John Barnes: Salah should have finished higher than Jorginho in Ballon d’Or – but individual accolades are meaningless
Absolutely it was harsh that Mo Salah only came seventh in the Ballon d’Or. Not many people understand how it works – it’s not done through the season, it’s done through the year. This season Mo’s been incredible, but the timing of when it starts and finishes is a bit strange. But it’s not important. What’s important is doing well for Liverpool and they’re flying. It’s great to have individual accolades and it feels a bit strange that he finished where he finished, but the main thing is to just keep scoring goals. Salah should have finished higher in the Ballon d’Or than Jorginho but individual accolades really mean nothing. Liverpool supporters love Mo and support him and respect him, and if other people don’t that’s fine. You can argue one way or the other in terms of who should finish where in the Ballon d’Or, but people spend too much time on that rather than looking at the bigger picture.
John Barnes: Adama Traore would be a great acquisition for Liverpool but wouldn’t make the starting XI
Adama Traore could be a good addition to the squad but he’s not going to play ahead of Salah, Mane, Jota or Firmino. If he wants to come to Liverpool that would be great but he’ll come knowing he’s not going to play regularly. It would be a great acquisition for the squad. But I can’t see him making that decision.
John Barnes: Liverpool can cope without Salah and Mane during AFCON… losing defenders would be more damaging
Of course Salah will be a big miss during the Africa Cup of Nations, but we’ve seen in the past that Liverpool can cope without key players. From a defensive point of view last year, missing the two central defenders really upset the team. I’m hoping that missing Salah and Sadio Mane won’t be too much of a loss. Liverpool will still not concede many goals because the midfield and defence are still intact. Maybe they’re not going to score as many goals, but there are still players who can score goals. Losing defenders is much more damaging than losing top attacking players. Looking at it from a selfish point of view, we probably don’t want their countries to do particularly well because they’ll be there for much longer, but I’m sure they’ll be giving 100% to try and do that. This is the nature of getting players from different parts of the world who play international football and different competitions. There’s no point getting upset or bleating about it.
John Barnes: Liverpool don’t need to sign any more attacking players
Liverpool don’t need to sign another attacking player because they still have Jota, Origi, Firmino. There are other players who can fill in for a short space of time. In January you won’t get better than what you have. You won’t sign a player for £60m or £70m in January who is better than what you have. It’s not just about getting someone while Salah and Mane are away. Who’s going to come in and be a huge player for Liverpool while knowing that, when Salah and Mane come back, they’re going to be on the bench.
John Barnes: Merseyside Derby performance is what Jordan Henderson is all about – passion and aggression
Every Liverpool player played well against Everton but Henderson is a leader, he’s consistent and in a game like the Merseyside Derby, where it’s going to be frenetic and passionate and intense, he thrives. It doesn’t surprise me – that’s what I would expect from Jordan when you want leaders to stand up in a physical and aggressive game. That’s what he’s all about.
John Barnes: Benitez won’t be sacked after derby thrashing – Everton fans must be patient and give him time
I don’t expect Rafa Benitez to be sacked at all. They started off okay and once they get their key players back from injury Everton will be fine. I think Rafa is safe. Football fans lose patience all the time, but look at Arsenal as an example of what can happen if they remain patient and support the team. Arsenal were fifth in the league when everyone was talking about Arteta leaving. Everton fans are understanding of the injury situation at the club. If they keep losing matches when everyone’s fit, they will lose patience eventually, but Rafa’s got time there. Look at the players missing: Mina, Doucoure and Calvert-Lewin. Once they get a bigger squad again they’ll be fine.
John Barnes: Rangnick is the perfect appointment for United – they couldn’t have done any better
Ralph Rangnick is a great appointment for Manchester United because whoever they want permanently isn’t available now. Bringing in someone with his experience and quality in the short term makes sense. They’ve got great players, they just need a bit of direction and he’ll give them stability. He’s coming at a good time where United need a manager who’s respected and proven. For a short term appointment, they couldn’t really have done better. A bit like signing players in January, you’re not going to get the very best. They’ve done as well as could be expected with the options they had available.
John Barnes: Sancho could thrive under Rangnick if given a run in the team
Everything depends on whether Sancho plays. With Ronaldo and Fernandes and Greenwood and Martial there’s a lot of competition. When you pay £80m for someone you expect them to start every week but that hasn’t been the case for him. He’s young and inexperienced so that has maybe affected his confidence. When the team isn’t playing well, it’s not up to the young players to carry the team. Sancho hasn’t played enough to show any consistency. But you can see what he can do when given the opportunity, so hopefully in the long run, if he’s given more of a run out and more responsibility, we’ll see a big improvement.
