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Glen Johnson on Liverpool: “They haven’t been anywhere near themselves”
On Sunday, Liverpool dropped points for the sixth time in eight Premier League games, after they were defeated 3-2 by Arsenal. The defeat has intensified the argument that this current Liverpool outfit have come to the end of their cycle and that the squad is in need of a rebuild. Former Liverpool right-back Glen Johnson, speaking to BettingOdds.com, doesn’t believe that the club's manager, Jürgen Klopp, would have the patience to start all over again if a rebuild is required. Glen also spoke about Liverpool’s top four prospects, Chelsea’s interest in Jude Bellingham and why James Maddison still may have time to get into England’s World Cup squad.
Rafael Leão, a player who's been heavily linked with a move to Chelsea, faced off against his suitors on Wednesday evening. He was one of Milan’s standout players in an overall disappointing performance by his side, but if you were Graham Potter, would you have been encouraged by what you saw of him? Did he pass his Stamford Bridge audition?
“Stamford Bridge is not an easy place to go and play but he was one of the standout players for Milan. Nobody’s cheap these days, but if you can get a player like him for a sensible transfer fee, then he’d suit Graham Potter’s team down to a tee.”
Chelsea have reportedly drawn up a contingency plan as Mason Mount’s contract is up in just under two years time. They’re said to be interested in Villarreal’s Yeremy Pino and Roma’s Lorenzo Pellegrini, but in your opinion, is it a matter of time before Mason signs a new deal with Chelsea?
“Yes I believe it’s a matter of time before Mason signs a new contract at Chelsea. I believe it will be an easy deal to do because he’s Chelsea through and through and I can’t imagine that he wants to go anywhere else. It may take a little bit longer but I can’t imagine him doing anything else other than resigning.”
The big transfer news last week was that Chelsea are close to securing the signature of RB Leipzig and France forward Christopher Nkunku, who is said to have completed a ‘secret medical’ last weekend. He’s one of the most highly regarded players in the Bundesliga and Europe in general, so how much of a coup is this for your former club? Are you excited by Chelsea’s pragmatic approach in the transfer market since the arrival of Todd Boehly?
“Chelsea are chucking their name into the ring for a number of players. Nkunku hasn’t done it in the Premier League yet but that’s fine as he looks like a natural goalscorer. I can’t imagine that he hasn’t got the characteristics to be a success in the Premier League.
“Chelsea are a top, top club that’s going in the right direction and getting back to competing. The fact that the club is London based is obviously a massive attraction and I believe they’d be in everyone’s top three picks for clubs to join.”
Chelsea are also said to have retained an interest in Christopher Nkunku’s RB Leipzig teammate Josko Gvardiol. The 20-year-old has a release clause of £43.6m and is rated as one of Europe’s best defensive prospects. Considering they already have Wesley Fofana on their books, who is only 21 years old himself, would Chelsea potentially have the most exciting defence in world football? Are they ready made replacements for the likes of Thiago Silva?
“I’m a massive fan of Wesley Fofana and I believe Chelsea should have signed him years ago. If they were to add Gvardiol to their defence alongside him then they’d have a really nice balance. Thiago Silva sadly can’t do what he’s been doing forever. They’d have a good balance of experience and youth.”
Chelsea’s deadline day signing Denis Zakaria has yet to play a minute of football for the club after being signed by Graham Potter’s predecessor Thomas Tuchel. Do you believe he should be aiming to cancel his loan deal with the club?
“If the situation continues then he should definitely look to cancel his loan in January. When a new manager comes in, they’re looking to figure out who’re the right players in their dressing room and what they have to work with. I wouldn’t say anyone’s written off just yet as Potter has only been at the club for four or five games. It’s all new so I wouldn’t do anything hastily, but if he’s not playing by January then he should look to get out.”
Following on from the news of Chelsea looking to secure early moves for Nkunku and Gvardiol, the Daily Telegraph claim that Chelsea are firmly in the race, along with Liverpool and Real Madrid, for Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham. Now considering Chelsea’s long-standing interest in Declan Rice, do you believe your former club could accommodate both players in their midfield?
