Ahead of the return of Premier League football this weekend, we caught up with BonusCodeBets ambassador, John Barnes. The former Liverpool and England midfielder shared his thoughts on Harry Kane being the best ever England striker, Steven Gerrard’s appointment at Aston Villa and Arsenal’s current form.
John Barnes Exclusive: No other manager could do a better job than Gareth Southgate
“No one else can do a better job than what Gareth Southgate has done. That’s not to say that he can win the World Cup but he’s maximising England’s potential in terms of beating who they should beat and playing in a consistent manner.
“In fact, they’re the most consistent team in the world. We saw Italy draw with Northern Ireland and they’re the European champions. We’re not the best team in the world, but we maximise our potential, which is all you can ask any manager to do. There isn’t a manager who could do a better job than Gareth Southgate.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Harry Kane will go down as England’s best ever striker
“If you’re a top scorer for your country, you will go down as one of the best strikers in history for that country. The games are easier now, but that is not Harry Kane’s fault. He has to play against whoever he plays against.
“Kane will go down as England’s best ever striker. He’s done fantastically for England and as long as he keeps doing what he’s doing, we’ll be happy.
“It’s not important for people to think that he’s the best striker, the second-best striker or even third best if he’s still scoring goals and winning matches.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Conor Gallagher is playing well but there’s no guarantee he’ll play for Chelsea next season
“Connor Gallagher is playing well but it’s for Crystal Palace, so let’s not get carried away and think that he’s going to start for England every game and return to Chelsea play in the first team.
“He’s doing well at the moment and that’s all you can hope for. We don’t want to put pressure on him to say that he must go back to Chelsea and start and if then say if he doesn’t, then he’s failed.
“Chelsea might be looking for different things, and they have young English players in Mason Mount and Ruben Loftus-Cheek but Gallagher is doing fantastically well. He’s doing really well but to say he’ll go and play in Chelsea’s midfield now, might be a bit much.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Harry Maguire has every right to celebrate in the way he did
“Harry Maguire is well within his rights to celebrate when he scores. Why should he get sick? He’s not there to score goals, he’s there to stop them so if he wants to celebrate, he can. Maguire has been receiving stick, so he has every right to celebrate like that [putting his fingers in his ears].”
John Barnes Exclusive: If Arsenal play an open game, that will suit Liverpool
“Arsenal are playing well and playing with confidence. Liverpool need a better defensive display than what they showed against West Ham, not in terms of the back four, but in terms of when they lose the ball or get counter attacked.
“That’s what Jurgen Klopp will be looking for. West Ham play a different way to Arsenal, and if Arsenal want to play a very open and expansive game and attack Liverpool, they will come a cropper because you can’t do that against Liverpool. West Ham didn’t do that, they defended in numbers and looked to catch them on the break, but Arsenal don’t have the personnel to do that. They’ll have to play quite an open game which will suit Liverpool but it’s football and anything can happen but I do expect a big reaction from Liverpool.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Steven Gerrard will be looking to cement a top 10 spot for Aston Villa
“With the appointment of Steven Gerrard, Aston Villa will be looking to solidify their place in the top 10 which is where they’ve been for the last couple of years. Things weren’t all doom and gloom at Villa under Dean Smith. They’ve got good players, and they can turn it around.
“They made a decision and Gerrard is going into a very good club with good players but it’s going to be much more difficult because up in Scotland, with Rangers, he won pretty much every game apart from one or two. At Aston Villa, he’s not really expected to win every game, in fact he won’t win every game.
“It depends on how they [Gerrard and his staff] handle adversity and defeat because they didn’t experience that up in Scotland.
“I’m sure they [Aston Villa] will give him time, support and the expectations won’t be that high in terms of finishing, between fourth and eighth necessarily. As time goes on, they will obviously look to push on, but this year, they’ll look to consolidate their position and then spend a bit of money in the summer.
“They’ve been relying on Jack Grealish for the last two years so when you lose him, any manager would have struggled because the team had become so used to Grealish being the main player. Now that Grealish’s not there, it’s going to take time for the manager to come up with a new way of playing which will then suit the team. They will have to play as a team, rather than be a team that relies on one player.
“This is a transitional period and that is why Dean Smith lost his job, because they haven’t been able to do that successfully.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Emile Smith-Rowe needs to play at this level for a few more years before we judge his consistency
“Emile Smith-Rowe hasn’t got any consistency because he’s only been there for a year. If he keeps playing at this level for the next, three, four or five years, then we can talk about maintaining consistency.
“Too often we’ve seen young players come in, do well for six months and put so much pressure on them expecting them to do it all the time. Instead, we should be letting them show this for over a prolonged period of time before we start putting pressure on them. He needs to keep improving, keep working hard and not put any pressure on him. Senior players are the ones who should take the pressure and just allow him to develop slowly without either praising him too much or coming down too hard on him if he doesn’t perform which is what tends to happen these days.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Arsenal must continue their current form and not get carried away with recent results
“There is always something for Arsenal fans to buy into but when you don’t get results, they start questioning the process. If they lose the next couple of games, the question marks will return. They need to remain focused, keep their eye on the ball and not get carried away with their successes or defeats.
“And if you have to leave knowing that you’re moving in the right direction and allowing the team to develop. Look at Nuno, who’s no longer at Spurs but in the first four or five games, the shoe was on the other foot.
“We’re too quick to judge positively and negatively in football these days. Mikel Arteta is doing a great job, the fans are supporting him, and the players too. But they have to keep going because it can easily turn in three or four games.”
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