Following Liverpool’s recent exit in the Champions League against Real Madrid, we’ve spoken to BonusCodeBets ambassador, John Barnes. The former Premier League legend shared his thoughts on Liverpool finishing in the top four being an underwhelming achievement, Yves Bissouma being the ideal replacement for Georginio Wijnaldum and why Odsonne Edouard would be a great fit at Leicester City.
John Barnes Exclusive: Resting Sadio Mané won’t help, he needs to keep playing
“Plenty of people are saying that Sadio Mané needs a rest, but he doesn’t need a rest as he’s not tired. He’s playing well, the team are starting to play more consistently and the players around him are playing better. He (Mané) plays all the games because he is fit and is playing well, despite everyone else struggling with confidence. Every game he’s a threat with and without the ball, and even though things may not be going well for him, he is still helping the team.
Sadio Mané is playing through his slight dip in form and getting his confidence back over time, so resting him won’t help him.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Liverpool’s missing players have affected Sadio Mané more than Mohamed Salah
“If you look at the Liverpool team, with the players that are missing, it’s clearly affected Sadio Mané. Maybe it has affected him more than Mohamed Salah, but that’s because their games are different to each other. (Sadio) Mané relies on the midfielders and defenders giving him the ball, whereas Salah relies on Mané to assist him. They’ve [Mané and Salah] never scored the same number of goals in a season, Salah has always scored more.
People are always looking for reasons and excuses why [Mohamed Salah scores more], the same with Roberto Firmino, who also gives you more than just scoring goals. Mohamed Salah is the main goal-scorer, you shouldn’t compare the two.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Liverpool finishing in the top four will be an underwhelming achievement
“After winning the league last season, you would expect Liverpool to finish in the top four, but given the complications they’ve had this season, finishing in the top four would be a good achievement for them. From the first game of the season, it was expected they wouldn’t play as well as they can, they were so far off it, but because everyone else [in the Premier League] has been inconsistent, they will have a chance, so will everyone else, look at West Ham and Leicester.
However, Liverpool finishing in the top four isn’t a huge achievement, but it’ll be a satisfactory one, given how this season has gone”.
John Barnes Exclusive: Trent Alexander-Arnold should remain a right-back, despite defensive frailties.
“Once Liverpool get their midfielders and centre-backs, back, Trent Alexander-Arnold will do what he’s always done. Trent (Alexander-Arnold) is not a worse player [than he was], it’s because the way the team is playing has meant that he can’t show what he can do coming forward consistently. He’s [Trent Alexander-Arnold] been exposed a bit because they haven’t got the strength in midfield, to necessarily protect the defence when they go forward as they did last season.
If Liverpool had another Trent Alexander-Arnold to play right-back, you could play Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield and that will complement it. Putting him into midfield without another right-back that can do what he does is not going to help Liverpool’s situation.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Rhian Brewster was right to take Sheffield United transfer, despite tough season.
“All players should look at the type of football that the team [that wants them] plays and see whether they’ll fit into that. For example, Jesse Lingard at West Ham, they’re [the media] talking about Lingard going to Paris Saint German and all those teams. He [Lingard] won’t be a success at all those clubs, because West Ham play in a way that suits him as an attacking player. If he [Lingard] goes anywhere else, they won’t play that way.
With Rhian Brewster, he had a chance to go to a Premier League team [Sheffield United]. Of course, they look as though they’ll go down [to the Championship], but at the time they were a top ten Premier League team. For Rhian Brewster to go to a top ten team and play regularly was a good move for him.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out, but at the time, people thought it was a good move, so you never really know [if it is going to work out]. To give him a chance to go to the Premier League, you can’t turn that down. A big Premier League club was not going to go for Rhian Brewster, so it was a gamble well worth taking to still be in the Premier League. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Aubameyang’s poor form is down to him, only he can improve it.
“Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a good player, there’s no doubt about it. If he is committed, determined and hungry, you can see what he can give [to the Arsenal team]. His poor performances are not a situation for Arsenal to resolve, it is one for himself to fix.
As with players who play [badly] for other clubs, it is the manager who gets the blame for them falling off [with their form], because the players suddenly feel they are not responsible for their performances and are not accountable as the manager is going to get given stick [by the media]. Players subconsciously trail off as we’ve seen, not just with Aubameyang, but with a lot of clubs whose managers have been under pressure.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Regardless of his goals this season, Arsenal shouldn’t renew Alexandre Lacazette’s contract
“Arsenal renewing Alexandre Lacazette’s contract in the summer depends on how Arsenal are going to play. If they are going to play two [up top] with Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang all the time, probably not.
They have Bukayo Saka and Pepe who want to play as wingers, with Aubameyang, who wants to play down the middle, but also have Lacazette, who wants to play in the same position. Arsenal must think about what they want for the future because Lacazette and Aubameyang are not necessarily going to play together all the time as that isn’t the way Mikel Arteta wants to play. Why would they give Lacazette a new contract, if Mikel Arteta is going to say Aubameyang is going to be their main striker? Unless Lacazette is going to continue doing what he is now [coming off the bench].
