Exclusive interview: John Barnes on Liverpool FC, Sadio Mane and more
Liverpool FC and England legend John Barnes speaks out on the Reds' start to the season and their opponents this weekend, Arsenal
We spoke to Liverpool FC legend John Barnes this week to get his thoughts on the season ahead for Liverpool.
The Reds have made a solid start to the Premier League campaign, winning their first two games to leave them top of the table heading into this weekend’s round of fixtures.
Liverpool FC are now preparing to host Arsenal at Anfield on Saturday evening as they come up against the only other team in the league to have won both of their opening two games.
Speaking on behalf of bookmaker comparison site BonusCodeBets.co.uk, Barnes spoke about his former side and the challenges facing them this season.
He also offered his prediction for Liverpool FC’s clash with Arsenal this weekend.
What have you made of Liverpool FC’s start to the season?
Well, they’ve got six points, which is good. Obviously in the first couple of games you can have a few teething problems.
In the Norwich and Southampton games they did allow them some opportunities. That’s very unlike Liverpool because they’ve been very strong defensively.
And while they haven’t paid for it, I feel that the most important thing is that they’ve got the six points. They will improve, but they haven’t looked as secure defensively as they did all of last season.
You always see some funny results in the first couple of games. We’ll have a much better assessment after seven or eight games.
You’re always going to have a few problems early on – but the pleasing thing is that they’ve got six points and are top of the league.
Sadio Mane has been in fine form despite his short summer holiday. Do you think Jurgen Klopp will have to factor in some time off for him during the season?
Well maybe one of the reasons he’s in fine form is because he’s fitter than everybody else because he hasn’t had the time off, which he could pay for later on in the season, come Christmas time.
But I’m sure that Klopp will be able to manage that situation.
Alisson Becker is currently out injured. How much of a blow is it to lose your first-choice goalkeeper in terms of leadership at the back?
Virgil van Dijk is obviously the leader in defence and of course he has had a great relationship with Alisson.
They have stabilised the defence, but they have also stabilised the fans, in terms of the fans feeling very confident when crosses come in or balls come into the box.
But Alisson is only out for a few weeks, so long-term it may have been a problem, but if he’s out for the next two or three games, I don’t think it will have a major impact on our season as a whole.
What have you made of Arsenal’s start to the new season?
It’s been two games, and they gave opportunities to the opposition – but you always expect Arsenal to do that.
Arsenal are very good going forward but defensively they are not as secure as any of the other teams in the top five, I don’t think. They will still give opportunities to the opposition, but similarly to Liverpool, they have won two games and they’re top of the league.
The difference is that I don’t suppose that Arsenal will necessarily become stronger defensively because it’s the way they play, whereas I think Liverpool will [improve at the back].
How do you see the title race shaping up this season?
Anything can happen as it’s the start of the season. I’m urging Liverpool fans not to get too excited and think that we’ve won the league just because Manchester City dropped two points.
I don’t think it’s going to be like last season where Liverpool and Man City were so far ahead of everyone else. Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United I’m sure that they will push much harder against the top two.
Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s clash between Liverpool FC and Arsenal?
Liverpool have done better than Arsenal because they are defensively better. Arsenal are not going to change the way they play to be very defensive and negative to stop the front three [of Liverpool FC].
I think that’s why Liverpool have had the upper-hand over Arsenal in recent years. So I’d expect Arsenal to cause problems and probably score, but Liverpool to win.