‘A Sit Down with John Barnes’ – 19th January 2022

Ahead of the second leg of the Carabao Cup, we caught up with BonusCodeBets ambassador, John Barnes. The former Liverpool and England midfielder shared his thoughts on why Arsenal should sign Youri Tielemans, Everton’s managerial disaster, and John McGinn to Manchester United.

John Barnes Exclusive: The harmony was never right with Benitez’ appointment at Everton

“It wasn’t doomed to fail with Rafa’s [Benitez] appointment at Everton. They [Everton] started well, but when a side has a lot of injuries, and you start to lose matches; everyone needs to be together. It is so important for squad balance that the harmony is right. Everyone was so positive when Benitez started at Goodison.

“Events transpired and conspired to work against him [Benitez]. That is why this is an example of you need everything to be right together for a club project to work. A harmonious club and fans that support you through thick and thin makes it far more likely for a manager to succeed in his role.

“You can look at Arsenal as a classic example of this. They [Arsenal] started the season terribly, but they supported the manager with signings and encouragement and look what happened. Arsenal never turned against Mikel Arteta, if they would have done, he would have been sacked and they wouldn’t be where they are now.

“Rafa Benitez is a great manager. It’s just unfortunate for him, he was always going to need to start well and continued that for everything to be positive. Once he went through a sticky patch, this was always going to be the outcome.


John Barnes Exclusive: Duncan Ferguson will steady the ship, but Everton’s board and fans need to back the next appointment.


“It looks as though Duncan Ferguson is going to just be a stopgap for now, which is fine. They’re looking for a new manager.

“Duncan [Ferguson] will still be there until the new manager comes in. Whoever that manager may be, all the board have to do is say, ‘if you come in and lose five matches in a row, we’re still going to back you.’

“Everybody has to be supportive of the manager, even when things aren’t going particularly well, because otherwise you’ll end up stacking a manager every time he goes through a rough patch, which is not a recipe for success.”


John Barnes Exclusive: Liverpool have enough quality to get through the Arsenal game comfortably

“When Arsenal went down to ten men in the first half, I knew it was going to be a tough game. If it has stayed at eleven each, I feel like Liverpool would have won quite comfortably.

“Of course, at home Arsenal are not going to play this way again unless they go down to ten men again, I’d imagine The Reds have enough in them to beat Arsenal. Obviously, Arsenal are in the driving seat because they played away, and they’re now at home. But I still am confident that Liverpool will come through this one victorious.


John Barnes Exclusive: It’s a bigger thing for Harvey Elliott than Liverpool that he is returning to the squad 

“It’s a big boost for himself first and foremost that Harvey Elliot is returning to light training. Initially, he probably wasn’t one of the first names on the team sheet, or even the squad.

“Yes, it’s a boost to Liverpool in terms of a young player coming back into proceedings, but Harvey Elliot isn’t going to be one of these players to come in and fix a leak. He’s not going to come straight into the team, and there are so many players at Liverpool ahead of him. First and foremost, it is good news for him that he’s back.”


John Barnes Exclusive: Bruno Fernandes not signing a contract is not an issue for Manchester United

“Bruno Fernandes’ current contract is at two and a half years. Come the end of the season that is maybe more of a talking point, but I don’t think he needs to be thinking about now. 

“From his perspective [Fernandes] you can’t sign a contract you’ve been offered if you don’t know who the manager is going to be, whether you’ll be part of his plans, and what his ideas are. It’s quite straightforward.

“So really, that’s the situation they have to sort out before worrying about Bruno (Fernandes). I don’t see it as an issue at all, there is two and a half years left on his deal, they just need to sort it out in the summer.”


John Barnes Exclusive: Rangnick’s form as manager won’t affect his consultancy position at Manchester United

“Manchester United have already said that Rangnick is coming to Manchester United to be a consultant, and be steadying the ship as interim before a new manager comes in. With him going upstairs, it means he will then be a consultant for the manager who comes in. He [Rangnick] will take care of the team and the fundamentals of how Manchester United wants to play.

“It is not like his [Rangnick’s) consultancy role will be in jeopardy; he’ll be a consultant upstairs if Manchester United do not win the league or make the top four. As a team at Manchester United, his aim will be to finish in the top four, but he is there to consult after this season, not manage. Rangnick has vast experience and knowledge to do the role, so I do not think that results impact this at all. 


John Barnes Exclusive: John McGinn would be great at Manchester United, but he doesn’t need to leave Aston Villa

“If John McGinn wants to move to Manchester United, he could. If that is what he wants to do, he could make a step up. I am not sure why he would want to leave Aston Villa, they’re  a great club for him, and he can achieve whatever he wants there.

