With domestic football on hold for two weeks while the international break in session, we caught up with BonusCodeBets ambassador, John Barnes. The former England and Liverpool forward shared his thoughts on, the Premier League fixture scheduling, Willian’s slow start at Arsenal and why Tottenham will not win the Premier League.
John Barnes Exclusive: The scheduling is unfortunate for the player, but it’s unavoidable and shouldn’t be criticised
This is an unusual season, taking into account COVID and the fact that the previous season was cut short, this season started a lot later. Injuries to players and packed schedules was always going to be on the cards, it’s not a perfect scenario and clubs are looking for as much as rest time as possible as a solution. However, Coronavirus has meant that lots of games need to be played in a short space of time, with not that much rest in between.
To look over previous seasons and say this ‘it has always been this way, and we must try and follow that’ is not the case, you have to make do with what you can. As to whether five substitutions is the answer, it may stop players getting unnecessarily injured, and maybe helping the game as with more substitutions being made from a tactical viewpoint. It is one of those unfortunate situations and it is unavoidable. The scheduling of games should not be criticised too much because we could easily stop games for another four or five months just like back in March, and then everyone will want football back soon enough.
John Barnes Exclusive: Liverpool could concede less goals without Alexander-Arnold
One player getting injured, Trent Alexander-Arnold in this case, can’t have that sort of impact on the team where it completely stops their way of playing, it is disrespectful to the other 10 players on the pitch who are fighting for the shirt. Trent (Alexander Arnold) being injured is not something that Liverpool cannot overcome because new additions can come in and the tactics get slightly tweaked.
The replacement for Trent (Alexander-Arnold) might be more defensively sound and therefore Liverpool could concede less goals. When one player is missing, it is not a devastating and negative loss like some people are led to think. Depending on the game, we (Liverpool) can have James Milner there, who has so much experience in the big games. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the young boy Nico Williams plays more often than, he’s a terrific talent.
John Barnes Exclusive: Melwood holds good memories but Anfield has always meant a lot more to me
Melwood has certainly changed over the years, when I was there you couldn’t even have a hot cup of tea or a decent shower. When you look at it now with the amazing facilities and state of the art pitches, it looks completely different. It is similar in terms of the area surrounding it, that hasn’t changed but you move on.
Going to a fantastic training facility in Kirkby is great for the club, I would have loved to have trained at Kirkby back when I was playing, as the facilities are so much better that anything I would have been used to. Anfield is the real home of Liverpool, not the training ground. As much as everyone speaks about Melwood and the memories there, leaving Anfield to go somewhere else would have much more significance to me. Melwood was a great training ground that everyone was comfortable with but that’s the end of it now. Anfield as a stadium that meant a lot more.
John Barnes Exclusive: Liverpool’s front four won’t start together every game
From an attacking point of view and being a Liverpool fan. It is pleasing to see all four attacking players on the field at the same time. Depending on the opposition that Liverpool face, perhaps we (Liverpool) will need to play three hardworking midfielders in the middle of the park allowing the front four to go all-out attack and cause problems.
It depends on the nature of the game and the quality of the opposition. It was great to see that Jurgen Klopp felt comfortable enough to be playing the four attacking players, but he also had trust in them to be good enough without the ball. You saw that with Firmino against Manchester City, he was defending from the front.
If they have the right work ethic and know how to defend as a unit, Jurgen is more than happy to play offensive football. In certain games, one of the attacking four won’t play. Mane, Firmino, Jota and Salah cannot all be expected to play every game. It is a question of the balance of the team, a striker can be added into the mix and Liverpool can play with five strikers, but the balance of the team is the most important thing.
John Barnes Exclusive: Arsenal need to find consistency and an identity of how they are going to play
Arsenal have to get the balance right, they (Arsenal) used to be a creative side conceding too many goals and weak in the midfield area. With Thomas Partey coming in, he is not the most creative player, but defensively he brings something new to Arsenal.
In the forward positions, with Aubameyang, Lacazette and Willian, they are trying to find the right formula. They had a great result against Manchester United away from home which not a lot of people expected, so it’s not as if they haven’t played well.
