After the fourth round of Premier League fixtures and the return of the Champions League, we caught up with BonusCodeBets ambassador, John Barnes. The former Liverpool shared his thoughts on this season’s wide-open Premier League title race, why Cristiano Ronaldo won’t be able to perform at a high level every week and Paul Pogba’s lack of consistency.
John Barnes Exclusive: Nabi Keita has a long-term future at Liverpool but only if he wants to stay
“Naby Keita hasn’t played many games at Liverpool since he joined but he’s been cursed with injuries. He has a future at the club, but I don’t know whether it’s going to be long term. Players don’t think long term, they think about whether they can get into the team this season, and obviously, he might think that he’s down the pecking order but he’s at the club, and he can’t go anywhere until January.
Whether he has a long-term future at the club is up to him. He has a contract, and if he’s happy not to be playing every week, that’s his choice. It’s the same for every player, if they’re not playing, they’re unhappy so therefore they want to go to play more regularly, but we’ve seen players that stay at a club for four or five years without playing regularly so maybe Nabi Keita is one of them. But if you pick your best Liverpool team Nabi Keita wouldn’t be in it.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Harvey Elliott has great support around him and will come back stronger
“What happened to Harvey Elliott is say, but he has to try to stay positive. It’s so unfortunate, particularly as you can see that Jurgen Klopp trusted him and likes him, so he would’ve featured in a lot of games. It was a freak accident which was just unfortunate, but he’ll get the best rehabilitation.
It was a straightforward dislocation, so there shouldn’t be any complications. He’s young, he’s in the right hands and they’ll look after him at Liverpool. He just must concentrate on getting better. There’s no advice I can give him because he’s in the right hands with the right people.
He has to take it stage by stage so, rather than thinking about when going to be playing again, he has to take little steps to then say well if I put some weight on it, when can I jog, when can I do a little bit more, and go for those targets, rather than thinking it’s going to be six months before I’m playing, trying to hit little targets on progression so that’s the only advice I suppose I could give him.
It was really sad to see because you can see how much he had grown in confidence and it’s a bit of a setback, but he’s young, and I’m sure he’ll come back bigger and better and stronger.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Any one out of four clubs can win the Premier League this season
“For the last three years it has always been Manchester City and Liverpool competing for the Premier League title. Last year, because of Liverpool’s injury situation, Manchester City were clear favourites, with the other clubs fighting for the second, third and fourth spots.
Whereas now, with Manchester United doing what they’re doing, with Chelsea looking so strong, and knowing that Liverpool will be consistent now they have some of those players back, Manchester City not getting a second forward to replace Sergio Aguero, has brought the rest of the teams closer to the chasing pack. Therefore, that they’re not overwhelming favourites as they have been previously. It’s going to be nip and tuck and I can’t see anyone breaking into the top four now.”
John Barnes Exclusive: At 36, Ronaldo won’t perform consistently week in week out
“Cristiano Ronaldo is a fantastic player but who knows what long-term impact he’ll have at Manchester United? Obviously, he’s a fantastic player but at 36, he’s not going to be doing that week in, week out.
“What will happen to players like Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, if they aren’t playing because Ronaldo is there – it’s going to stifle their development.
It was a fantastic start for him at Manchester United by scoring two goals against Newcastle and once against Young Boys.
He’s regarded as one of the world’s best players, but at 36, he’s not going to have that impact week in week out, so, only time will tell, but it has strengthened Man United because they now have lots of options and strength in depth.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Paul Pogba’s biggest problem has always been consistency
“We know Paul Pogba is one of the best players in the world. He’s got all the attributes and he’s playing further forward now because they have Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay or Fred behind him but because of the nature of the team. He’s being asked to play a bit further forward with Bruno Fernandes, and if they played behind Ronaldo that’d be a fearsome attacking threesome.
From just a couple of weeks, we don’t know what we’re going to get from Pogba. We know he’s a fantastic player, one of the best in the world, but the consistency comes from him being settled there and wanting to stay at Manchester United. You can’t doubt his talent, and he’s playing a little bit more advanced than last year which is why he’s showing his quality in going forward.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Arsenal won’t finish in the top six this season
“Arsenal can finish outside the European places this season because they didn’t qualify for it last year and they haven’t started particularly well. It was a big result against Norwich City because as much as they should be beating Norwich, having lost their first three games, their confidence was low.”
Hopefully that can kick start their season because they’re a good side and they have good young players. I’d like to see Emile Smith-Rowe and Bukayo Saka be more prominent this season as you don’t want your young English players playing in a struggling side because their confidence may suffer.
Arsenal won’t break into the top four but maybe the top six. They should feel that they can finish between sixth and eighth, but it depends on their confidence over the next few weeks and the results they pick up.
John Barnes Exclusive: This Leeds side are reminiscent of Liverpool’s title-winning team and won’t suffer “second-season syndrome”
“There are no secrets to how Leeds United play, there’s nothing to work out. Teams worked out how Liverpool play, they just can’t stop them, and Leeds are the same. They lost to Manchester United and Liverpool, two of the best teams in the country, but they still created a few chances against both.
When they play the so-called lesser teams, they will beat them. I have no worries about Leeds because they play an attacking way, and that won’t change. They will create chances, score goals and win football matches. Maybe not when they play against the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City, but they’ll win enough matches to be comfortable this season.
Regardless of whether teams work out how they play, they still can’t stop them because they play with too much energy and passion and they have players with the right attitude.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Superstar’s in the Scottish Premier League are not guaranteed a top English club
“Not many players from the Scottish Premiership go to England and play for Liverpool, Manchester United or Manchester City because those clubs go for the best players in the world and those types of players aren’t playing in the Scottish Premiership.
However, I do believe that Odsonne Edouard can do very well at Crystal Palace. What we’ve seen with Virgil Van Djik is few and far between. That was something that Liverpool fell on. I don’t necessarily feel that we’ll actually see players come down from Scotland to go to Arsenal, for example.
Alfredo Morelos, for example, he’s a superstar up at Rangers but none of the big teams in England are going to be interested.
Odsonne Edouard can do very well at Crystal Palace. He’s strong, quick and he’s got a good club with a good manager, so I think he’ll do well.”
John Barnes Exclusive: The Scottish Premiership title will be a more closely fought battle this season
“Only five games have been played so far so it’s hard to say who is going to come out on top this season. I watched the Rangers vs Celtic game and Celtic were unlucky not to get anything from that game.
But what I’ve seen from Celtic is that they will push Rangers much closer this year. Rangers will still be the favourites but winning the league by 25 points, like last season, won’t happen again as Celtic will push them closer. Celtic look like a much more together squad under the new manager, and they’re pushing Rangers hard.”
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