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Glen Johnson on PL title race: “I don't think anyone can pick the winner”
After Sunday’s 2-2 draw between Premier League leaders Manchester City and Liverpool, it’s likely that the title race will go to the wire. With just seven games to go for both sides, any slip up now could prove catastrophic, but former Liverpool full-back Glen Johnson believes it’s too early to choose where the title will be heading in May. The former England international spoke to BettingOdds.com regarding Mo Salah’s contract situation, Chelsea’s Champions League prospects and the future of Declan Rice.
Many fans believed that yesterday’s game between Manchester City versus Liverpool would have determined the eventual Premier League winner. However, with the fixture ending in a draw, do you believe Liverpool can still overcome their rival and be crowned Premier League champions?
“Yes, absolutely. It’s a shame because both teams are good enough to win the Premier League. The standard of the game shows you where the two teams are at. Either team could have won that game, it was just two giants going toe to toe, and right now I don't think anyone can pick the winner of the league just yet. Both Liverpool and Manchester City would probably win every league around the world. Even with the top four, to be honest, I think the standard of the Premier League has really escalated.”
Jamie Carragher claimed that Liverpool versus Manchester City is the greatest rivalry in Premier League history. It’s caused some debate, but in your opinion, is your former teammate correct?
“In terms of what they’re fighting for, of course the rivalry is up there, but I don’t think it’s going to be like the games we had growing up such as Manchester United versus Arsenal and Liverpool versus Manchester United. I think they were much bigger games in terms of rivalry and for me, Liverpool’s biggest derby is always going to be against Manchester United. I think what Jamie means is that the standard of the two teams means that this is their biggest game.”
Egypt’s sports minister Ashraf Sobhi has claimed that Mo Salah is set to stay at Liverpool after previously advising the forward to leave. Do you believe the player's desire to stay at Anfield outweighed his wages demands?
“Yes, I think Salah obviously loves Liverpool and he’s a nice guy as well, so I don’t believe for a second he’d dig his heels in for crazy wage demands. He just probably wants to get paid a similar amount to the other best players in the world. I’m sure it’s not going to be a difficult deal to do because they’re going to want him to stay. Like I said, he’s a nice guy and I can’t imagine him being the sort of character to throw his toys out the pram because he might get £20,000 less a week.”
Reportedly a deal is now agreed for the summer signing of Fulham attacking midfielder Fabio Carvalho. Considering the progress of Harvey Elliott, do you expect him to be permanently in and around the first team next season? Or do you think it will take him a bit more time to adjust to Liverpool?
“Yes, it will. It’s happened before and clubs have a plan when they sign players but that can all change. If he goes there and trains and shows he’s good enough, who knows? There’s no two ways about it, it’s a massive step up from Fulham to Liverpool, so it’s great that he’s doing well but when he gets there he’s going to be with world-class players. Even if they bought him for the future, if he starts training great they’ll be thinking, “brilliant, we'll just speed his progress up”, so I think it’ll all be down to his first few weeks if he signs.”
Darwin Núñez faced off and scored against Liverpool in the Champions League last week. From what you saw, can you understand why he reportedly appeals to Arsenal, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Tottenham and West Ham?
“To be honest I hadn’t seen him play much before that game but he looks like a clever player who clearly knows his way around the goal. To do what he did against Liverpool is not easy. All teams want goalscorers and they’re hard to come by and from what I saw with Darwin Núñez he looked very good.”
After Real Madrid’s 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, do you now believe your former club Chelsea’s European prospects are over?
“It’s going to be tough. The teams are all good enough to win a game against each other but obviously away at the Bernabeu is not an easy trip to go on and overturn a two-goal lead. It’s going to be super tough but we have seen stranger things happen. Chelsea are still in it, definitely. But it’s just going to be super tough.”
Say if Chelsea were to exit the Champions League in the quarter-final second leg and they’re unable to win the FA Cup this season, do you think Thomas Tuchel will be slightly relieved that chop-friendly Roman Abramovich is no longer at the helm?
