The March international break has arrived, and with all nations in action, we spoke with BonusCodeBets ambassador, John Barnes. The former England fan favourite shared his thoughts on why Robert Lewandowski is a better striker than Harry Kane, England not having enough balance in their team, and sympathising with Thiago not playing in front of any fans this season.
John Barnes Exclusive: Robert Lewandowski is a better striker than Harry Kane
“Harry Kane and Robert Lewandowski aren’t as similar as people think. Kane has adapted his role now to that of a creator. He’s passing the ball a lot in midfield, linking with Son (Heung-min), and has shown himself to possess creative qualities. Lewandowski is just a penalty box player, a typical number nine centre forward like Robbie Fowler, Ian Rush or Gary Lineker. You don’t get many players like this anymore. “For example, Cristiano Ronaldo, was always a creator apart from his later days when he lost a lot of his speed. Robert Lewandowski is purely a finisher and always has been, he plays entirely within the box.
“He (Lewandowski) is the best number nine in the world. Harry Kane also scores goals, although not as much as Lewandowski, but he’s changed his game to drop into midfield, be more creative and track back defensively, and to defend set pieces at times. Kane is the better all-round player, but Lewandowski is the best number nine in the world in terms of scoring goals if he is given the right service.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Poland have a chance of reaching the knockout stages in Euro 2021
“Lewandowski doesn’t win games by himself like Messi or Ronaldo does. If Poland do not create the chances for him, he won’t be able to score goals at will like he does at Bayern Munich which is why they’ve struggled in the past even with him playing.
“Poland have a chance of qualifying, but the problem is that while Spain are the strongest team in Poland’s group, Sweden and Slovakia are also fairly strong and quite similar in ability to Poland. There in a group of one strong team and three decent teams. They’d rather have a team like Malta or Luxembourg in there, then they’d have a chance. Any one of those three teams (Poland, Sweden or Slovakia) could come second, it gives Poland a chance to qualify, but it will be very difficult.
“Groups like this one are very difficult for the three who will be competing for second place. Poland have a chance to going through but it wouldn’t surprise me if Sweden or Slovakia went through instead.”
John Barnes Exclusive: The balance is not right with the England team; it is not a better side than the 2018 World Cup team
“The balance is not right with this England team. We’ve got a lot of attacking players, Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish, James Maddison etc. But we’re not that strong defensively. We need combative and strong defensive midfield players, and we just don’t have that.
I suppose Declan Rice and Jordan Henderson can fill that defensive midfield role, but Declan Rice doesn’t have much international experience.
“England are more weighted towards their forwards, which is fine when you’re playing against teams that England can beat three or four nil. But when we come up against the top teams, England need to be more solid defensively or we need attacking players that can work hard defensively, and we just don’t have that. We would need to play like Manchester City, and just dominate possession without getting caught out, the balance isn’t right. We’ve heard it all before about the golden generation, and these players being the best in years past. For me, in 2018 our team was better then, than it is now.
“We are not the best in the world by a long way. We have a chance at winning the Euros this summer, and the World Cup. But we’ll have to get the balance right between attack and defence. If we made it through the World Cup quarter finals then we’d play France, Brazil or another one of the top teams, and yes, we can beat them, but they can also beat us. I don’t see this England team performing better than our 2018 World Cup squad.”
John Barnes Exclusive: The England team is not physical enough; we don’t focus on defending anymore
“The England squad are not stronger than they were in 2018. If we don’t win, then the vision will just change to the 2026 World Cup. The vision is always just to do well as soon as possible.
“England’s problem is that when we started to develop players, we developed attacking players who were good on the ball who have lots of skills and tricks. We didn’t develop strong defenders, because all our defenders wanted to be good on the ball.
“John Stones is a typical example, he’s very good on the ball and he’s playing form at Manchester City has been very good. His defensive skills aren’t good as his ability to play out from the back, but this is primarily due to Manchester City having a lot of ball possession. Rather than at England, sometimes we play teams where he is primarily required to defend over a lot else.
“It’s the same with English full backs who want to attack and put crosses in. Trent Alexander-Arnold, for example. When you play against teams who are going to attack you, these types of defenders aren’t good enough defensively.
“So, even England’s balance in terms of player development isn’t right, because we’re still just trying to develop everybody to be comfortable the ball and able to attack, but we’re not developing defenders who can defend. That is where we have fallen down.