“If he wants to move on from Villa Park and sign for Manchester United, he’d definitely be a good signing for them. He is a player that gives one hundred percent, is so committed, and gets into the team easily, which is what you want if you’re a Manchester United fan. McGinn might not be the sexiest name compared to other players, but he’s such a top performer.

“If you look at Manchester United and who’s been the most consistent performer this year, Scott McTominay is that for them. Again, not a sexy performer, but in terms of what he gives you from a consistency and character perspective he is exactly that.”


John Barnes Exclusive: Lukaku will return to form at Chelsea

“Romelu Lukaku can turn it around at Chelsea and he won’t come to blows with Thomas Tuchel because Tuchel is in control. They will come to blows if Lukaku thinks he is as big as the manager and thinks he can go head-to-head and battle with the manager, much like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mikel Arteta. 

“Tuchel is in charge and Lukaku can turn it around. He’s struggled in the last couple of games but he’s still had injuries and missed a few games, but it won’t be an issue. 

“At this moment in time, Chelsea are still fighting on four fronts and Lukaku will come good again.”


John Barnes Exclusive: Arsenal should sign Youri Tielemans


“Youri Tielemans would be a great signing for Arsenal because he knows the English game. Arthur is a good player but the fact that Tielemans has proved himself in England and he knows the pace of the English game means he would suit Arsenal better.

“Tielemans has such a good intensity and drive to the way he plays. He’s also got such a good range of passing, can score from outside the box and has the mentality of a top player. One thing you also couldn’t fault him on is consistency, he’s been one of Leicester’s best performers since he arrived at the club.

“Leicester City are a selling club, regardless of what anyone says. They have ambitions to get fourth or fifth and they can fulfill those ambitions with, or without Youri Tielemans. 

“They [Leicester] understand the nature of football insofar as they have a superstar and if someone comes in for him, they will sell him because they can replace him with someone else.”


John Barnes Exclusive: Divock Origi would be a good option for Newcastle

“Divock Origi is a good player. He’s not a regular for Liverpool but when he comes on, he does well. If he goes to Newcastle, he probably won’t score 30 goals a season, and play every week but he has quality, pace and he can finish.

“Newcastle have enough good players to stay up. They have to get the harmony, the belief and the togetherness right in the squad. 

“If they can get Divock Origi, that would be a good signing for them, but he won’t be an Alan Shearer-type who scores thirty goals in a season. He can add to the squad with quality. Newcastle need to start picking up points soon though.”


John Barnes Exclusive: Adama Traore would add quality to Spurs’ squad

“Adama Traore would add to Tottenham’s team and the way they play. A right-wing back won’t come in and win you the league. Kieran Trippier didn’t go to Newcastle to win them matches, he is there because of his experience and being a tough competitor.


“If Adama Traore is going to Spurs to be a wing back, he’s not coming in to be a superstar like Harry Kane or Lucas Moura, but he has the energy to do the job. He can get up and down the pitch, he can get crosses in, and he certainly has the quality to play in that role.

“He [Traore] would be coming to help implement a style that the manager wants, similar to Victor Moses at Chelsea. He wouldn’t be going to Spurs to be a superstar footballer like a Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Heung-Min Son. They are the ones who will win the team matches. Traore is there to help them win matches without goals and assists, he can do that role.”


John Barnes Exclusive: Celtic, nor Rangers would call for postponement against any other team


“A lot of teams are looking to postpone games for many different reasons. Every week there are more postponements depending on teams’ fitness, Covid cases and whatever they want.


“The SPFL isn’t any different to the Premier League in the way that we see games being postponed for many different reasons. There isn’t a definitive guide of what can qualify for a postponement, so clubs try it depending on whatever issues they have at the time.

“The SPFL isn’t playing second fiddle to international football, nor the other way round but we know the magnitude of the Old Firm game and both clubs will want to have as strong a team as possible, particularly for that game.

“If it wasn’t an Old Firm game and they were playing against a lesser team, then maybe they wouldn’t want it to be postponed. This is politics in football.”


John Barnes Exclusive: Despite Celtic’s new signings, Rangers are still favourites for the title

“Celtic’s new signings won’t tilt the balance in their favour because Rangers are still the favourites and leading the way. But it will help Celtic get closer to Rangers and give them a chance to possibly win the league.

“They’ve strengthened the squad and the team but that doesn’t mean that they’re favourites because Rangers are still at the top.”


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