Liverpool tore apart Manchester United on Sunday, thumping their rivals 7-0 at Anfield. In the wake of Liverpool’s emphatic victory, Glen Johnson has stated that he’s unsure whether his former club are back to their best and warned fans that the club’s victory over Manchester United doesn’t mean that all of his former side’s problems are resolved. Glen also spoke to Betfred regarding the behaviour of Bruno Fernandes, Graham Potter’s future and the debate over Declan Rice’s value.
Does Liverpool’s 7-0 victory over Manchester United on Sunday indicate that your former club are back to their best?
“It was obviously a fantastic result and a good performance, but I don’t believe that we can just forget the last three months. We’ve seen it before when a side like Liverpool have been struggling and they’ve needed a big game against a rival to kick them up the backside. It doesn’t matter wherever these sides are in the league, whenever Manchester United comes to Anfield, it’s always the biggest game of the year. Sometimes players need these big games to get them back to the level they were at and to put in a big performance.
“Liverpool have always been capable of playing like that but they just haven’t been doing it. Manchester United obviously went to bits and Liverpool were obviously brilliant and the way they charged around was like the Liverpool of old. However, we can’t just ignore what’s happened with Liverpool over the last three months and I do believe they still need to strengthen their squad.”
Do you believe Erik ten hag will be alarmed by Manchester United’s performance against Liverpool?
“I think what would alarm him most was the reaction of the players. It only got to 7-0 because some of the big players were sulking. They started complaining, feeling sorry for themselves, behaving in ways that they wouldn’t normally and you can’t have players doing like that. Anyone can perform when a team is doing well, that’s the easy part. Erik ten Hag needs players that can perform when your back’s against the wall. Forget the seven goals, what will be most alarming for Ten Hag is the way the players reacted.”
What did you make of Bruno Fernandes’ behaviour in Sunday’s game?
“Embarrassing to be honest. Normally you would describe it as laughable but it’s not even laughable. Even if you’re not a Manchester United fan, it’s still frustrating to watch and the way their best players were sulking around and complaining were things that you wouldn’t even want to see from children playing the game.
“Fernandes should have been rallying the troops and encouraging his teammates at 3-0 down to not allow themselves to be embarrassed. However, when he was rolling around and holding his face, whilst pretending to be injured, was just embarrassing. If there’s any truth that he was pleading to be substituted after the sixth goal, then if I was the manager, I wouldn’t allow him to feature for another six weeks.
“To lose a game of football is normal and Liverpool can beat anybody 2-0 or 3-0, but once you realise the game is out of your grasp, then you have to make sure you don’t get humiliated and you need to stick together and see if you can nick a goal. Fernandes is one of their experienced players and had the armband on, so some of the younger players in the squad may see him acting like that and believe they can act in the same way. It just looks awful, and I’m not a Manchester United fan and frankly I could care less, but if you were the manager looking at how he was behaving, then you’d be greatly disappointed.”
With 7 points separating Liverpool and Manchester United in the table, do you believe there’s a chance that your former club could overtake Erik ten Hag’s side in the Premier League table?
“It was a great result but I don’t want to get carried away with it. Let’s face it, Manchester United were probably the better side in the first half and Liverpool were probably lucky to go in 1-0 up at halftime, but the second and third goals at the start of the second half really changed the game. Manchester United are still a good side and they’ll still likely finish in the top four. Hopefully this result will kickstart a good run for Liverpool, but I don’t think you can say they’ll finish ahead of Manchester United based on this result.”
Roberto Firmino was one of the goalscorers in Sunday’s fixture but in your opinion, how big a loss will he be for your former club after it was confirmed he will depart Liverpool at the end of the season?
“Liverpool are going to miss his experience, as he’s been at the club for 8 years. He’s still a great player and he could have offered Liverpool an awful lot, and that’s despite him not being a 25 goals a season type of player. I know that the squad love having him around, so he’s going to be missed and very difficult to replace.”