“I don’t believe signing both Declan and Jude is realistic. They’re both going to go for a lot of money and to be honest, I don’t believe they need both. They’re both great players but they’re pretty similar. Of course, if you can sign both players then you’re going to do it, but I can’t imagine it happening.
“If I had to pick just one player to sign for Chelsea, I’d probably go for Declan as he’s already done it in the Premier League. That would be my only reason. I’m not suggesting for a second that Jude wouldn’t survive in the Premier League as he has everything you need to adapt to it.”
Do you believe that Liverpool, who are the current favourites with the bookmakers for the signing of Jude Bellingham, will miss out on the England International if they don’t qualify for the Champions League next season?
“It’ll either be done or they’ll have to pay him even more money than they planned to. They’re going to have to encourage him to miss out on playing in the Champions League for a season. Even if they do finish outside the top four, it’s not like it’s going to be the same every year is it? You’d think they’d be straight back there the following year. It will cost them more money if they miss out on the top four this season, but I believe they can still sign him.”
The Daily Mail are claiming that Chelsea are interested in Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli. The 21-year-old is one of Arsenal’s key players and his contract expires in two summers time. If he doesn’t sign a new contract by the summer of 2023, do you believe Chelsea could potentially pull off a huge swoop? Do you still believe Chelsea is a step up from Arsenal?
“He’s a very exciting young player, so I can definitely believe that Chelsea are interested. The closer he gets towards the end of his contract, then there’s a chance they could sign him. Chelsea’s a massive football club and despite the fact that they’ve not been competing as much as they should have been in recent seasons, it still remains a massive attraction. If Gabriel gets to the summer with a year to go on his deal, then I’m sure Chelsea would want a move and I’m sure Martinelli would.”
Chelsea are reportedly worried about the early season form of Édouard Mendy and it’s been reported that the club are interested in signing Jordan Pickford as a replacement for their struggling number one. Hypothetically, if Chelsea do go into the market for a new goalkeeper then do you believe Jordan Pickford is an adequate replacement? And on a side note, do you believe Kepa Arrizabalaga’s recent impressive performances indicate he could replace Mendy as the club’s number one?
“Mendy’s been unreal since he joined Chelsea, so you wouldn’t want to act hastily by signing a replacement so suddenly. Form is temporary but class is permanent. I don’t think Pickford would be a good replacement at all. Kepa’s been decent in recent games, even though I know he’s not everybody’s cup of tea. They’ve paid a lot for their goalkeepers, so buying somebody else isn’t the option. You’ve got to work with what you’ve got and Kepa’s doing well now he’s got his chance.”
According to ESPN, Graham Potter is open to the prospect of keeping hold of Romelu Lukaku once he returns from his loan spell at Inter Milan at the end of the season. Do you believe there’s any chance Lukaku can still be a success at Stamford Bridge?
“It’s very difficult to see how he can salvage his Chelsea career at the moment. He’s obviously a good player but his recent spell at the club was dreadful, as we all know. I think he can be a success if he can get back to doing what he does best and stop moving over to the flanks and trying to dribble past everyone. That’s not his game. If you’re his manager then you want him to stay in the middle and not move because he’s not a footballer that can get into the gaps, get people on the half turn and bring others into play. He’s just a brute that can score goals. If he sticks to what he’s good at then he can be a success at Stamford Bridge.”
One option Chelsea have this summer regarding new strikers is Tammy Abraham. The club’s £67 million buy-back clause will be active this upcoming summer. Do you believe your former club should consider re-signing the Roma and England forward? Do you believe he’s worth £67 million?
“I don’t believe he’s worth £67 million, but I believe he’s a decent player. I don’t think Chelsea would want to break the bank to sign him, but if they could get him on a cheaper deal, then he’s got the attributes to be a good striker for Chelsea. It’s a move that could work, but I’d only pursue it if the price was right.”
