Ahead of the third round of Premier League fixtures, we caught up with BonusCodeBets ambassador, John Barnes. The former Liverpool midfielder shared his thoughts on Virgil van Dijk being the best centre-back in the world, why Tottenham should let Tanguy Ndombele leave the club and how the lack of harmony at Manchester United will stop them from challenging for the league title
John Barnes Exclusive: Andy Robertson will play on Saturday, but only if he’s 100% match fit
“Andy Robertson has been out injured for a sustained period. As much as he is now fit and available for selection, he hasn’t played, so why would Liverpool put him back in for a difficult game against Chelsea when Kostas Tsimikas has been playing so well?
Andy will come back into the side, it’s just unlikely it’ll be this Saturday, we don’t know how match fit he is, though he will obviously have had a few games in training. If Liverpool do bring him back into the starting lineup, it is obviously because they feel he is ready. However, if they don’t, I am very comfortable with Tsimikas being there instead.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Harvey Elliott will play more for Liverpool this season – but he’s not ready for the big games!
“Harvey Elliott will be used the same way by Liverpool this season, as Curtis Jones was last. He will feature in the team more often, but not in the big games. For the biggest games Liverpool have Thiago, Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Fabinho, Naby Keita. Elliot won’t necessarily feature ahead of them.
Depending on the game though, he will play against the so-called lesser opposition where Liverpool will have more possession, won’t be defending as much and you can then put him in as one of the midfield options, to play a more attacking role as they did with Curtis Jones. He isn’t ready yet, to come into these tougher matches ahead of Liverpool’s other options.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Regardless of his injury, Virgil van Dijk is still the world’s best centre-back
“It is only two games into the season and Virgil Van Dijk has just come back from injury, yet he looks as if he’s never been away from the side. As I said last year, he’s the best centre back in the world, and he’s not any different now.
There have only been two games played though, so we shouldn’t get carried away, but he seems as though he is back to himself after the injury, and Liverpool are glad to have him back, from the perspective of giving them stability and belief in themselves. But also, just as importantly, having a centre back partner, whether that is Joël Matip, Joe Gomez or Ibrahima Konaté, will also help the side.”
John Barnes Exclusive: The board at Arsenal will always back Mikel Arteta, regardless of what is happening
“The board at a club will always back their manager without the need for making a public statement. So, if Arsenal were to publicly back the manager, the fans would assume that it’s been done as a false gesture.
Arsenal are in a transition period, with young players and it’s a rebuilding process that will take time, so understandably, Arteta is finding things tough right now.
“If they give him time, support and the fans believe, he can turn their situation around.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Manchester United have one of the best squads in the country, but their lack of togetherness will stop them from winning the league
“If people watched Manchester United’s first game against Leeds, they’d have felt they could compete with Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City, but equally, they wouldn’t have thought so if they watched their game against Southampton. Consistency is Manchester United’s problem, not whether they play well or not, because on their day they can beat anyone in the world. We saw how they destroyed Leeds and the players they have.
The inconsistency they have stems from the fact that it doesn’t feel as if players are responsible for their performances, when they don’t play well. That’s because if they don’t perform, the questions will be about Ole Gunnar Solskjær and whether he is the right man for the job. If that line of thinking continues, there’s going to be games, such as against Leeds where they are fantastic, but also games like Southampton, when they don’t perform, and people are going to blame the manager.
We just cannot tell how they will perform on any given day. They are one of the top two clubs in the country, but they don’t quite have the togetherness, harmony and the belief needed to win the league yet. They will be in and around there, but when push comes to shove, they will drop one or two silly games.
John Barnes Exclusive: Paul Pogba is playing well but we all know that can change very quickly
“Only time will tell with Paul Pogba and how well he will play. He’s only played two games this season. The first game he played brilliantly, and the second game was okay. How do we know in four games time that he will be the same? You cannot tell anything from the first two games, including who will win the league, who will get relegated, who’s playing well or who looks happy.
However, come 10 or 11 games time, we will have more of an idea, and then in January, February and March that’s when players show they are settled.
Unfortunately, the Pogba situation still hasn’t been resolved for me, because next week, something could emerge about him leaving Manchester United and we wouldn’t be surprised.”
John Barnes Exclusive: If Tanguy Ndombele wants to leave, Tottenham should let him go – it’s the best solution for both parties
“Tanguy Ndombele has been very hit and miss at Tottenham. He is clearly a very good player, but no matter how good you are, you have to find the right club that suits your type of football, and Tottenham hasn’t necessarily worked out for him.
If he’s decided he wants to leave the club, the best thing to do for Tottenham is to get that deal done so they have funds for other players and more harmony within the team.
You don’t want unhappy players at the club, so if he has said he wants to leave, then it’s for the best. This is the easiest situation for a club to have, unlike trying to get rid of players who don’t want to go.
It’s different to Harry Kane, who may have wanted to go, when Spurs wanted to keep him. They won’t get their £70million back for Ndombele, but if they can bite the bullet and take what they can, then that’s the best outcome for both parties.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Steve Bruce needs to get the basics right at Newcastle
“It’s funny because if you look at the first game and the way Steve had them play, they were so open, and conceded two goals. They played well going forward and then got hit on the counterattack, which is very unlike Steve Bruce. He’s normally very pragmatic, keeps his teams well organised, they catch people on the counter attacks. I’m unsure whether he felt that they should play a different style of football so thought to himself ‘let’s be more attacking’.
Newcastle must get back to basics, what Steve Bruce does well, and what his sides previously have done well. They still have an attacking impetus, in terms of scoring goals and creating chances, but they must be tighter at the back.
Unfortunately for them, they have some hard games coming up too. It will be a difficult first half of the season for them, and they really must start picking up points soon.”
John Barnes Exclusive: The Scottish Premiership title will be more closely-contested this season
“Celtic can challenge for the Scottish Premiership title because Rangers aren’t as dominant as they were last year. Trying to stop Celtic achieving a 10th title in a row really spurred Rangers on to perform harder.
Maybe having lost the league the way Celtic did has given them extra motivation. Rangers don’t look as strong as they did last year, in terms of the determination they showed, to not want to lose and to stop Celtic.
“This year will be a much closer title race than last year which is great.”
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