A Sit Down with John Barnes – 12th February 2021

After a week which saw Liverpool comfortably beaten 4-1 at home to Manchester City, we spoke with BonusCodeBets ambassador, John Barnes. The former Liverpool midfielder shared his thoughts on Liverpool’s disappointing performance against Manchester City, the introduction of Liverpool’s two new centre backs and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tactical awareness.

John Barnes Exclusive: Liverpool’s performance against Manchester City was more upsetting than the result

“Just like what Jurgen Klopp said after the game, I’m not disappointed by the result, I am disappointed by the performance. The 1-4 result was not a true reflection on how the game went. Manchester City were the better team, they controlled the game more than Liverpool, but that was to be expected. Not only are they the best team in possession but also, with the injury situation with the Liverpool defenders and the form they are in, I didn’t expect us to outplay them.


If it wasn’t for the two mistakes in quick succession by Alisson Becker, the game could have been different. So, when I analyse the game, I don’t just look at the score, because you know you can play well and hit the post 10 times and not score and then the opposite, you can have one shot and you can win 1-0. The Liverpool performance was okay, could’ve been better, but the score line was disappointing.

The mistakes Alisson Becker made were two very surprising mistakes, but that’s probably two mistakes he’s made in two seasons. As much as they both happened in the same game, what he’s done in two seasons at Liverpool has been phenomenal and for me, that was a complete one off.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Roy Keane describing Liverpool as ‘Bad Champions’ was unfair given all of their injuries

“Roy Keane describing Liverpool as ‘bad champions’ after the Manchester City defeat was a completely unfair thing to say. If you look at what Liverpool have been through over the last few months, they’re missing three centre backs. Our two most influential midfield players are playing as the makeshift centre backs, so not only are we missing our best centre backs, but we’re also missing our best midfielders as well.

I’ve always said that Liverpool have 13-14 players who can compete with anyone, but something they don’t have is a deep squad. A team like Manchester City can lose five players to injury and bring in five players who are able to maintain their consistency and I never thought Liverpool could do that.”

John Barnes Exclusive: I’d expect to see the new signings start very soon so Henderson and Fabinho can go back into midfield

“I could see Ben Davies and Ozan Kabak coming into the starting team quite soon. Liverpool aren’t going to play Manchester City every week and Jordan Henderson and Fabinho have done well playing in defence, but they have been missed in the midfield, which has also affected the front three. Not only would this help the centre back situation, but we also want to see the midfielders back in their rightful positions.

I’d imagine that Jurgen Klopp didn’t want to bring them straight in against a team like Manchester City as it’s a huge game and you wouldn’t want to put then under than much pressure, but I would expect them to be in the team sooner rather than later.

John Barnes Exclusive: Liverpool need Jordan Henderson and Fabinho back in midfield for us to see the real Thiago

“If Jordan Henderson and Fabinho go back to into midfield, then you’re looking for a third player to fit in alongside them. Is it going to be Georginio Wijnaldum or will it be Thiago Alcantara? The Liverpool players need to get used to the way that Thiago plays and learn how best to get the ball quickly so he can create.

We’ve seen a lot of teams attacking our defenders by playing through midfield which normally doesn’t happen when we have our usual midfielders playing because they’re so good defensively. Liverpool are comfortable going forward because of the three hard-working midfielders who can supplement for the attacking fullbacks, but that’s not Thiago’s game.”

John Barnes Exclusive: What Jurgen Klopp is saying to the media race about the title, is not what he will be saying to his players

“It doesn’t matter what Jurgen Klopp is saying to the press as I’m sure that he will be inspiring his team to win football matches. Klopp saying the Premier League trophy is gone, isn’t referring to Liverpool not winning matches, it means he doesn’t think Manchester City will falter. I’m sure that even if he feels that Liverpool will win every single match between now and the end of the season, he feels that they still won’t win the league. This isn’t Jurgen Klopp throwing in the towel for Liverpool and it’s not him saying that they aren’t going to be competitive in every game and plan to win, it’s him being realistic that he doesn’t feel that City will drop too many points.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Manchester United have shown many times this season they can close out matches

“A lot of people were quick to judge Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after the Everton game last week, saying how he is unable to close out matches but people forget how many times this season Manchester United have done exactly that. They’ve comeback from losing positions quite often this season. They’ve won matches by the odd goal in a few games, so the Everton game was one of those games whereby, for whatever reason, Everton came back and drew the game in the final seconds of the match, which wasn’t necessarily a fault of Manchester United.

United have a way of playing with the players they have, they play in an attacking style, and they continue to do that no matter what position the game is in, which Liverpool and Manchester City do in many respects.”

John Barnes Exclusive: Arsenal are over reliant on their young players

“There could be an overreliance on the young players at Arsenal which may be the reason for their recent drop in form. With youth comes inexperience which is what you need in the Premier League. What we can’t do is overemphasise how great these young players are. When Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe came into the team, they came in and did well, and fans now have the expectation that they are going to continue doing that on a weekly basis, but that doesn’t happen. You need to have experience in the team and it’s too much to ask for so many young players to come into a team and maintain their consistency.

If Mikel Arteta could take one or two of the younger players out of the firing line to save them for the future, and not make them lose so much confidence by either being inconsistent or not playing well every week, that could be a good thing for Arsenal in the long term.”

John Barnes Exclusive: William Saliba’s comments about Mikel Arteta were ridiculous – a player should never badmouth their manager publicly

“It is never a good thing for a player to come out in the media and start badmouthing the manager, regardless of the situation. I don’t know William Saliba’s point of view, but from a managerial point of view, you don’t judge players just by games. A manager will see what they are doing Monday to Friday whilst in training and judge mostly from that. If a player isn’t playing well in matches but is performing well in training every day, then a manager is still likely to play him in matches, unless after a period of time he still isn’t playing well in games.

It’s quite unfair for William Saliba to be upset about Mikel Arteta from only playing two and a half games for Arsenal. From my point of view, from working with managers in the past, he [Mikel Arteta] won’t just pick players on their performances in games, he’d look at how they perform in training, how they respond to a dip in form and the character of his players, which I feel is probably the case in this situation.”

John Barnes Exclusive: James Maddison should start as the number 10 for England this summer

“If you’re looking at the number 10 position for England in the Euros this summer, for me, it would be James Maddison ahead of Phil Foden and Jack Grealish. With the likes of Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford out on the wing and Harry Kane down the middle, there is only room for one more and that is James Maddison.

Phil Foden has put in some brilliant performances at Manchester City because he is in a great side and that suits him perfectly which is similar for Jack Grealish, but England don’t play like Manchester City and Aston Villa, so even though I am sure they would both do well, Maddison would start ahead of them.

Phil Foden is a great player, but if you listen to what Pep Guardiola said after a game recently, he talked about his lack of appreciation for the position he is playing him in and to improve on his understanding of when and where to run. As fans, we only see highlights from games where he is assisting and scoring goals, but what Pep sees is his performance and how he is affecting the game over the full 90 minutes and he mentioned how he feels that Foden drops too deep and plays in the wrong position, but we don’t see that, we see him scoring a goal. This is where you have to give coaches the benefit of the doubt whether they’re playing players in position, or who to pick, or who to play or who’s playing what position.

For me, James Maddison is probably ahead of both of them for the England starting team, but I have no doubt that all three of them will be in the England squad regardless.”

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