‘A Sit Down with John Barnes’ – 8th December 2021

Ahead of the next set of Premier League fixtures this weekend, we caught up with BonusCodeBets ambassador, John Barnes. The former Liverpool midfielder shared his thoughts on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s lack of leadership qualities, every squad needing a player like Divock Origi and Fred finally getting the credit he deserves.

John Barnes Exclusive: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang isn’t a leader and not showing captain qualities


“Arsenal should look to replace both Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. 

“A move for Alexandre Lacazette from Arsenal has been rumoured for a while, so it’s likely he’ll be moving on. Aubameyang is also on a huge contract and whether he’ll receive that money elsewhere, nobody knows.

“Things aren’t exactly smooth sailing for Aubameyang at Arsenal. He didn’t start against Everton, and even Eddie Nketiah came on ahead of him.

“Aubameyang is an issue. When you have a young team, you want your senior players to be leaders and Aubameyang, as captain, isn’t displaying those qualities.”

John Barnes Exclusive: It’s the beginning of the end for Aubameyang at Arsenal

“This is the beginning of the end for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Arsenal career, because he’s their club captain, yet Mikel Arteta opted to bring on Eddie Nketiah against Everton instead. 

“The problem is, we’re not privy to conversations that happen Monday to Friday. That’s when the manager assesses his squad, the mood of the camp and will look for the players who have those leadership qualities. 

“Football fans only see the team on a Saturday, but the manager knows best and that’s a telling sign regarding the Aubameyang situation. 

“It’s never clear cut when our favourite players aren’t playing, and that is why I have full trust in the managers when they make big decisions like leaving star players out. Fans will question it but there’s always more than what meets the eye.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Arsenal are naïve, but they’ll be just fine under Mikel Arteta’s stewardship

“Arsenal are a naïve team. Against Liverpool, they were playing really well, even at one-nil down. But as soon as they conceded a second, their heads dropped. They don’t have the resilience to see games out when they’re not playing well. 

“Arsenal need to play well to win matches. When they come under pressure, they buckle because they don’t have that resilience at this moment in time. 

“That comes with time though. Liverpool were like that when Jürgen Klopp first arrived. Mikel Arteta is a good manager, the players and fans like him and they have a good young squad. 

“Given time, he will develop that steel-like mentality to get the job done when they’re not playing well. It’s a work in progress.

“It’s a transitional period for Arsenal. That means they can’t change the manager or what they are doing. They must stick with what they have. Liverpool did that with Klopp and look how strong they are now. I don’t fear for Arsenal’s future if they keep doing what they’re doing, because with the players and the manager that they have, they’ll be fine.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Nicholas Pépé isn’t a flop, and he cannot control his transfer fees

“I don’t look at any transfer as a flop. Clubs spend a lot of money on transfers, but that’s never a player’s fault. I do not look to transfer fees; I look at a player’s quality.

“It is not Nicholas Pépé’s fault that Arsenal spent a fortune on him, and then fail to play to his strengths. Footballers must find the type of football that suits them, and he’s still an excellent player. Just because the Arsenal way doesn’t suit him, doesn’t make him poor.

“I say this about Mohamed Salah all the time. Liverpool is the perfect club for him, and he won’t do what he does for Liverpool anywhere else – as Eden Hazard found out when he left Chelsea for Real Madrid. 

“Pépé’s not a flop, it just hasn’t quite worked out [at Arsenal].”

John Barnes Exclusive: Manchester United need different players to play to Rangnick’s style 

“The win over Crystal Palace is not going to be the turning point for Manchester United, it was just one win. Cristiano Ronaldo is not going to run around like that every game. It was Ralf Rangnick’s first game in charge, so the players wanted to make a point, impress him and run around a lot. But with the players United have, that is not in their nature. Rangnick’s appointment has not suddenly changed these players into hard-working runners. They still need other players if they want to play that way.