Brighton’s Leandro Trossard in the international break claimed that he was prepared to follow his former boss Graham Potter to Stamford Bridge if the club made a move for him. He followed that up with a hat-trick against Liverpool at Anfield last weekend. If he continues to perform at the level that he’s been playing at this season, will he be ready to make a move to one of the Premier League’s top clubs?
“There’s a big difference between playing for a mid-table team and a team at the top end of the league. It’s a big jump. He’s performed very well this season and he’s very good technically. If he goes to one of the big clubs and plays with better players, then he’d have more time on the ball and have more opportunities to score. In that sense, then I can see him at one of the top six clubs in the Premier League.”
Liverpool have 10 points from their first eight Premier League games, dropping points in six of them. Do you believe there’s a genuine chance that Liverpool won’t finish in the top four this season?
“It’s a possibility because if you’re not winning games then you’re not going to be anywhere near where you’re supposed to be. They haven’t been anywhere near themselves. They looked half-decent against Rangers, but no disrespect, that’s not exactly a benchmark is it? They’re struggling big time at the moment and if they continue like this, then of course they’re going to miss out on the top four.”
If Liverpool do require a rebuild, do you believe that Jürgen Klopp would have the patience to stay and do it all over again?
“It’s hard enough to maintain the level that they were at in the first place, but to then fall miles away from where they were to where they are now, to recoup that is hard. It will be mentally draining and tough. You also have to have everyone that can buy into it and believe in the story again, so I don’t know if he’d stay for a rebuild. At the moment it’s like they’re starting again, which sounds stupid to say because six months ago, you certainly wouldn’t have been saying that. I don’t know if he would have the energy to do it, and I think that’s their problem at the moment, they’ve set the bar so high. They came close to winning everything last year and lost out on the two biggest trophies, so that’s hard to take mentally. I don’t think Jürgen would have the patience. If they don’t bounce back soon, I’m not sure what will happen.”
Trent Alexander-Arnold was at fault for two of Brighton’s goals in Liverpool’s 3-3 draw last weekend, but recovered by scoring an excellent free-kick against Rangers. However, against Arsenal, his performance once again gained criticism. As a former right-back yourself, what reasons do you believe are behind his poor form?
“Well he’s obviously getting hammered, isn’t he? Everyone is sticking their boot in. He’s still a young guy and he hasn’t been around that long. I know he’s been great and won pretty much everything but I just think it’s about confidence. I think everyone needs to give him a break. He’s obviously more than capable of getting back to his form and you don’t lose your class overnight. I just think if he tries his best to ignore everything that’s going on around him, and just strings a couple of decent performances together, then we’ll have the Trent of old back. I don’t think he’s a million miles away. Yes, he’s making mistakes as a defender which is not good, but that could just be down to confidence.”
Jamie Carragher on Monday Night Football last week claimed that Liverpool’s midfield is part of the reason behind their defensive failings this season. Carragher claimed that the midfield leave their defence exposed too often, and Jurgen Klopp was said to be frustrated by Fabinho’s positioning during the game. Has Fabinho been his side’s weak link this season?
“To be honest, I think it’s harsh to pick one weak link as I think they’ve all been below par. I don’t think there’s one person that has been bad enough to say they're at fault or they’re to blame. I think they’re just all making mistakes. They’re all below their standard and I don’t care who you are or what team you are, if half of your team isn't performing then of course you're not going to be good enough to win football matches. I just think it’s a collective issue as everyone has been below par.”
Luis Diaz reportedly left the game at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday with crutches due to a knee injury. According to Jürgen Klopp, it isn’t looking good. If he was to miss the period just before the World Cup, how big of a blow is it to Liverpool? Do you think it will impact them severely considering he has probably been their standout forward this season?
“He is one of the few where it actually looks like something is going to happen when he gets the ball, so for me, he’s their main man. You just hope the crutches are a precautionary thing and it’s nothing too serious. You can’t afford to lose him, not in a time like this.”
Do you think Mohamed Salah deserves to be dropped?