It doesn’t seem like it’ll be the situation at Arsenal whereby two of them [Aubameyang and Lacazette] will be on long contracts and high earners if they aren’t playing regularly.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Jose Mourinho will only succeed at Tottenham if the club give him full control
“José Mourinho is a good manager, but managers have clubs that fit them [better than others]. Tottenham is a club whereby they expect a specific type of football to be played and Mourinho is not that type of manager. Unless you say to everyone, that he [Mourinho] is the man in charge, and is going to do what he says, and is the number one person, the main man, everybody must fall in line. It just isn’t going to work for José Mourinho, if you empower players, director, staff or fans to feel more important than him or feel that they can dictate to him.
Tottenham, like what Manchester United did with Sir Alex Ferguson have to say, this is the direction we are taking with this manager.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Modern managers can still hold all the power, if they are successful
“Managers can have that [power], if they are successful. When Jose Mourinho went to Manchester United, they should have said to him, ‘You are in charge, do what you want. Forget about what Sir Alex Ferguson did’. Some managers do have that power, Carlo Ancelotti has it at Everton, so Mourinho deserves that power because of what he has done [in previous years]. Anybody [in terms of managers] who came after Arsène Wenger haven’t been given that power. No Liverpool manager who came until Jürgen Klopp was given that power.
Getting the balance right [with manger power] is important because ultimately, no matter what happens, if the players are going to rule the roost, when things don’t go well, it’ll be disastrous as the manager will get the blame, players become very complacent, going through the motions and the fans will still love them. They [teams] won’t be successful but players will keep earning money, not being accountable, and you’ll just keep changing managers.
If you talk about managers like José Mourinho and Louis Van Gaal who have been the best managers in the world, if they haven’t got that power [anymore], what chance does anyone else have?”
John Barnes Exclusive: Manchester United should keep Cavani, but also sign another striker in the summer
“Edinson Cavani is another year older, and he isn’t starting for Manchester United all of the time, but he is still their best centre-forward. It isn’t a case about not being able to settle [in England]. It is a case that, because of the tweet he put out that was a very harmless tweet, as far as he was concerned, and everyone in Uruguay is, people said to him that this is not a country that he wants to be in. That [incident] has a lot to do with it, so he may be looking to back home or somewhere else.
Manchester United must resolve that situation because they have a lot of good attacking players who can play wide positions, but they need someone like him [who can play in the box and finish].
It is a situation [buying a centre-forward] they have to address, even if he does stay.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Yves Bissouma is a perfect replacement for Georginio Wijnaldum at Liverpool
“Yves Bissouma has the ability to play at a team like Liverpool. He could fill what Jürgen Klopp wants from the three midfield players. He is strong defensively, he works hard, he plays the ball quickly and every now and then when he needs to dribble, as much as we don’t speak about Brighton, you know he can do it, because he has [in the past].
Of all the players playing in England, that could fit the template of Liverpool’s midfield three, he is one of them. He looks like Georginio Wijnaldum, although he doesn’t attack as much as ‘Gini’ [Wijnaldum], because Brighton plays a different style of football, when Bissouma wants to he can. He is 24 and young, he would be a great fit.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Odsonne Edouard would be a superb signing for Leicester City or Arsenal
“Brendan Rodgers [Leicester City’s manager] will know Odsonne Edouard, and with what Brendan Rodgers does [the style of football], he will probably fit more [at Leicester] than at Arsenal. He looks for players that fit into his systems, and he gets the best out of players who know their positions rather than looking for the superstar players and then fitting a team around them, just hoping it works. So, Leicester would be a good move for him.
With Arsenal, you still have Aubameyang. As much as Lacazette and Aubameyang are there and Lacazette is a number nine, Edouard gives you that physical presence. He is bigger and stronger, though maybe not a technically good as Lacazette. Arsenal have also got lots of technical players, what they really need, is a presence in the box who is big and strong.
It would be a good move for both of those clubs if they could get him.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Celtic shouldn’t make any managerial decisions until this season has finished
“Celtic don’t have to appoint anybody now; the press just speculates and people outside of the club don’t know what is going on. What is the rush? Appointing a manager [at Celtic] is not going to do any good, either way they aren’t going to win the league this season. Always make the decision at the end of the season.
We [people outside of Celtic] don’t have to speculate every single day about who is going there [to manage]. It is just us getting excited about that situation.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Celtic and Rangers are under pressure to win the Old Firm derby this weekend.
“The Old Firm game this weekend is a must win game for Rangers because if they win, they can do the double over their rivals.
You could argue that Celtic are under a bit more pressure, because Rangers have won the league and are unbeaten in it [the league], so there is probably more pressure on Celtic. However, Steven Gerrard won’t feel that way [they Celtic are under more pressure] because he will want his team [Rangers] to play well in every game and possibly do the double over Celtic and go unbeaten.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Scott Brown and Leigh Griffiths should look to move away from Celtic this summer or it will be too late
“Celtic losing Scott Brown and Leigh Griffiths won’t be a big loss for the club. Leigh Griffiths hasn’t been playing every weekend and Scott Brown is at the age now whereby he’s not necessarily on the pitch having that much influence on it moving forwards.
Off the pitch, a new manager coming in may feel that he wants his own people in there to have the power off the field, in the dressing room. It is a good move for both, they know that Celtic is changing, and they may not be part of that. If they turn down this opportunity [to leave], to stay at Celtic and next year are not playing and are out in the cold, they’ve missed an opportunity.”
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