Arsenal need to find consistency and an identity of how they are going to play, which they haven’t yet found. The three-nil loss to Aston Villa was a strange result, but that is also to be expected in these uncertain times, if the sixty thousand Arsenal fans were roaring on their team at the Emirates, it may have been a very different result. You cannot read too much into results currently and we’re going to see some more strange ones along the way. Just like the shocking 7-2 defeat for Liverpool. Now is not a time to worry for Arsenal fans, they’ll be fine this season.
John Barnes Exclusive: It is up to Arsenal to get the most out of Willian, when the team is consistent, he plays well
Willian’s contract situation has nothing to do with his slow start. As a player, Willian has always had a really good attitude, he works hard and gives 100% for the team. A three-year contract for Mesut Ozil was a much bigger mistake given his lack of involvement within the team, and this season. Willian has come to an inconsistent team, it’s not the player himself that is at fault but the team he is in. If Willian went to a consistent team that was performing well every week, he would be a fantastic player and a great addition to the squad. It is on Arsenal and Mikel Arteta to try and get the most out of him.
Looking at his age now, Liverpool probably wouldn’t want him, but a few years ago he would have been a perfect fit and exactly what Liverpool needed. Once Arsenal start to perform so will he (Willian) and the whole club will be in a much better place. Willian was never going to be the main man at Arsenal, he needs to come to a team that is playing well and then he will add to that.
John Barnes Exclusive: Thiago Silva and Mendy have given confidence to Chelsea
Both Thiago Silva and Mendy (Edouard) have given the Chelsea team confidence. Regardless of their ability, they have come in and settled everyone’s nerves. Similar to when Virgil van Dijk and Allison came to Liverpool a few seasons ago. They are great players, but everyone became more confident because of their presence and given the whole squad a sense of security and they are showing what they can do.
Thiago (Silva) has that same presence at the back for Chelsea and you can see what it has done for the other defenders alongside him. Saying that they have still given opportunities for teams to score, the likes of Burnley, so they haven’t necessarily turned a corner and won’t be winning every game. They are certainly moving in the right direction and made a lot of improvements.
John Barnes Exclusive: Tottenham won’t challenge for the title, they’re always one game away from a disaster
Tottenham are doing well, but Manchester City and Liverpool are still the favourites for the title. They (Tottenham) grinded out a victory against West Brom, a game they could have easily lost, but Tottenham aren’t a team who can continue to do that. They don’t play with enough consistency, score enough goals, so they are over and above their own expectations at the moment sitting in second position, they are title challengers in the sense they will be in the top four, but they won’t finish in the top two.
Spurs are always a game away from a disaster or a fan meltdown, and the fans and players will turn on Jose Mourinho as soon as things aren’t going so well. They lack the harmony and togetherness that other teams have, the players still don’t look happy to be there, so if Tottenham drop a few points that can easily snowball into something much bigger. It is a mentality thing as much as anything else. They will challenge for the third and fourth position at best, but they currently have good momentum that they need to take forward.
John Barnes Exclusive: Manchester United need to finally back Ole and get rid of the constant negativity
Manchester United have great players and when they need to perform, they do so but that is where the inconsistency stems from. They (Manchester United) need to stick with Ole (Gunnar Solskjaer) no matter what, whether they finish in the top four or fifteenth. The team needs to step up and show what they are made of, he has made that happen in some games. The negativity around the club every time a new story comes out about the manager doesn’t help, they need to put a run together where they are winning consistently. Just like Tottenham they should finish in the third, fourth or fifth position because they lack that winning mentality. They won’t put a decent run together where they will mount any sort of challenge to either Liverpool or Manchester City.
John Barnes Exclusive: Rangers have a great chance of winning the league this season
It has taken a long time for Rangers to get back to where they want to, but they are finally looking like potential contenders. The fans have an expectation that makes it harder for the club as well as Celtic winning the league in nine consecutive seasons, but they look like they’re as close as ever this season.
It will be harder for Celtic, as Rangers are playing with a lot of harmony and belief. Celtic on the other hand are going through a tough period and have lost their confidence as well as the constant uncertainty around Neil Lennon’s position as manager. All it takes is for everyone to not be on the same page for Celtic to drop points. At this moment in time, Rangers aren’t overwhelming favourites by any stretch, but they are playing well and have a great chance of winning the league. Celtic will win a few of the domestic trophies, but this could well be the first season in nine years that they don’t win the title.
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