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Glen Johnson on Thomas Tuchel: “It didn’t warrant a sacking at all”
Last week, Thomas Tuchel became the second Premier League sacking of the new season. The dismissal came as a shock to all, considering that the German tactician was provided with £272 million worth of transfers over the summer window. Speaking to BettingOdds.com, former Chelsea full-back Glen Johnson spoke about Tuchel’s sacking and the appointment of Graham Potter from Brighton. Glen also speaks about Liverpool’s early season form, N'Golo Kanté’s contract situation and Ivan Toney’s World Cup chances.
Thomas Tuchel’s departure has shocked all across the footballing world. How unfair a decision was it? Or do you believe the club needed a reset?
“I was as shocked as anybody to be honest. Obviously the owners had something in their mind whilst they were buying the club. It didn’t warrant a sacking at all. They were making progress and had made a few signings, so it’s a total shock and it could be a decision that comes back to bite them.”
Do you think when the next big Premier League club needs a manager, that Tuchel will be at the top of their list? Or do you believe that his stock will have dropped from the sacking?
“His stock wouldn’t have dropped at all. He would be on anybody’s shortlist. I’m not necessarily saying he would be everybody’s number one target, but he’d definitely be in the conversation. It was only 18 months ago when they won the Champions League.”
Manchester United were linked with a move for Thomas Tuchel before they appointed Erik ten Hag. Do you believe they’ll be kicking themselves now that they didn’t go for Tuchel considering how early into the season he’s departed Chelsea?
“Yes, they may be kicking themselves a little bit. Hindsight’s a wonderful thing isn’t it? If they knew he could be departing so suddenly then maybe they would have waited, but you can’t just sit there and wait. You need to do the deal that’s best for you at that time rather than waiting for somebody you want to become available. Manchester United are seemingly doing better under Erik ten Hag so perhaps they’re just as happy anyway.”
Chelsea have paid £21 million to take Graham Potter and his backroom staff to Chelsea. Do you believe that’s a risky investment to bring someone to the club that has never experienced managing one of Europe’s ‘elite’ clubs?
“It’s definitely risky. I’m impressed with what Graham Potter did at Brighton, and they played some great football, but it’s always risky when you haven’t worked with an elite cabire of players or managed in major European competitions. That side of it is risky. He obviously knows football inside out and if he can get Chelsea to play the style of football that Brighton were playing, with better players, then they’d be a bloody good side.”
Your former teammate Jamie Carragher last week claimed that he worries for Graham Potter at Chelsea, stating that he believes Potter could be in the same boat that every other Chelsea manager has been in for the past 10 years. Do you believe Potter could be prematurely sacked if he doesn’t redeem his new club’s fortunes this season?
“He’s certainly going to have a target on his back as he’s walked into one of the biggest jobs in football. He’s going to be under pressure but he’s going to know that. If he doesn’t get the results then of course Chelsea are going to sack him. They’ve been doing that for years haven’t they? It’s one of those awkward ones for Graham Potter as you can’t turn the opportunity down. If he said he wanted to stay at Brighton and then they went on and had a few poor months, then he could have been sacked from Brighton.”
Chelsea spent £272 million on transfers in the summer window. More than any other side in the Premier League. These transfers included Raheem Sterling, Wesley Fofana, Marc Cucurella, Kalidou Koulibaly and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Do you believe they’re going to feel misled in joining the club considering the manager that wanted to sign them has departed so suddenly?
“It’ll certainly be a bit of a concern for them. However, we know how the game works and we know that it’s not just the manager that signs the players. The players will be concerned, but at the end of the day, there’s nothing they can do about it. They have to get on with it and hope that Graham Potter rates their style of play as much as Thomas Tuchel did.”
Do you believe Graham Potter can get Chelsea back in the Premier League title race this season?
“The title race certainly isn’t over already but in reality I believe Chelsea would bite your arm off to get into the top four by the time the season finishes. I don’t think they’ll compete for the title this season but I do expect them to be good enough to get in the top four.”
Hypothetically, if Graham Potter was to take one player from Brighton with him to Chelsea, then who would you choose?
“The one player from Brighton that I’d have liked Graham Potter to have brought with him to Chelsea was Yves Bissouma, but he’s already departed for Tottenham. That’s no disrespect to Brighton because they’re a very good side, but I don’t believe anyone currently there is good enough to get in Chelsea’s team.”
Was Graham Potter your first choice to replace Thomas Tuchel, and if not, who was your pick?
“When Thomas Tuchel was sacked I thought it was obvious that Chelsea would move for Mauricio Pochettino, but obviously I got it wrong. He would have been the man for me. I know some people were saying it would have been a cheaper option to go for Graham Potter, but it doesn’t sound that way does it? They’ve had to pay many millions for the compensation and then pay a £10 million-a-year salary. You could have saved the £20 million it’s taken for Chelsea to get Potter and his backroom staff and got Pochettino instead.”