“Secondly, Ralf Rangnick is going to be there until the end of the season so we cannot now put Manchester United in the same bracket as Liverpool, Man City or Chelsea just because they play differently. It was a good performance, but I cannot see them keeping it up moving forward, especially with the players they have. Rashford, Fernandes, and Ronaldo don’t do this every week, it is not their game. They did against Crystal Palace, but only time will tell if it continues.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Fred is finally proving his worth with the change in tactics

“I feel sorry for Fred. Running and pressing is his game but he can’t do it by himself. The fact that other players were pressing with him meant that he was able to prove his worth. He [Fred] did not do anything differently, he always presses but if he does it alone, it means he gets isolated alongside Scott McTominay, and that is what was happening. Those two were getting isolated, which is why Manchester United have been conceding goals and losing matches. Now that everyone else was doing it, we can see the value that Fred actually brings.

“I’ve always liked Fred and he has not been the problem at Man United, it’s been the other four strikers that have been playing, whatever combination of Ronaldo, Rashford, Fernandes and Greenwood. It is the strikers working with Fred and McTominay that need to supplement them with attacking pressure.

It doesn’t matter who you are, even Jordan Henderson and Fabinho, you cannot do what you do if the front three are not working hard to press and close down. That is why Liverpool are a much more balanced team. I have never had an issue with Fred and McTominay nor the defence because they need everyone in the team to be working hard and that is what they did against Crystal Palace.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Manchester United look better defensively because of the team’s work ethic

“Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles have looked better because the players ahead of them are helping out and working harder for the team. Their defence has never been weak. Wan-Bissaka is a great defender, but they can’t just have four defenders defending alongside two midfielders while the rest of the team don’t work hard.

“Dalot is a bit better on the ball, but Wan-Bissaka is the better defender and that’s why he’s been playing recently. Luke Shaw is one of the best left-backs in the league and he’ll come back into the team in the long term. Whether it’s Dalot or Wan-Bissaka, the full backs, or centre backs have never been the issue at Manchester United.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Every squad needs someone like Divock Origi 

“Divock Origi is never going to nail down a regular spot in the Liverpool team, because he won’t play ahead of Jota, Mané, Firmino or Salah, but that’s not what he needs to do. He is part of a squad not fighting for regular spot, but if he’s happy fighting to come off the bench then so be it. He’s not under-appreciated because the fans appreciate him, and his teammates appreciate him as well. Realistically though, he’s not going to get in ahead of the regular front four.

“If he [Origi] is happy to do that job, that’s an advantage for Liverpool. All squads need a player like Origi. You can’t succeed with only 11 players. If you have the best 14 players but then a couple get injured, and you do not have any other quality players to come in, there is no consistency with performance. 

“There are some players who want to play regularly and would rather go to a lesser club and play every week. Whereas some are happy to stay at a big club and not play every week and if they are happy to do that and they have the right attitude and commitment then that’s great news for the club. 

“Some modern footballers are quite happy to be part of a squad challenging for trophies but still maintaining a good attitude and players at Liverpool are like that.”

John Barnes Exclusive: It is going to be tight for Newcastle at the bottom, but they have a chance!

“Newcastle can stay up. If you look how tight it is at the bottom, they have a chance. Especially after their first win and the euphoria that this will provide. But there’s no denying it will be hard for them to do so. 

“They are in a relegation fight, and that hasn’t changed just because they have a new manager or owner. It’s not like they have better players either. They are the same team Steve Bruce had. They were lacking confidence, but the win will have helped that. If they can make a few helpful signings in January, this will help them too.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Rangers can definitely go through against Lyon, anything can happen in football

“Rangers face an incredibly difficult Europa League tie against Lyon, but in football anything can happen. They have to concentrate mostly on the league and keeping Celtic behind them. But Rangers have to be winning games. They can certainly win this tie. 

“Unless Rangers say they are focusing on the Europa League and are going to give everything to win it, the league should be more important to them. There are some strong teams in the competition. It will be very difficult to win. 

“Similarly, Celtic should be focusing on the league, particularly to finish above of Rangers. It is always nice to go on good European runs. But, in terms of where their clubs are right now, they need to keep focused on the league. Winning the Europa League and finishing second in the Scottish Premier League isn’t what Celtic fans will want, if it was the Champions League, then maybe it would be okay.”


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