Liverpool continue to be linked with a move for Chelsea’s Mason Mount, but since we last spoke to you, Mason has now been linked with moves to Manchester City and Manchester United. Can you see him making a move to any of those three clubs? Do you believe Chelsea’s hand could be forced to sell him to a rival if he refuses to sign a new contract?
“The clock is ticking and Chelsea need to be bold regarding the business side of it. This whole situation regarding Mason being linked with a couple of Premier League clubs seems like a bit of a bluff tactic to me. The longer it goes without Mason signing a new deal, then Mason’s position will continue to get stronger and the club knows that, so I think Chelsea wouldn’t want to sell him to a Premier League side, but if it gets to the end of the summer transfer window and he’s still not signed a new deal, then they will have to sell him to a rival Premier League club because they can’t risk the prospect of letting him go on a free.
“In 2024, if Mason’s contract does expire, then he’d probably go to a rival Premier League club on a free anyway. If he doesn’t sign a new deal, then Chelsea may as well bite the bullet and take the money for him because you’d rather sell him for £100 million, than see him leave for free. The club will probably try and do the best deal they can this summer, in terms of selling him for good money or getting him to re-sign. They can’t risk letting him leave for free.”
Liverpool are said to be one of RB Leipzig defenders Joško Gvardiol’s many admirers. Do you believe Liverpool need to bring in another defender in the summer and if so, do you believe Gvardiol would be the perfect signing they could make in that area?
“He looks like a great player, but I hadn’t seen much of him until the World Cup. He’s young, he’s big, he’s good on the ball and a good defender, so yes, I believe he would suit Liverpool. Do they need to break the bank for him right now? Probably not.”
Alexis Mac Allister’s agent was said to be in attendance at Anfield for Liverpool’s game against Real Madrid. He’s reportedly on Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City’s radar, but do you believe he’s good enough to play for a top, top side in the Premier League?
“I’m not so sure at the moment. He’s obviously a very good footballer but I haven’t seen him do enough at Brighton in the Premier League to suggest that he’s good enough to make that jump. In his defence, he didn’t look out of his depth at all with Argentina at the World Cup, but let’s face it, the players he plays with in that Argentina side are a hell of a lot better than the players he plays with in the current Brighton side. Sometimes it’s easier to perform when you’ve got that calibre of players around you.
“I don’t know if he’s good enough to make that jump and perform to the standard which is expected, week in, week out. With Argentina, he had to play well for seven games and that’s easier doing that for your country than it is for Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester City when you’re playing 40, 50 or 60 games a year.”
An alternative to Mac Allister that Liverpool are said to be considering is Inter Milan and Italy’s Nicolò Barella. They were linked with him after Italy’s Euro 2020 victory, but in your opinion, do you believe he would be a fantastic addition to the Premier League and how much do you rate him as a player?
“I like him as a player and he performs for a big club. That shows that he can perform in a pressurised situation and he can chip in with goals and assists on top of that as well. He has the attributes to suit one of the Premier League’s biggest clubs and he’s played for Italy on many occasions, so you don’t get to do that if you’re average. He would be a lesser risk to sign than someone like Alexis Mac Allister, purely due to the fact that he looks more assured and is more consistent.”
The pressure on Chelsea manager Graham Potter continues to intensify, despite the club’s victory over Leeds United on Saturday. Do you believe his time at the club is soon going to be up and do you believe the club needs to move him on?
“With it being a big question mark and a risk to begin with, I’ve not paid it any attention because I never expected him to walk through the door and get results straight away. He’s a footballing man and he was always going to need time. I believe the owner’s should know that. Nobody should have been expecting them to challenge this season since Graham took over, so I’ve not even thought about the possibility of him being sacked or whatever. The owner’s must have known it was a risky appointment, so they must have had the next three years in mind because otherwise they would have gone for an impact manager, who can come in like a grenade and get the players playing well straight away but would be unlikely to be around in three years time.
