Ahead of a weekend which sees Liverpool play lowly Sheffield United in a must-win clash, we spoke with BonusCodeBets ambassador, John Barnes. The former Liverpool midfielder shared his thoughts on Jurgen Klopp facing uncomfortable questions, Hector Bellerin being not good enough for PSG and Scott Brown’s future at Celtic.
John Barnes Exclusive: Jurgen Klopp should expect to face uncomfortable questions during this tricky period for Liverpool
“Jurgen Klopp should expect to face uncomfortable questions during this tricky period for Liverpool, regardless of his success in the last two seasons. People think there’s a reason why things have happened this way and they will feel that it’s down to second season syndrome with Liverpool winning the league and the squad has falling into complacency, but it’s none of that. Liverpool are missing four players, two centre backs which results in their two most influential midfield players having to play in defence and therefore results in different types of players playing in midfield which affects the front four and the fullbacks, so it comes down the personnel not being available for Liverpool. This completely changes the way they play with the high press and passing fluidity, having a really negative affect on the team.
Manchester City have enough players in their squad that when they lose three or four players to injuries, as they have done at points this season, they can still play well. And, they have a lot of players who suit the style of play that City plays, so when new players come into the team, it fits perfectly. Whereas Liverpool have lost a few players to injury and have players who have come in and aren’t the same personnel, which affects the team.”
If Jurgen Klopp gets his players back from injury and they are still playing in this poor form, then questions will continue to be asked, but what is currently going on has nothing to do with the manager. Liverpool must finish in the top four and compete in the Champions League, but I am not writing off this season. Liverpool still have matches to play and to finish in the top four and win the Champions League, they need to be winning matches. Liverpool aren’t going to win the Premier League this season and Jurgen Klopp’s position as manager is not under any pressure.”
John Barnes Exclusive: With Liverpool’s injury-hit squad, finishing fourth wouldn’t be a failure
“It’s hard to establish what is seen as a failure this season and what isn’t for Liverpool. I look at the current squad, with the quality of the team and what they can achieve, and if the team finishes fourth and doesn’t win anything, then that isn’t a failure. If the squad was at full strength and didn’t win anything and finished fourth, then that would be a failure. I’m not judging this team based on where they finish because this team has been decimated with injuries and the horrendous condition the team finds themselves in.
I’ve always said that Liverpool’s front three depends on how the rest of the team plays for them to score goals. If you look at Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, they aren’t a Harry Kane or a Robert Lewandowski by being clinical in front of goal, they need lots of chances to score because they aren’t typical number nines, who are finishers, but they get lots of goals because the way Liverpool play in their attacking nature and create lots of chances, but they’ve also missed a lot of goals.
If you look at their conversation rate, they don’t score one goal in two chances like Harry Kane, but because Liverpool play in a way that suits the front three to create lots of chances, they score lots of goals. Liverpool have such a comprehensive way of playing that if you have a few players missing and we can’t replace them, because clubs aren’t spending big money for players due to the pandemic, so unfortunately, there isn’t much they can do about that.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Until Liverpool gets their centre backs fit, their inconsistency won’t change
“Liverpool getting Naby Keita, Fabinho and Diogo Jota all back from injury would be a huge boost for the team, specifically Jota. You’ve got a player who came to the club and started so strong, he scored goals and alleviated some of the pressure off the front three. If he could play at centre back in the same way as Virgil Van Dijk, then that would help even more, but that situation is still there and that affects the way the team plays as they push up so high due to Van Dijk and Joe Gomez having the pace to get back. Even having Fabinho and Jordan Henderson in defence is not the same as they’re not those types of players which affects the team.
It’s great news that these three players (Keita, Fabinho and Jota) are coming back, but ultimately, it’s the centre back situation which as affected the way we play and is why Liverpool have been so inconsistent. And that’s not going to change anytime soon.”