Reece James signed a new six year contract with Chelsea last week. Where for you does he rank amongst the best full-backs in the Premier League? Or Europe for that matter?
“Reece is right up there amongst the best right-backs in Europe. He’s super young and still improving and for me he’s the best right-back in the Premier League already. He’s a better all-round player than the others and is consistent.”
Tying Mason Mount to a new contract is apparently next on Chelsea owner Todd Boehly’s agenda. He hasn’t registered a goal or an assist this season. Do you think he’s putting his starting place in England’s World Cup XI at risk?
“Definitely. He needs to be scoring and creating goals because that’s what he’s good at. Mason was at the centre of everything that Chelsea did well last season, so he will be disappointed that he doesn’t have a goal and a couple assists already this season. You need to be playing well to play for England, that’s for sure. It can all change quickly and he can get a goal or assist from somewhere and end up with some pretty decent figures. To cement himself in England’s World Cup starting line-up, then he’s got to start getting himself some goals.”
One player that has reportedly turned down a new contract at Chelsea is their French World Cup winning midfielder, N'Golo Kanté. His contract expires this summer and considering that Chelsea’s form has suffered this season when Kanté has not been in the side, how much of a loss would this be for your former club? Do you still believe he’s amongst the Premier League’s best midfielders?
“He still has a lot to offer and Chelsea are a different side when he doesn’t play. I guess Chelsea have a certain criteria regarding how willing they are to extend your contract depending on what age you are. I don’t know what terms he’s asking for, but there are going to be a lot of club’s wanting him if he was to leave on a free. If he leaves on a free then he’s probably going to get a three-year contract somewhere else. Manchester United were linked with him in the summer and I’m sure they’d bite your arm off for a player like N’Golo Kante.”
Chelsea and Manchester United are said to have continued their interest in Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong, with a view to making a move for the midfielder next summer. Do you believe Chelsea could have massively benefitted from signing the midfielder or do you believe they’re already strong enough in that area?
“He’s obviously a fantastic player and he’d improve most midfields, but Chelsea have got a good enough midfield to achieve their targets this season. If Chelsea don’t sign him, then he’s going to go to another big club. If he’s available, then you sometimes need to stop your rivals purchasing the best players.”
Conor Gallagher has endured a tough time in Chelsea’s first-team. Do you believe he has the capabilities to cement a place in the side or can you see him leaving permanently or on loan in the January window?
“I can see him leaving on loan in January. He needs to play week in, week out and continue to develop as a player. Maybe playing week in, week out for Chelsea is perhaps a step too far for him at present. If he goes out on loan and proves himself again then he can come back for pre-season next summer and get his opportunity again.”
Do you believe the young players in the Chelsea squad, such as Armando Broja and Conor Gallagher, will be buoyed by the appointment of Graham Potter?
“Yes they will definitely be encouraged by the appointment of Graham Potter. For any players who have been on the fringes of the first-team, they now have a chance to impress the new manager. They will probably be more excited by the appointment of Potter than the summer signings will be.”
Liverpool won 2-1 against Ajax on Tuesday, with a late winner from Joël Matip. Do you believe this victory is the catalyst for Liverpool to kick on this season? And do you believe they can benefit from not playing until their next Premier League game in over two weeks time?
“It will give them momentum. They have a lot of injuries so they’ll probably be desperate for a break. Winning games changes everything. It gives people confidence, the morale lifts up and everyone is happy around the training ground. They have a couple of weeks now where they can get a few people off the treatment table, so that’ll be positive and hopefully they can continue winning.”
Do you believe this current Liverpool outfit are in need of a rebuild? Do you believe their owners should have backed the manager more in the transfer window this summer?
“It’s a difficult one. You’d like to see a few more players come in that’s for sure, especially in the midfield area. But look, Liverpool have spent money. They’ve spent a lot of money over the years and we all know how they go about it. They don’t just get into the market and cherry-pick someone. They specifically target two or three players that might not be on the other club's radars and they do it very well. You wouldn’t want them to come away from that just to have a more active window. I do think they need some more players but I don’t know about a whole rebuild. I do think they need two or three big players.”
Do you believe Liverpool are at risk of missing out on the Champions League places this season?
“No, I don't think so. To be honest, I’d expect them to get top four quite comfortably. Obviously, the games come thick and fast and you need to find some form. There’s always been some surprises, like Arsenal for example. I don’t think anyone would have predicted how well they’ve been playing. You have to be careful because the games come quick and fast, and if they don’t start picking up the points and get the momentum going soon, then it could be an issue.”