“I think Chelsea have played well in a few of the games that they got poor results in, but you can understand the frustrations that people close to Chelsea will be having. I believe everyone should know that this is a three, four year project and despite how hard it is to do so, everybody needs to be patient.”
If Potter is to depart the club in the near future, then who do you believe would be a realistic, ideal replacement? Luis Enrique, Zinedine Zidane and Mauricio Pochettino have all been linked as potential replacements.
“It’s hard to talk about manager’s coming in when Graham’s still in the job, but to answer the question, then I believe somebody like Mauricio Pochettino would be a good appointment. I know that the guys who’ve worked with him have all loved him, he was a top player himself and the fact that he’s been a manager in the Premier League is key.”
If Graham Potter was to leave Chelsea in the near future, then do you believe he will still be an appealing managerial choice for other huge clubs across Europe?
“If he is unable to turn it around, then I think the top clubs would be put off. I know I’ve spoken about how Chelsea’s owners and their fans should understand that it’s a project for Graham at the club, but on the other hand, it’s hard for big clubs to wait three or four years and be happy with failing to qualify for the Champions League and not competing. That’s not good enough for the top teams. However, if he was to be sacked, then I do expect him to get another job with a mid table Premier League side or a club with less pressure surrounding the manager’s job.”
Do you believe Chelsea should focus in the summer on tying down João Félix to a permanent deal?
“He’s a player that’s technically very good and has a good football brain, however, I just believe that Chelsea have bigger issues at the moment in terms of laying their foundation and finding the spine of their team. João Félix is a luxury player that comes into a team as the final piece of the puzzle and that’s when you’d see him at his best. He needs to be playing in a good team that has the ball for the majority of the time during a game, and that isn’t Chelsea at the moment. He’s a great player and they should look to sign him permanently, but they shouldn’t if they have to break the bank for him because they’ve got bigger fires to put out currently.”
What are your early impressions of Chelsea’s January signings so far?
“They’ve been pretty hit and miss. It’s hard for any new player when they’ve joined a new team to adapt immediately, especially in January when you need to hit the ground running. It’s also tough on the players already in the dressing room when a number of new faces come in at the same time. They were never all going to settle immediately as it takes time, but when you sign five or six players, then you expect two or three of them to improve the team straight away, and that hasn’t happened.
“I don’t think they’re all bad signings, in fact I believe they’re all good signings, but they all just need time. They all would have had a different start to their Chelsea careers if they all had a pre-season with the other members of the squad. If you join a club in the summer before pre-season, then you get more time to integrate yourself with the squad, your family can settle somewhere and you get ready for the season. However, if you sign in January, then you’re probably living in a hotel somewhere and you’re literally chucked in the deep end. It’s harsh to expect them to hit the ground running straight away but you do think at least one or two would have done so.”
Pep Guardiola is said to be a fan of Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovačić and is considering a move for the Croatian, who will be in the last year of his contract come the summer. Do you believe Chelsea could sell him to a Premier League rival considering that they evidently need to debloat their squad?
“I don’t believe they can let him go anywhere, nevermind Manchester City. The best Chelsea performances I can remember in recent times have all involved Mateo Kovačić and they need him, especially when N’Golo Kanté’s not fit, that’s for sure. They can’t afford to lose him, but of course Manchester City are interested and I’m sure many other clubs are interested in him. Chelsea certainly need to debloat their squad but Mateo doesn’t need to be involved in any exodus that takes place.”
Arsenal have been linked with a shock move for Chelsea’s summer signing Raheem Sterling. What have you made of Raheem’s time at Chelsea so far? Do you believe he will be concerned by the club’s influx of signings in the January window?
