‘A Sit Down with John Barnes’ – 11th November 2021

With the final international break of 2021 upon us, we caught up with BonusCodeBets ambassador, John Barnes. The former Liverpool and England midfielder shared his thoughts on Manchester United lack of team cohesion, the impact of Roberto Firmino’s injury on the team and Arsenal’s recent turn of form

John Barnes Exclusive: Manchester United don’t defend as a team

“Nothing is going wrong at the back for Manchester United. They just don’t defend as a complete team. 

“If Liverpool left their back four to defend, and no one else in the team tried to get back and help, then Liverpool would concede goals. 

“Manchester United don’t play as a team, defend as a team, and it’s so blatantly obvious. When they go forward, they play incredibly well, and they have top-class individuals that can win them matches. But unless you defend will all 11 players, giving 100% effort when they are out of possession, which they don’t, they will continue to ship goals and be inconsistent. 

 “They may continue to score and play attacking football, but they’ll still concede. Unless they resolve that situation, they’ll always be inconsistent, because they’ll rely on individuals to score the goals.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Manchester United are simply not good enough when they don’t have possession

“People need to look at Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes, Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford, who aren’t defensive players. Manchester United want to play those three with Paul Pogba as an attacking midfielder as well.


“Liverpool have three excellent attacking players in their front three [Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah], but look what they do off the ball. That’s what is demanded of them by Jürgen Klopp. I’m not certain what is demanded of the Manchester United front three. 

“It’s quite apparent as we’ve seen and has been highlighted on TV, that when they haven’t got possession, United don’t press enough from the front. I’m not even referring to pressing high up the pitch, but rather, chasing around their own half and trying to win the ball. 

“The back four, and the two holding midfielders have been left by themselves. These days you need all 10 outfield players to work hard off the ball.”

John Barnes Exclusive: No defensive complacency from Liverpool, despite recent results

“Liverpool conceding the three goals against West Ham wasn’t a sign of defensive complacency, or an issue with the high-line they play. The goals came from corners. Then they also scored a goal through one through ball, which can happen. 

“Liverpool have lost one game in 26. We didn’t lose against Brighton either [despite Liverpool conceding two]. 

“People are getting carried away if they think it’s a disaster because they’ve drawn and lost a game.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Not replacing Georginio Wijnaldum hasn’t been an issue

“Liverpool not signing a direct replacement for Georginio Wijnaldum hasn’t affected their strength in depth in midfield because they still have Thiago Alcântara and have other young players coming through too. 

“When Liverpool didn’t have Wijnaldum they still finished third in the league last year, so he’s not been missed that much. They’d miss Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and maybe even Roberto Firmino but with the midfielders we have, we can cope with players missing. Only Fabinho might be a problem [if he was injured] as he’s playing in a specialist position.

“Wijnaldum leaving isn’t much of an issue.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Liverpool will be fine without Roberto Firmino

“Roberto Firmino will be missed by Liverpool a lot. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t win matches, but they’d much rather have him fit, than not. When he plays, people see what he gives off the ball, he helps Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané play well because of his hard work. 

“Diogo Jota has come in and performed incredibly well, but it’s a different dynamic up top when Jota plays. He’s a different type of player to Roberto Firmino. 

“But Liverpool still also have the likes of Divock Origi who came off the bench and scored against West Ham. 

“The dynamic of the team will change in his absence, the way they play will be different, but they might also carry a bigger threat going forward too because Jota likes running beyond defenders to get in the box too. 

“Liverpool have more than enough to cope without Roberto though.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Emile Smith Rowe needs to be play more consistently to be in with a chance of going to the World Cup

“Emile Smith Rowe needs to start playing well and consistently for Arsenal before people talk about him starting in the 2022 Qatar World Cup. This will only be his first cap, and he probably won’t even start for England during the international break because of the players ahead of him. 

“You shouldn’t put pressure on young players. Everyone puts pressure on them, and then they don’t play well, aren’t in the team, and expectations are high. He could become a bit despondent. 

“It’s great for him, and that he’s doing well for Arsenal. Particularly as they struggled at the start of the season. He’s been a shining light, but nothing has changed. He isn’t suddenly a world beater, he’s a very good player making his way into the England squad.

“Let him develop slowly without too much pressure. Gareth likes young players, it’s good for him to be called up.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Arsenal have been defending more as a whole team

“Gabriel and Ben White are very important to this Arsenal side. But, what’s even more important to the team is the work that’s being done by the midfield in front of them to protect the back four. That’s been their biggest issue. 

“Arsenal have never had bad defenders, they just weren’t defending as a team. It seems that they are now working harder as a team to protect the back line. That’s what the top sides like Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea are doing.

“The two centre backs have done very well, but it’s all to do with the work being done in front of them, to support them.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Kieran Tierney needs to work hard to get back into the starting lineup

“Kieran Tierney has been out injured for a while, and now that he’s fit Arsenal won’t just throw him straight in to replace Nuno Tavares in the starting 11. 

“Only Mikel Arteta will know if he should do that, but Mikel will know at the very least that he has a capable individual that can do a great job when called upon. He’s done a great job.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Eddie Howe will bring positivity to Newcastle, but a lot still needs to change

“Everyone is aware that Eddie Howe wasn’t the first or second choice manager at Newcastle to replace Steve Bruce. People cannot pretend that he was, but, he’s a safe pair of hands. 

“He has a big job ahead of him. Just because he has now come in, it doesn’t mean things will change for Newcastle overnight. They still have their current squad, and they are still in a relegation scrap. Will they be able to spend in January? We don’t know. 

“However, at least things will be more positive in terms of fan support. Clubs want fans to get behind the manager and team, and they will appreciate his attacking style of football. Things won’t necessarily work out – but it’ll be positive moving forwards.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Philippe Coutinho would be a good signing for Newcastle

“Philippe Coutinho in the long term could be a positive move for Newcastle. He’s a great player, but when you’re in a relegation dogfight, is he the type of player they’d want? 

“People are getting carried away thinking about Newcastle signing players that will cost £100 million, when realistically they just need to stay up this season. 

“As to whether Coutinho will go on loan, it could be possible. We know what an excellent player he is, and it’d be a good signing for them. It doesn’t mean their situation [the relegation battle] will suddenly change.” 


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