‘A Sit Down with John Barnes’ – 9th September 2021

Ahead of the return of Premier League football this weekend, we caught up with BonusCodeBets ambassador, John Barnes. The former Liverpool midfielder shared his thoughts on Cristiano Ronaldo disrupting the United dressing room, Trent Alexander-Arnold playing in midfield for England and why Arsenal can’t keep relying on Bukayo Saka.

John Barnes Exclusive: Trent Alexander-Arnold can’t play in midfield for Liverpool right now

“Trent Alexander-Arnold doesn’t know how to play in midfield so he can’t continue playing in that position. He’s played right back all his life, so just because he’s got a good delivery, it doesn’t mean he can play in midfield. It’s like saying ‘the left-backs got a good shot and he can dribble so let’s put him at centre forward’. 

Right back is his best position; we can see that he wasn’t particularly comfortable with his back to play and being in midfield. Unfortunately, people assume that because he plays football, he can play in any position, which is not the case. Having never played in midfield before, it’s strange to put a right back there.

All the midfield players who are in and around the squad must’ve thought ‘Why are they putting a right back in midfield?’ Just because he’s got the delivery, it doesn’t change the fact that right back is his [Trent’s] best position. 

Getting on the ball at right back is completely different to getting on the ball in midfield. It was a good game to try it out because it was Andorra, so we could see if he could actually make the transition, but you can’t just convert from being a right back to a midfielder overnight.

As to whether he [Trent] can do it for Liverpool, as there are better midfield players who have played there for many years and are playing regularly for club and country. As to whether he can, maybe in the future, but it will take him a long time before he really understands the midfield role.”

John Barnes: Daniel Sturridge can’t expect a Premier League club to sign him after his injury problems


“Only time will tell if Daniel Sturridge is fit enough for the Premier League. If I come out and say I’m fitter than ever, will anyone take a punt on me?!

I’ve not seen Sturridge for two years so just because he says he’s fitter than ever, doesn’t mean that a Premier League club will go for him. In terms of his quality and ability, of course, we know he has that. However, what we don’t know is how fit and motivated he really is let alone his injury situation. 

A Premier League club could take him on trial and see if he’s [Sturridge] fit enough to do that. With his quality, he could be a good acquisition for a lower Premier League or a top Championship club. Having not played at the highest level for many years and given his injury record, he’ll have to prove his fitness.

Jack Wilshere is another example. We all know the quality he has but having not played consistently for two or three years, to then say you’re going to sign him just because of his name, rather than taking him on trial, isn’t how it works anymore. The Premier League has moved on in terms of recruitment, especially in the way they look at the age and fitness of a player. 

“But we all know the quality Daniel (Sturridge) has, so if he’s fit, motivated and hungry, maybe a Championship club could look at him. If he fancies himself and really wants to do it, he’ll have to decide whether he’s willing to go to a Championship side to prove himself before getting a move to a Premier League club. To expect a Premier League club to come in for him on a three-year contract is unrealistic.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Cristiano Ronaldo could create unrest in the dressing room and hinder Mason Greenwood’s development 

“It will be interesting to see how Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handles the dynamic in the dressing room. Manchester United have strong characters with the likes of Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes, which you need a strong manager to handle that. Ole has to be the one asserting his authority and we know he’s had issues with that in the past, and that was before he added Ronaldo!

“As for Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, they would have been thinking that this was their year to make a claim to be a starter for Manchester United but they might be on the bench more often than not so it’ll be interesting to see how that pans out. 

“Regarding Mason Greenwood’s playing time, it can work both ways, by training alongside a 36-year-old, an ultimate professional, seeing how he trains and seeing his attitude can only be good for him. However, if he’s not going to be playing for the year, that’s going to be negative. Mason Greenwood really should be pushing to play regularly for Manchester United, but realistically, he probably won’t. Rashford is the same. Not playing regularly will impact them as if they’re not playing and they’re not being given that kudos to say ‘you’re now one of our main players’, it will affect them confidence-wise over the next year or two. 

John Barnes Exclusive: Ronaldo’s arrival at Manchester United will prevent other players breaking through

“Jesse Lingard had a fantastic spell at West Ham and feels he can go back to Man United. He’s played for England and scored 2 goals, but he won’t get ahead of Pogba, Fernandes, Martial or Ronaldo. They play with two holding midfielders but he’s not one of them so he’s not going to play ahead of Fred or McTominay because Jesse is one of the attacking players. 

“They’ve got so much attacking talent. But I’m not one to tell him that he should’ve gone to West Ham if he wanted to stay and fight for his place at Manchester United but he has gone further down the pecking order now that Ronaldo is there.

“Van de Beek wasn’t part of Ole’s plans before the arrival of Ronaldo and Sancho so it’s going to be even harder for him now. 

“It’s up to players whether they want to play football. We’ve seen players stay at clubs because they want to be part of a team and have the prestige of being at a big club. But if he’s hungry enough to play football, he knows he still has a good enough name around Europe to get a move to a very good club so I think he’s probably one that will look to move on.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Defeat to Norwich wouldn’t spell the end for Arteta

“It’s only been four games so it won’t be the nail in the coffin for Mikel Arteta if he loses to Norwich this weekend. A loss certainly won’t help but if you look at the Brentford match, being the first game of the season, we always tend to see funny results in the first weekend. The next two games were against Chelsea and Manchester City which were very difficult and ones they weren’t expected to win. 

“But this is a game they’re expected to win, and I think they will. They have to start winning soon and they’ll look at this game and say, ‘this is one we really ought to be winning’.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Arsenal can’t keep relying on Bukayo Saka to help them

“When I was a young player in the Watford team, I was playing for England while a lot of the Watford players weren’t. However, there was no pressure on me to be the main man at Watford, that was for the experienced players. 

“Arsenal don’t want to be putting the burden on Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe purely because they’re playing well, playing for England, and scoring goals to carry Arsenal forward. You want these young players to play without any pressure and without any fear. 

“I’m hoping that they don’t think that just because he’s playing for England and he’s Arsenal’s main player that he can take the pressure on him to take Arsenal out of this situation. 

“He’s just turned 20 and he still has a lot of developing to do so he should be able to develop without having the fear and pressure of carrying this Arsenal side to where they want to be.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Chelsea’s signings can propel them to the title

“Chelsea definitely have enough to challenge for the Premier League title this season. They needed a focal point up front to bring people into play and hold the ball up, which they’ve now done with signing  Romelu Lukaku. Timo Werner can really benefit from Lukaku especially when he’s playing in one of the wide positions. They’ve got a great manager who they really respect, and I think Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea are the favourites. 

“Interestingly, Manchester City getting Grealish doesn’t improve them that much. They have a few players already who practically the same in Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden. They really needed a centre-forward which they didn’t get. 

“Chelsea and Liverpool are closer to Manchester City now, simply because they didn’t get Harry Kane.

John Barnes Exclusive: Romelu Lukaku won’t win the Golden Boot

“I’m not sure Romelu Lukaku will be in contention for the Golden Boot. He’s never been that prolific in front of goal, unlike Mo Salah who gets 30 goals every year. He will score goals, but I look at classic forwards like Harry Kane and Mo Salah, but I look at Lukaku, who will score goals, but he won’t score enough to be the top scorer. 

“However, he doesn’t have to be top scorer for Chelsea to win the league. They didn’t have anyone scoring goals last season but still won the Champions League! He’ll score enough goals for Chelsea to be competitive.”


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