“It’s a tough one as we all know what he’s capable of. I think you have to keep playing him. Dropping him might be the wrong word, I think you say to him “We need you back, sit this one out because you’re going to play next week”, so he can regain his focus and he knows he hasn’t been dropped. As long as you have a plan with him, because you don’t want to annoy him and put him on the bench so he feels like he’s been dropped, but if you say to him, “This guy is on form and he’s doing alright, I’m going to play him this week but you’ll play next week”, then I think you can start winning him back. He might then realise he’s not starting all the time and that he’ll have to start putting in a shift every week. Dropping him is the wrong word, but you’ve got to do something to get a reaction.”
One bonus for Liverpool this week has been the performances against Rangers and Arsenal by Darwin Núñez. Do you believe his form will be crucial for Liverpool if they’re to get themselves into the top four this season?
“Definitely. They’re going to need everybody. All the new signings, all the big names, they’re going to need everyone to rally together to put in some proper performances. I think Núñez is going to offer a lot, same for Díaz, I think he could be a massive player for them. I think he’s going to have to be firing on all cylinders if they are going to catch up and get into the top four.
We spoke to you previously about Declan Rice being linked with a move to Chelsea, but last week Football Insider stated that Liverpool are interested in the midfielder as well. Do you believe Declan would be an upgrade on Fabinho? Chelsea or Liverpool, where should he go if he’s to leave West Ham?
“Fabinho is a great player. He’s one of the best in that role and to be honest, I think Declan has got a bit more than that. I think he’s a bit more of an all-rounder and I don’t think he’s that key anchor. My heart says that he’ll end up at Chelsea. We all know how close he is to Mason Mount and I believe he’s a Chelsea fan too, so I think he’ll end up there.”
Erling Haaland continues to break records and is already 1/4 with the bookmakers to secure the PFA Player of the Year award this season. Do you believe he’s going to effortlessly break Mo Salah’s record of 32 goals in a Premier League season if he can remain fit? Do you think he has the potential to be the greatest forward we’ve ever seen in the Premier League?
“I think if he stays fit, he’s going to smash everything. He’s got the build where he can play game after game after game, so as long as he stays fit, I think he breaks every record there is.
“He’s certainly showing at the moment that he could potentially be the best forward we’ve ever seen in the Premier League. It’s laughable witnessing some of the things he can do. He’s in the best team, he’s the best striker and he’s probably going to get four goal scoring opportunities every single game and he’s going to take half of them, at least. I think as long as he stays fit and he stays at a team like Manchester City, then I think he’ll break all the records there are.”
The Telegraph are claiming that Crisitiano Ronaldo will be able to leave Manchester United in January. Would United be stupid to let him go midseason? Former Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel reportedly fell out with the club’s owner Todd Boehly after opting to sign Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang instead of the Portuguese superstar. Do you believe Chelsea should go back in for the forward in January?
“It’s a tough one because obviously he’s an icon and has been one of the best players in the world for a long long time. Commercially, whichever club that signs him is going to make a fortune, but is he going to improve Chelsea’s team right now? Probably not. I think he’ll be a big player to have around because he’s a big character and he’d be great to have around the dressing room. However, I think you have to be careful as to why you are signing him.”
Now onto England. Many fans have called for James Maddison to be included in England’s World Cup squad after his stunning start to the season with Leicester City. Do you believe he deserves to go? Or do you believe Gareth Southgate will stick to his guns and keep faith in the players who featured in last month’s Nations League squad?
“I don’t think anyone is safe at the moment to be honest. I think there’s a lot of players that are dipping in and out of form and I think if you’re Gareth, you don’t even know your XI at the moment, other than two or three of course. I think he just keeps his options open and sorts it all at the very last minute.”
Harry Maguire’s place in England’s squad has been called into question. In your opinion, does he deserve to go to the World Cup? Or would a player out of form and lacking match fitness warrant a place in the squad?
“I think you have to take him because if you don't, who else are you going to take? I think you kind of have to take him but he’s not going to fill anyone with confidence if he is playing in a back four. I think if he plays, he needs to play in a three, but if you’re changing formation because of a player then they’re not good enough to play. I think he’ll be in the squad, but I don’t think there will be many England fans out here hoping he starts.”