“I believe Raheem hit the ground running when he first came to Stamford Bridge but unfortunately went off the boil a little bit. I believe he can do more and that’s only because I rate him so highly and if he was playing as well as we know he could, then I’m sure he’d have no reason to feel worried about any of the new signings that have come to the club. He could be at risk of losing his place in the starting eleven if one of the new signings, in Raheem’s position, comes into form, but despite all that, I don’t believe he would go to Arsenal so quickly after joining Chelsea but he does have to find some form somewhere.”
Chelsea are said to be one of the many sides linked with a move for Serie A topscorer Victor Osimhen, but it’s been reported that the blues are considering their former striker Tammy Abraham as a more affordable alternative. Would you be excited to see Tammy back at Chelsea and are you sure he’s capable of being a top number 9 in the Premier League?
“Obviously he’s doing well in Serie A and he’s gone away to prove himself and has done very well for Roma, but we all know that Serie A isn’t the Premier League. With players going back to old clubs, it doesn’t work more often than it works. I’m not sure it would be a good move for both parties as it’s a risky one. He scores goals, so you can understand the interest in him but would it work if he came back to Chelsea? I don’t believe anybody could say yes confidently.”
Sticking on the theme of strikers, Inter Milan chief executive Giuseppe Marotta has claimed that Romelu Lukaku will return to Chelsea once his loan spell is finished at the club. Do you believe he could have an impact upon his return?
“It’ll all depend on what the manager sees in pre-season and what he sees from Romelu Lukaku at Inter Milan from now until the end of the season. If he comes back and plays like he did before, then he will be going straight back out the door to somewhere else. However, if he comes back with the bit between his teeth and he really wants to work hard, knuckle down and show everybody that he wants to be there, then he could still have a future at Chelsea. He’s already cost Chelsea a fortune, so it’s in everybody’s best interests for Romelu to work out at Chelsea. If he comes back with the bit between his teeth, then I believe Chelsea would love to give him a chance.
N’Golo Kanté is close to agreeing a new three-year-deal with Chelsea. Are you delighted to see him stay at Stamford Bridge? How important would a fully fit N’Golo Kanté be for this Chelsea squad?
“It would be a very important deal for the club to make. A lot of top clubs would have wanted N’Golo if he was available on a free, so it will be a clever deal by Chelsea if it gets done. When he plays, then the team looks more solid and he’s a core member in the spine of Chelsea’s line-up. His experience is irreplaceable.”
Roy Keane has claimed that Declan Rice hasn’t ‘kicked on’ this season claiming he doesn’t get enough goals or assists. He said the following, “For all the talk about him and the good PR coming out of West Ham, about how much money he is worth, I think he needs to do a lot more.” What do you make of this statement
“I do agree in a sense because when you’re talking about players that have a value as high as Declan’s, then you need to be scoring goals, providing assists and being a bit more influential. However, where I disagree with Roy is that Declan could do all that in a top team. West Ham have been shocking and the players around him won’t allow him to focus solely on his role, so he has to try and do everything. If he plays for a top team and has a role, whether that’s you wanting him to score goals and play the role of a box-to-box midfielder, or you want him to sit there and protect your back four, once he holds that position down then you will see the true value of the player. Right now at West Ham, Declan’s trying to be a jack of all trades and rightly so as he’s trying to do his best for the team. He’s trying to make tackles, he’s trying to score goals and he’s trying to protect the back four. You can’t do it all. If you’re valued by your club at £150 million, then you need to be the best player in your position but Declan can’t justify that value at the moment because he’s trying to do everything.”
West Ham’s summer signing Nayef Aguerd, who has impressed since returning from injury, is reportedly on Liverpool’s radar. How impressed have you been with him for West Ham?
“He looks like a good player, but I find it hard to give a centre-back a lot of praise when the defence has conceded 17 times in the nine Premier League games they’ve featured in. It’s hard to then say he would be a good signing for Liverpool but he did look quite tidy in the World Cup. If it wasn’t for him however, West Ham could have conceded a lot more goals than they have already, but it’s still hard for me to lump praise on individuals in a team that are leaking goals.”