In the old days, when I played, it was all about being strong defensively and we never really looked to develop any really technically gifted players, but we were strong and physical. Nowadays England has gone the other way and completely disregards the physical, defensive aspect of football, which is also very important.”
John Barnes Exclusive: I sympathise with Thiago, it’s not his fault for Liverpool’s shortcomings
“I can sympathise with Thiago this season and how it has gone for him. Playing with no crowds can be tough for any player, especially one who has only been playing in England for less than a year. He’s joined a team who were playing well, compact and the best team in the Premier League. Then suddenly because of the injury situation, he’s now come into a team who are not playing well, as well as getting unfair criticism. The way that he plays with the team we currently have, things just aren’t working at Anfield and I do really feel for him as he is a top player.
“Thiago may feel that he needs the crowd for inspiration and to perform better. When the crowds come back, we may start to see better results for Liverpool, but I’ve no doubt he’ll be one of the top performers next season.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Bale is doing nothing wrong; he hasn’t been offered a deal
“Fans may be surprised about Gareth Bale’s comments this week about him returning to Real Madrid after the Euro’s this summer, but his contract at Spurs would’ve ended and he is contracted with Real Madrid until June 2022. Unless another club or Spurs submits another offer for him, he has no choice but to re-join Madrid for next season.
“If Tottenham went to Bale’s agent and offered him a contract with everything that he wanted, then things might change, but until then, he’s a Real Madrid player. He doesn’t have a choice about not going back, that, or he retires from football.”
John Barnes Exclusive: If Harry Kane is to leave Tottenham, it should be now so he gets the move he wants
“If Harry Kane wants to leave Tottenham Hotspur, then he will, and nothing will stop him I’m sure he is aspirational and wants to win things in his career. But he loves the club, he was a boyhood fan of Tottenham, so I can’t see him leaving Spurs this season.
“You never what can happen in football so he may end up leaving, and it would be a surprise to me if he did. If he is going, he should do it now at the age of 27 and in his prime. If he runs out his current contract at Spurs, he will be in his 30s and he may not get the move that he wants.”
John Barnes Exclusive: If Harry Kane is to leave Tottenham, it should be now so he gets the move he wants
“Manchester United are a team who play well when they are under no pressure. When you need a team to have that resilience and strength, even when they’re not playing well, Manchester United always have to play well to win. Liverpool, a few years ago, were like that, then suddenly times have changed, and they can now do it. When Liverpool won the league last season, there were times when they didn’t play well, but they were able to win. Similarly with United under Sir Alex Ferguson, but Manchester United don’t do that anymore.
“It doesn’t surprise me that they’ve dropped form in the semi-finals and on Sunday against Leicester, but because of the amount of uncertainty at the club. From a player’s point of view, it is imperative that you fear and have respect for the manager. They must respect the manager to know what he is saying, and how they must follow it, but that is not something that Manchester United have.
“They have great players in their squad, but they don’t have the fear factor. They need to know that if they don’t win a game, they are the ones who are going to be held accountable, but that’s not the case. That is always going to be a problem that Manchester United have, no one is convinced with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Danny Ings will work at Man City as everyone trusts Pep Guardiola with recruitment
“Fortunately for Manchester City, which is like the relationship with Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp, that no matter who Pep Guardiola signs, they will trust him and support him no matter what.
“Jurgen Klopp has signed a few players that people have never heard of before and they have gone on to be top players, so Manchester City fans and the club will support whoever the manager wants. I find the rumours around Danny Ings surprising as he’s not a Manchester City type player, but if the speculation is true, I’m sure everyone would trust the managers judgement and decision making on it.
“With the environment that both managers have created at Manchester City and Liverpool, they can sign good players that may not suit, but they can make it work and fit into what the manager wants.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Scott Brown should definitely take the coaching role at Aberdeen
“Scott Brown could be a good player-manager at Aberdeen if the speculation is true. This summer is the best time for him to leave Celtic considering everything that is going on at the club. He has won everything he could’ve possibly done at Celtic and with the club now looking to rebuild, and compete with Rangers next season, they must revamp the team. With his age, Celtic will be looking to use him less often next season as they need fresher, younger players that will help with the rebuilding of the club.
“What would happen if he turned down this opportunity, the next manager could come in with his own managerial staff and doesn’t make Scott Brown part of his plans. Brown would then miss this opportunity to get into coaching, he should definitely look into taking this coaching opportunity at Aberdeen as it could be great for his development.”
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