“Real Madrid can beat anyone, but it was the manner in which Chelsea got beat at Stamford Bridge that was the disappointing thing, which Tuchel showed as well. It was more about that. I think Tuchel would be looking over his shoulder a lot more if Roman was still there.
“None of us want to see people losing their jobs after six months, eight months, eighteen months or whatever, but no one can complain about the success at Chelsea. It has clearly worked. And I guess the managers know what they’re signing up for. If you’re going to Chelsea, you know you’ve got a gun to your head. You have to perform immediately. And maybe that makes the managers perform out of their skin immediately and maybe the players know that as well and feel it. It has worked. I don’t like to see people getting sacked but it has worked.”
Despite scoring a brace against Southampton at the weekend, Timo Werner will reportedly be allowed to leave Chelsea for £40 million this upcoming summer. Glen Hoddle this week claimed that Werner could make the club and Thomas Tuchel look ‘stupid’ if he’s allowed to depart. Do you agree with this notion? Do you believe he hasn’t been given a real chance at the club?
“It’s a tough one. I like Timo Werner. I like him as a player. I think he has been given a fair crack at it to be honest. But also I don’t feel as if it’s been as bad as people say. Obviously you want a goalscorer but he does have a lot of assists. He is heavily involved. But yes, he hasn’t got the goals that people were expecting.
“People like him, he could easily go to another league and score 25 goals a season, but maybe he just can’t do it in the Premier League. It’s a tough one. The situation could embarrass them, but maybe not, because he hasn’t done it here.”
Another Chelsea forward that’s speculated to be looking towards the exit door is Romelu Lukaku. Now if Werner and Lukaku were to both leave the club this summer, who would you like to see come in as a replacement?
“If Chelsea get the money that they need, I’d like them to get Jude Bellingham and Erling Haaland. They’re both going to be super, super expensive. It just depends on what they can get for Lukaku. If he goes, you’re not going to get anywhere near the £97.5m they paid for him from Inter Milan. It would be an extremely tough deal to do. If you’re talking about just strikers however, then I’d like Haaland to come in to replace any outgoing forwards.”
Could you see Romelu Lukaku going back to being a success if he returns to Serie A?
“I can see Lukaku going back to Serie A and being a success. He’s proved it over the years that he can score goals. I just think the Premier League looks too quick for him. Serie A is a slower league where they’ll give him more time on the ball and clearly suits the way he plays. I do think certain leagues suit certain players more than others.”
Sticking on the topic of strikers, Robert Lewandowski could be on the market this summer. Now if there’s any truth in that and Bayern are prepared to let him go, then do you believe Chelsea need to go in for him once they’re able to conduct transfers again?
“If Chelsea wanted Robert Lewandowski then they’d have competition from absolutely everybody if he’s available. World class strikers who score goals and know how to win things are hard to come by. Lewandowski has succeeded at every level and he’d help any team out.”
West Ham put in a spirited performance to draw the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie with Lyon 1-1, despite having 10 men. Do you believe they have a good chance of progressing to the semi-finals?
“It’s good to see West Ham being competitive against these sorts of teams and I do believe they can go away to Lyon and advance. In regards to whether they could make it to the final then they’re going to have to take each round as it comes. As long as you’re still in the hat then you’ve got a chance of winning it. I don’t believe anyone would have originally thought of West Ham as potential winners at the beginning of the competition but they’re putting in some good performances so they’ve got a chance.”
Is fourth place Tottenham’s now in your opinion?
“Tottenham would definitely be my favourites for fourth. They’re playing well and they were great the other evening against Aston Villa. For me they’re in my top four.”
And finally, It’s being reported that Erik ten Hag is being pursued by RB Leipzig after talks with Manchester United have hit a nag. Considering the job Ten Hag would have on his hands at United, if you were in his position, would you reconsider taking the job?
“It’s going to be tough for whoever takes the Manchester United job. It’s a massive club and they’ve got some great players but there’s a lot going on there at the moment. Whoever takes the job will have to tread carefully.”