverpool, they’re not going to be playing in the first team, though they will be important parts of the squad.
“It’s up to them as individuals to decide what’s best for their careers. Do they stay and try to stake a claim, be a part of the squad and play now and again?
“At 24 years old, Phillips probably wouldn’t want to do that, but modern players are quite happy to be at a big club and be part of a squad, whereas probably in the old days you’d want to move on because you’re not playing regularly.”
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