Which of Liverpool’s star’s form is concerning you most this season? Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk and Mo Salah have all come in for criticism.
“I don’t think Virgil van Dijk has been anywhere near his best. I think there’s too many of them who are underperforming and I don’t think there’s one stand-out player that is specifically underperforming. I think they’re all just playing at a six out of ten and you can only do that when your other mates are playing at an eight or nine out of ten. When you’re all playing at a six out of ten then you’re going to struggle to win games. I don’t think anyone deserves to have the finger pointed at them specifically as I just think everyone is underperforming.”
And who do you believe has been Liverpool’s standout player so far this season?
“Again I don’t think there has been a major standout to be honest. I think there’s been occasional games where someone has played well, but I don’t think there’s a player there at the moment that you can put your finger on and say he is their best player.
“However, Harvey Elliott is a proper footballer, isn’t he? The way he moves and the way he gets on the ball, he’s a clever player, he’s creative and he’s going to be fun to watch. Hopefully he’ll have a fantastic career. Fábio Carvalho looks great as well. He’s quick and loves going forward and both he and Elliott have really impressed me.”
Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans’ contract runs out this upcoming summer. If he does become available on a free, and considering that Liverpool need strengthening in the midfield, if you were Liverpool, would you be looking to sign him? Or would you even pursue a cut-price deal in the January window?
“I’d definitely be looking to sign him. If it’s safer to secure it now and pay a small fee then I’d do that. I wouldn’t run the risk of allowing anyone else to have him for free. I think he’s the sort of player that could fit into any team relatively straightforwardly.”
Another player available on a free this summer is Aston Villa’s Douglas Luiz. He was wanted by Arsenal on deadline day and has also been linked with Liverpool. Do you think he has the capabilities to play for this Liverpool side?
“He’s another good player. Liverpool probably do need two or three players in the midfield and if you can snap these sorts of players up, that have Premier League experience, for relatively cheap or even better on a free, then it’s a no-brainer. We know their squad is quite light and they’re starting XI is hindered quite a lot when they have a couple of injuries. I definitely think they need a few more bodies in there.”
Two players that could depart Liverpool on a free this summer are Naby Keïta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Both are out injured once again and both are on a reported £120,000 a week. Do you think it’s time to let them go? And if they can get any sort of fee for them in January then do you think they should take the money?
“I think the problem with them is not the ability to play, it’s the ability to stay fit. They’re on big wages and they don’t play, but any new club will be looking at that and thinking the same. It’s a difficult one for them. They need to get fit and they need to get match fit somehow which is almost impossible when you’re not playing, and impress someone else. Their careers haven’t worked at Liverpool as we’d have expected. I think they just need to get fit, get some games under their belt, and then they’ll have clubs that would love to sign them.”
Rumours surrounding the future of Jude Bellingham continue to gather pace, with the midfielder looking set to leave Borussia Dortmund next summer. It’s been suggested that Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United have joined Liverpool and Real Madrid in the race to sign him. If he does have the choice out of those five teams, then where do you honestly believe he will go?
“If it’s those five that are most interested in him, then I think it’ll be hard for him to not go to Real Madrid. It’s a super football club and they’re renowned for having the best players. They’ve just won the Champions League and he could be living in Madrid. He’s obviously not one of those that wants to stay local as he made a big jump and commitment going to Germany at an early age, so I don’t think living in Spain would upset him at all. I just think that if Real Madrid are in for him at the moment, then that will be his priority.”
Do you believe there’s any team in the Premier League that will threaten Manchester City’s chances of regaining their Premier League crown?
“I’ll be very surprised if anyone can. Put it this way, I think whoever finishes in front of Manchester City this season, wins the league. Tottenham are a hell of a lot better than they were last season but I don’t think they have the squad to take on Manchester City, but stranger things have happened. I just think that Manchester City have the ability to win games when they’re playing at a six out of ten and not many other teams can do that.”
Manchester United have won their last four Premier League games. Despite this, do you still believe they won’t qualify for the Champions League next season?
“I don’t think Manchester United will make the top four. The other of the ‘big six’ teams I expect to not qualify for the Champions League is Tottenham. Chelsea will get in there and I think Arsenal will do it too.”
Ivan Toney is currently 7/4 with the bookies to make England’s World Cup squad. The bookies regard his chances better than the likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ollie Watkins, but in your opinion do you believe he should be going? Or do you believe he needs international experience under his belt before going to a major tournament?
“If he carries on performing the way he has been then I think he deserves a shot. It’s a big step up at a major tournament, but sometimes that can play in your favour. He wouldn’t know what to expect, he wouldn’t know how tough it is and he might go in there with the pressure off. If he can keep his form up then I’d give him a chance.”