John Barnes: Ronaldo still has big part to play at United but Rangnick will have to pick and choose his games
Ronaldo won’t drop to the bench permanently but United will pick and choose his games. If it’s an easier game where they dominate possession and they need his quality to score goals, he’ll play. But if it’s against Man City or Liverpool or Chelsea they might look for a more physical team in terms of being able to run around off the ball and compete more. He’s still a quality footballer. Rangnick has his own style of play and he’ll have to decide which players suit that. If he wants to press high for 90 minutes, no 36 year old can do that, including Ronaldo. But I don’t think Rangnick is going to demand that like Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool. You also have to look at who’s going to win you football matches. United may decide it’s worth leaving someone else out because of the quality Ronaldo has, and then bring in hard-working players ahead of Pogba or Fernandes for example.
John Barnes: Arsenal have been in transition for too long… but Arteta has the club in a healthy place
Arsenal have got good players and if you stick together and have belief you can see what happens. Tottenham started really well under Nuno and look at them now. You have to support the manager and believe in what they’re doing. Against Liverpool, Arsenal’s heads dropped a little when things weren’t going well but they will always have those problems. They’ve not shown a resilience in the last two or three years but that will come and they’ll learn that. Chelsea last night at Watford didn’t play well but they won, and they’ve got that resilience and intensity that Liverpool and Man City have but Arsenal don’t. When Arsenal play well they’re an effective side. But they’ve been in a transitional period for too long now. It should always be a case of looking to do something else. Now they’ve got belief in the manager and belief in the team, so they should be given time to get where they want to get to, as Chelsea did and as Liverpool did. They need to believe in what they’re doing rather than constantly changing if it doesn’t work. Arsenal are in a healthy place.
John Barnes: Chelsea can play badly and win, and that’s a sign of potential champions
Chelsea are title contenders. Any one of them, Liverpool and Man City look like they could win the league. The best thing about Chelsea is that they can play badly and win matches, which is the sign of champions. They were good defensively and resilient against Watford. As much as Tuchel wasn’t happy with the performance, they won the game. If Chelsea continue to play how they played last night they won’t win the league. But that’s not going to happen. It was a one-off and they still won the game. You have to look at the overall picture.
John Barnes: Newcastle have to forget the euphoria of the takeover and focus on each individual match
Newcastle have to start winning matches. Instead of thinking about the future and about the riches and the money, they have to just think about the next match. Don’t even think about the end of the season – it has to be each individual match and they have to pick up enough points to stay up. They have a hard job ahead of them. After the euphoria of the takeover and everybody thinking it’s great that Mike Ashley’s gone and things are going to fall into place, they have to actually work. Eddie Howe will understand that.
John Barnes: Newcastle must sign players prepared for a relegation dogfight in January, not skillful superstars
Big players aren’t going to go to Newcastle in January – they can’t just go and buy a player for £500m because of the financial regulations. They have some money to spend but they have to work out whether players coming in will be better than what they already have and used to being in relegation dogfights. Players who come to win you the league are completely different to players who come to keep you up. They have to be careful not to think ‘we’ll go and get a superstar who’s good on the ball and very skillful’. Howe is experienced and clever enough to know who he needs.
John Barnes: Ranieri is excelling at Watford – there are goals in the team and that should keep them out of trouble
Ranieri is doing a great job at Watford. You know he’ll get it right defensively eventually but he’s not been there long enough to put his stamp on that. But they’re scoring goals and creating chances and teams that can do that down at the bottom have a chance of staying up. They scored against Everton and against United, and even against Chelsea they could have had two or three. I’ve been very impressed with Ranieri – the energy the players show, the belief, the fans are fantastic. Chelsea are probably the most consistent side in the country at the moment but they were lucky to come away from Watford with three points.
John Barnes: Celtic can close the gap to Rangers after Gerrard exit
Even with Gerrard at Rangers Celtic had an opportunity to close the gap. They’re going to get closer this season and it may take Van Bronckhorst time to put his stamp on the Rangers team. Their success was a combination of things. Steven didn’t improve them overnight. They were nowhere near Celtic in his first year, got closer in the second and then won the title. Managers in the past haven’t been given that time and support. But Rangers supported Gerrard and gave him money, and the support he had was fantastic.
John Barnes: Gerrard was fortunate to get Villa job but he’s made a fantastic start
Gerrard has had a fantastic start at Villa. They’ve won two and lost one but put in a good performance against Man City. Villa are a good side with good players, as much as things weren’t going well before Smith lost his job. Gerrard was fortunate to join a club with good players that can climb the table easily. They lost to City but played well and weren’t torn apart. If you look outside the top six, in terms of prestige, Villa are in that group of clubs any manager would be lucky to get. He’s a young, English manager with great quality and he can take the club forward.
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