After another drama-filled week of Premier League football which has seen Manchester United crash out of the Champions League, and Paul Pogba signal his intentions to leave the Red Devils, we caught up with BonusCodeBets ambassador, John Barnes. The former Liverpool midfielder also shared his thoughts on the speculation for Erling Haaland being linked with Liverpool, Wijnaldum’s contract discussions and Neil Lennon’s vote of confidence from the Celtic board.
John Barnes Exclusive: Dybala is not what Liverpool need at all
“With Liverpool recently bringing in Diogo Jota it wouldn’t make any sense for Liverpool to try and bring a player in like Paulo Dybala, especially considering that Jota is playing so well. We talk about the front three and Jota, which is enough players in attacking options already. If you then look further back into the midfield three, he wouldn’t really fit there either. I can’t see a move for him (Paolo Dybala) happening at all. He’s not what Liverpool need right now; they are fine in that area of the pitch.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Wijnaldum has been one of our best players this season, it would be a shame to see him leave the club
“It would be a real shame if Georginio Wijnaldum was to leave the club next summer. He’s been fantastic during his time at Liverpool. In fact, he’s been one of the best players this season, but contracts can get tricky and are tough to come to the right agreement. It’s obvious that he wants more money so will want to find a club who is willing to pay him what he wants. If he was to leave Liverpool, it would be a shame as I would love him to stay, but it’s not as simple as Liverpool don’t want to keep him because they do. Money talks, and at his age, renewing a contract can get so complicated. We’ll have to see what happens for him and whether an agreement can be made.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Caoimhin Kelleher has a great future in the game, very impressive with his feet too
“Caoimhin Kelleher did brilliantly in both of his starts against Ajax and Wolves. It is good to see that Jurgen Klopp has another option in goal if/when Alisson was to get injured. Regarding Kelleher being a permanent number two ahead of Adrian, he’s definitely better with the ball at his feet but I do still believe that Adrian is a better shot stopper. However, Kelleher has a great future in the game.
Obviously at this moment in time, no one will be able to replace Alisson Becker as the number one goalkeeper, but if he keeps performing well when he gets the chance, then there is no reason as to why he couldn’t take over that number one spot in the long term.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Erling Haaland would be a perfect fit for Liverpool
“Erling Haaland would be a great fit at Liverpool if he was to join the club. He’s strong, aggressive, very good technically as well as being direct in the way he plays, I’ve not doubt he would be the perfect addition to the way that Liverpool play. His quality is there without question, and for someone of his age to score as many goals as he has done has been so impressive. Dortmund are a team that score a lot of goals similarly to Liverpool, so it is a natural fit for him to make this kind of step up.
However, if you look at the way Arsenal or Manchester City play their football, you wouldn’t think he would fit, but Liverpool would be great for him.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Paul Pogba running his mouth is not good news for United, but they don’t want unhappy players at the club
“It’s not a good sign when people who know him [Pogba] – or his agent – are talking about him being happy. It’s normally the other way around – they just normally say, ‘No, he is happy,’ even if he’s not, so that really is a tell-tale sign.
“It [Mino Raiola’s comments] could be a good thing as much as you don’t want an unhappy player playing for you. If he doesn’t want to play himself and he’s unhappy, and an agent says that the best thing for them to do is to part ways because that’s not to a resolvable situation. But of course, Manchester United are then going to want a transfer fee that they feel he’s worth.”
“It’s not ideal [the way agents work in the modern game]. You want good news around the club, you want harmony, you want the fans and everyone pushing in the same direction. And it turns out that the player’s agent is saying that he’s not happy. Because in the past, even though we assume that Pogba wasn’t happy at Manchester United, and fans were speculating, as long as he and his agent said that he was happy, the fans would be together, and they would be behind you. If Paul Pogba isn’t committed to Manchester United, then they are better off selling him and finding someone else who can fulfill his role. Pogba is a great player, but you want the harmony right within the team otherwise a negative influence can be damaging to the rest of the squad.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Arsenal’s players need to step up, they are good enough to turn it around
“Since Arsène Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson left Arsenal and Manchester United, people have always said that it’s been the managers who aren’t good enough. The Arsenal players have shown that they are good enough by winning the FA Cup last season and beating some of the best teams in England, so they need to take some responsibility as to why things aren’t going so well this season. Mikel Arteta is still a relatively new manager at Arsenal, and I hope he gets given the time to assert his dominance and control at Arsenal, but it’s the players really need to step up.