“Ben Davies hasn’t played for Liverpool yet and I am sure he is a decent player, but he hasn’t come from a club for £70m as somebody who can replace Virgil van Dijk, so he’s a good player and is good enough to slot into the team, but he has to get used to the way the team plays. He hasn’t played in a team that plays the way the Liverpool team does, so it’s good to have him in the reserves in case of injuries, but that doesn’t mean he will automatically jump into the team.”
John Barnes Exclusive: This summer might be the time for Anthony Martial to leave Manchester United
“Anthony Martial has never been a centre forward, despite Manchester United playing him there – if he can’t get a place in the starting team in his preferred wide position, following the emergence of Mason Greenwood, then maybe it is time for him to leave Manchester United.
Lots of clubs nowadays have benches full of superstar players, who are happy to be there, but I don’t know if Martial is one of those players, or what Manchester United’s intentions are with him, but I would suggest a change could be good for both him and the club if they aren’t getting what they want from him playing there.”
John Barnes Exclusive: I wouldn’t want a player like Hector Bellerin at my club if I was a manager
“When Hector Bellerin first came onto the scene, he was good enough to play at PSG, but now, I’m not sure, especially with their (PSG’s) ambitions. In his position you don’t have to be the best in the world to play at PSG, but I’m not sure if they’re going to stay interested in him at the end of the season.
If he (Bellerin) said he doesn’t want to stay at Arsenal, then they should let him go. The team should only be interested in players who want to play through both good and bad times.
Bellerin is part of the reason as to why Arsenal is a club in transition and not currently playing well. Players always aspire to play in the best team in the world and win loads of trophies, but if everybody did that then all the best players would be at one club.
I wouldn’t want a player like Bellerin at my club, if your team isn’t performing well, you want players who want to help the team perform better not ones who talk about leaving mid-season when the team is going through a rough patch. He owes more to Arsenal than to do that.
If he doesn’t want to spend the best years of his career on the bench, then moving to PSG doesn’t make sense because they have a higher average standard of defender. If he can’t always consistently start at Arsenal over the last few years, then he won’t be able to start at PSG.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Harvey Barnes deserves an England call-up, but it’s unlikely
“Harvey Barnes has played very well and has had a great season. He’ll pushing for an England spot, but unfortunately for him, England have lots of players like that. As much he [Harvey Barnes] is doing well, I wouldn’t put him in the England squad ahead of Jack Grealish, James Maddison, Raheem Sterling or Marcus Rashford – but he deserves a chance and a call-up to the England squad.
John Barnes Exclusive: Jesse Lingard should make his move to West Ham United permanent – it’s the only way he will play regularly
“Jesse Lingard won’t get back into the Manchester United team, because they have a lot of attacking midfield players like him who want to play the number 10 role. At Manchester United you have Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes playing ahead of him, but at West Ham he doesn’t have that competition, which is why he’s doing well.
Lingard hasn’t improved as a player, he’s just in an environment that suits the way he plays. Unfortunately for him, at Manchester United they have lots of players like him, and they’ll likely still be there in the summer and would still be picked above him. West Ham suits him perfectly because it allows him to have a major, positive impact on the team. If I were Lingard, I’d make the move to west Ham permanent, as it’s the club that suits him best. He’s not going to go back to Manchester United and take Bruno Fernandes’ place, so he should think about making his move permanent where he will get more game time and play in a team that is better suited for him.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Celtic must improve next season and that might be without Scott Brown
“Celtic must improve next season, there’s no question about that. Scott Brown has been a fantastic servant to the club and whether this will be his last season, only time will tell, but if Celtic want to bring in new players to challenge Rangers next season, that might mean that Scott Brown plays less games, and he might have to consider moving on. Every player gets to a stage in their career where it’s coming to an end, he’s had a great career, winning nine Scottish titles in a row, he’s done everything he can, but at his age now, he’s not going to get any better.
I’m not sure if this will be his last season at Celtic, but if Celtic wants to improve next season, it might mean bringing in new players which results in Scott Brown playing less games. However, the way Celtic have played this season, that might be the case for quite a few of the players in the squad.”
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