Exclusive interview: John Barnes on Liverpool FC, Chelsea FC and Trent Alexander-Arnold
John Barnes gives his thoughts on Liverpool FC's position in the title race, as well as Chelsea FC's brilliant recent form
We spoke to Liverpool FC and England legend John Barnes to get his thoughts on how the title race is shaping up in the Premier League this season.
Liverpool FC are currently flying high at the top of the Premier League table, after having won 11 of their 12 games, the most recent of which being a 3-1 victory over defending champions Manchester City.
In our latest interview, Barnes explains why he is still backing Liverpool FC to win the title, gives his thoughts on Trent Alexander-Arnold’s fine form, and reveals how impressed he has been by Chelsea FC’s form under Frank Lampard.
Here’s what Barnes, who was speaking on behalf of BonusCodeBets.co.uk, had to say…
It was a great win for England against Montenegro. Just how exciting is this young England side?
Not more exciting than it was two years ago when it was also a young team. This isn’t a new, exciting England team. Two or three years ago, when players like Raheem Sterling came along, I don’t necessarily think this team is more exciting than that. Young players are being given an opportunity, which is good. But we’ve been saying this ‘young England team’ for three or four years, so the fact that one or two more youngsters have come into the team doesn’t mean that they are more exciting than they were three years ago. It bodes well that young players are being given opportunities, but that doesn’t mean that they are better than they were three or four years ago.
It was a bit of a tricky night for Joe Gomez. Do you have any advice for him?
He’s a footballer, and he’ll play. I don’t think it bothered him unduly. He got on the pitch and he played well. There are going to be times when he’s playing for Liverpool and he’ll be booed by the opposition fans. As much as you don’t like being booed by your own fans, it’s not an issue with him whatsoever. He’s strong enough to get on and play and I don’t feel that it’s necessarily going to be an issue for him. He hasn’t asked for any advice, he hasn’t said that there’s something wrong and he needs help. He dealt with it, so I don’t think that it’s going to be much of an issue going forward at all. It was a one-off and I don’t think it’s going to continue.
We’re 12 games into the Premier League season now. What have you made of Liverpool FC’s start?
It’s been fantastic. And more the results than the performances, because of course once upon a time, Liverpool had to play well to win, whereas now even when they are not dominating teams and playing them off the park, they are still winning, which is a great sign. You can’t play well all the time but when you’re not playing well – and I’m not saying they’re not playing well – but if they’re not dominating and creating lots of chances, they can still win football matches. It’s a fantastic sign. Obviously, the injury situation at Manchester City has meant that they are where they are, but Liverpool have no control over that. It’s been a fantastic start.
How key will the hectic festive period in the Premier League be for Liverpool FC?
It is very important because things can change very quickly. When you’re playing two matches every week, you can quickly be caught by other teams or maintain your position ahead of them. I expect Man City to be winning matches but I still think Liverpool will win more matches than they won’t. I’m not going to say that they won’t lose any matches, but they’re playing with a determination and a consistency of performance regardless of who they play. They don’t prioritise games. They play with the same passion and determination in every game, and I still expect them to be picking points up. Of course, the pressure is now on the other teams to see whether they can close that gap.
How important is the cohesion and togetherness that Jurgen Klopp has brought to the club?
Well, we had that last year and we only lost one game. We didn’t win the league but we won the Champions League. We now have that in abundance and we understand what we’re trying to do, how we’re trying to play, and that has continued. It served us well last year. Unfortunately for us last year, Man City were just so good that they didn’t drop many points at all. As you can see, they have already dropped points and we will continue to do what we did last year. I’m not saying we’ll only lose one match, but we’ll continue playing with that consistency and understanding because it’s a very clear template and profile of the type of player and type of team we want to be for 90 minutes, in and out of possession, no matter what situation arises. The players completely understand that. Obviously, injuries can play a big factor, particularly to our key players. So as long as we can keep them fit, I would expect that to continue.
How impressed have you been with Trent Alexander-Arnold’s form in recent weeks?
No more impressed than I was with him last year. He had a fantastic season last year. He plays in a situation whereby it’s understood exactly what Jurgen Klopp wants from him, and he understands that. That’s the best thing about not just Alexander-Arnold, but Andy Robertson, Fabinho – anybody who plays, that’s understood. If you think about Liverpool’s football and you think about individual players, you could argue that Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva would be players that most teams would want. At Liverpool, we’d rather have three Jordan Hendersons. The players that he [Klopp] has, fully understand what he wants from them. And they are good players, don’t get wrong. But I think that the system, and the way they play helps them. So while we are talking about how good Trent is, it’s more to do with the fact that Jurgen Klopp has really helped them to understand what he wants from them – and they’re delivering.
Do you think Alexander-Arnold needs to improve defensively?
Everybody needs to improve in attack and defence – but he’s a decent enough defender. What you will say is that obviously you may have a right-back who is a better defender but he’s not as good going forward. If he improves defensively, he’ll be the best player in the world. He’s fine doing what he’s doing. Of course, everybody needs to improve defensively but he comes forward, he attacks well, he defends well enough. We always want perfection and for people to improve, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a big issue or problem.
How impressed have you been by what Frank Lampard’s been doing at Chelsea FC this season?
I’ve been very impressed, because of course with not being able to sign players and with young players coming in, you expect inconsistency. The first game of the season [at Man United] they should never have lost 4-0, it wasn’t a 4-0 game. They’ve done really well and been consistent. There may come a time when all of a sudden they drop a bit and we have to expect that, understand that and support that. If they lose a few games or don’t perform for a few games, we can’t say that they’re not a good team or not good players, we have to understand that. At the moment, things are going very well for them. But of course there is still a long way to go, so you can’t make a judgement, positively or negatively when we haven’t even reached December yet.
Do you think Liverpool FC are going to be active the January transfer window and are there any positions you’d like to see them strengthen?
No, because I think we’ve got a squad that’s strong enough. Unless there’s a player who’s going to come into the first team, to replace someone in the first team and make us stronger, why buy a player just to be in the squad when we’ve got lots of squad players? So I don’t necessarily think that we’re going to be that active in the January transfer window. Particularly as Liverpool are not a team like Man City who will look to cover every position with an international player.
How do you see the title race shaping up in the next few weeks?
I said at the start of the season that it was going to be between Liverpool and Man City and I still think it will. Yes, Man City are fourth now but I think they will pick points up and I think Chelsea will drop points. This time, I think it will be Liverpool first and Man City second. But I still think they will be the top two.