Someone like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for example, has since signing a new contract been really struggling. It doesn’t make him a bad player, because we know he isn’t, but something is clearly wrong with him and it can’t be as simple as saying they are not happy with the manager’s tactics. It comes to a point when the players need to hold their hands up and take responsibility as to why the team isn’t performing well. Arsenal can turn their season around, but they need to show it with performances on the pitch in their upcoming games.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Arsenal struggling to create chances isn’t a cause for concern
“It’s hard to evaluate teams at this point in the season given the current situation with their being so many matches in a short space of time. Arsenal struggling to create chances isn’t a cause for concern because they are just going through a tough phase. They could go on a winning run and turn a corner in January and people will forget their losing streak in November and December. If after half a season they are still struggling to score goals and create chances, then it becomes a worry for the manager, the club and the fans.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Spurs have the capabilities to challenge for the title this season
“Tottenham do have the capabilities to challenge for the Premier League title this season. They might lose a few games between now and the end of the season, but they do have the squad to challenge. Liverpool will still be massive favourites to retain the trophy and I would still put Manchester City more in mind to win over Tottenham, but they are playing with a lot of confidence and belief. It is clear to see that the team have bought into what José Mourinho is trying to do which is being shown by the good harmony they have.
What happened at Liverpool and Manchester City was the players bought into what Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola wanted to achieve and that is why they have become successful clubs, which is what Mourinho will be looking to achieve at Spurs.
I do think having no fans in the stadiums has helped Tottenham because the fans would not want to be seeing 30% possession and a lack of attacking ambition, but that is how Mourinho wants them to play and it is working for them right now.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Celtic backing Neil Lennon was the right thing for them to do
“Celtic backing Neil Lennon was the right thing for them to do. With the club backing the manager, the fans need to realise that there is no point in being angry or miserable that he is still at the club because he isn’t going anywhere any time soon. It was a good thing that the club openly backed him because if they stayed quiet, then the fans would still be complaining, whereas now, there is no point complaining as the club have publicly said that they are happy with him being the manager.’
John Barnes Exclusive: People saying that they don’t want the Celtic manager job is ridiculous
“People saying that they don’t want the Celtic manager job is ridiculous. The club has won the Scottish Premiership title nine years in a row, Rangers aren’t necessarily better than them, they are just going through a better phase this season. The club won the league title last season so we know they have good players so obviously the club is in a good place, but what’s now happening is there are a few minor things that aren’t going well for Celtic, but we are still early in the season and if you think about it, they have a better squad than Rangers so they will improve. It’s just a question if putting some results together and performing better. I’ve no doubt that they’ll be hot on Rangers’ tails come the closing of the season.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Fraser Forster is not essential to Celtic success
“In my opinion, there isn’t an issue with the goalkeepers at Celtic. They are conceding goals and not playing well and that is not down to the goalkeeper making mistakes. Bringing in a better goalkeeper isn’t necessarily going to stop them winning matches, it needs to be a team effort and they need to work harder as a team and bring back the harmony within the squad.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Neil Lennon’s time at Celtic boils down to results
“It’s hard to say how long Celtic will allow Neil Lennon to continue as manager as it all comes down to the results. If they win all of their games in the lead up to the next Old Firm match in January, then everyone will be a bit happier, but if they lose two or three games within that time, then that might change.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Celtic can still win the title, but they’re no longer favourites
“If Celtic win their two games in hand, then the gap becomes smaller to seven points which puts the pressure back on Rangers. Both clubs still need to play each other a few more times which might go in the favour of Celtic, then the gap becomes smaller. Rangers are currently favourites and I wouldn’t expect them to lose it from here, but you never know in football, it’s a strange game.”
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