After another action-packed week of European football which saw both Manchester clubs knocked out of the Champions League and Europa League respectively, we’ve spoken to BonusCodeBets ambassador, John Barnes.
The former England and Liverpool midfielder shared his thoughts on City’s continued failure in the Champions League Quarter Final stage, how Manchester United’s lack of experience has cost them this season and Phillipe Coutinho’s best destination if he was to head for a Premier League club.
John Barnes Exclusive: Manchester City have had an off season, but don’t blame Pep Guardiola for their Champions League exit
“The thing that makes the Champions League exciting is that they are one-off fixtures, so it does not matter how well you are playing leading up to the game. Look at what happened with Manchester United against Sevilla, on another day they could have scored four or five goals. If Sterling had scored that chance, it would have gone to 2-2, Manchester City would have been in the ascendancy and it would’ve have been a different ending to the game.
“The unfortunate thing is that Pep Guardiola tried something different with the formation and it did not pay off. As a result, he gets criticized for it. However, there have been other circumstances where he has changed the formation and they have won, and then no one takes any notice.
“This is also why cup competitions are so engaging to watch, when you think Manchester United will beat Sevilla and Liverpool will beat Napoli, in one off games, the obvious result doesn’t always happen.
“The criticism also comes from the fact that City haven’t had the best of seasons, and when you have players playing out of their natural position, it makes it tough for the manager. When you delve more into it, it was probably the strongest team he had available at the time. Normally, [Pep] Guardiola would play with one holding midfield player, but he felt that against Lyon, rather than playing with one holding midfield player like they normally do, where they can get caught out, which is what happened to them in the past, he played two holding midfield players. As the team lost, he then gets criticised for it, which is not the right thing to do.
“When teams lose, pundits and people in general are way too quick to be negative and judge, and it is something I hate because we don’t know that they would’ve have won, if they had just played their normal formation.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Barcelona are in a big transitional period and risk being left behind by the big European clubs
“Barcelona have been so successful over the last 10 years, but they have had the same team throughout – looking at [Gerard] Pique for example, who had a terrible game against Bayern Munich. They have not rejuvenated the team; they have kept the same players for a long time. Maybe now they need something different, with the whole team they have plus Lionel Messi, it needs to be refreshed.
“In the last four/five years, they have brought in a few players, but really kept the same team for a long time. I think Barcelona will go through a transitional period, whereas Real Madrid have been signing players every year for extraordinary fees”.
John Barnes Exclusive: If Philippe Coutinho was to come to the Premier League, Chelsea or Arsenal would be best for him
“I know in England it never happens where a player can play against his parent club once they are out on loan, but in Europe it happens all the time (Coutinho playing against Barcelona for Bayern). Normally you don’t play against them in the league, but it can happen in the Champions League. It is one of those things that when Philippe Coutinho originally joined Bayern Munich, they didn’t anticipate that they would come up against each other, so must have left it out of the contract.
“It is an exciting watch with what is going to happen with Philippe Coutinho this summer, they are many teams that are wanting to sign him. I don’t think Tottenham would be interested, as I don’t know if the way that José Mourinho likes to play will suit him, as he likes the ball and having a lot of possession, whereas Mourinho doesn’t necessarily play that way.
“Arsenal could be the best club with the style of football they play. Chelsea could be another good match, because of the way Frank Lampard sets up his team, so with that in mind, Arsenal or Chelsea would be the best solution for him.
“I don’t think he will go to Manchester City to be honest. Pep Guardiola would be able to get the best out of him but there are often times that he has been in a successful team already, and he hasn’t been able to show off as much as he would like.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Alphonso Davies is the best left-back in the world – even over Andy Robertson!
“I am not so sure if Andy Robertson is the best left-back at the moment, especially with the likes of Alphonso Davies coming through. For me, you always need to show consistency over a period of time, which is something he has shown at Bayern Munich. It comes down to putting someone in the right team, because I think that when you do find the right team that suits someone, they will thrive. Alphonso Davies has been extremely impressive this season, and he is only 19 years old, so he has many years of success coming his way.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Manchester United players believing their hype is a big part of why they haven’t achieved this season
“The youth and lack of experience in the Manchester United squad is preventing them from getting through to cup finals and onto winning trophies. They do so well to get to the latter stages of cup competitions, then all of a sudden, they start to believe the hype and what people say about them and how great they are doing. You need to focus and concentrate on getting the job done. They are a good side with some excellent young players, but let’s not praise them for getting to semi-finals. We need to start praising them once they have got to finals and are winning competitions, and that will come with experience. The future is bright for Manchester United, but the problem with having too many young players that keep losing semi-finals, is that this could destroy them.
“The same thing happened with Luke Shaw when he first arrived, he went there with a lot of praise, then suddenly people turned on him. I have always thought he is a good player, but that’s why we must treat young players so carefully and keep them humble.
“It is something we like to do a lot of in England. We hype players up before they have even properly started. For example, I think of Theo Walcott, when he came to Arsenal at the age of 16. Theo didn’t really improve until he was 27/28, people need to let these players develop. That is why I think Germany is a good for Jadon Sancho, Alphonso Davies and other young players, because they don’t do that. They are left to learn and grow as players and are let out when it is right for them to do, which is also probably a reason why England hasn’t done so well in recent World Cups!”
John Barnes Exclusive: Manchester United should focus on buying more defensive players and not waste their time on signing Jadon Sancho
“Manchester United have had more than enough firepower and attacking flair in the final third this season; they created loads of chances, won loads of penalties and scored lots of goals. That is because of the ability they have going forward. They should be focusing more on bringing in more defensively midfield players. But when you are at Manchester United, you’re always looking to find the best attacking players to find the right balance.
“If you look at Manchester City, that is something that has worked against them this season and that is why they have signed Nathan Ake and are looking to sign Kalidou Koulibaly, because as much as City are looking to spend money on great players, having the balance in the team is much better and I don’t think Manchester United have had that balance for a number of years.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Joe Hart is a brilliant signing for Tottenham
“Joe Hart will bring in a lot of experience to Tottenham. He is a player that you can bring into the team and you know what you are going to get. To bring in a goalkeeper of that quality is a huge coup, and if they have to play him, they know that they can rely on him to perform. It is a great signing, especially as a free transfer. If he is happy to come in and be a second or third choice keeper, then it is a win-win for both parties.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Celtic and their fans care more about winning 10 in a row, than having a good European cup run
“Celtic haven’t properly competed in European competitions for a number of years and it is going to be hard for them to do so. In some years, Celtic have managed to get into the group stages and if they can get through the knockout rounds like they have done only a couple of times in the last 10-15 years, that is all they can hope for.
“With the demise of Rangers, it has been easy for them domestically, which meant that there has not been any pressure on them to do well in Europe as they are winning the league, therefore the fans are happy. For Celtic this season, the most important thing is for them to get to 10 league titles in a row which is something that has never been done before. With Rangers getting closer to Celtic, and the fact they are getting closer each season, Neil Lennon will much prefer to try to cement the 10 titles in a row, rather than having a good European run.”
John Barnes Exclusive: Playing in empty stadiums will help teams play against Celtic and Rangers
“I definitely think that with there not being any fans in the stadiums, it will help the smaller teams against Rangers and Celtic this season, especially against Celtic at Celtic Park. For most of the time, the smaller teams don’t play against 45,000 passionate fans every week so that can work in their favour. However, the quality of players is obviously still there. Celtic and Rangers should be comfortably beating most teams, but I do think it will help them out in some way.”
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