Liverpool’s faltering form this season has taken many by surprise. Jürgen Klopp’s future at the club has become the focus of speculation, even though it’s believed that the club’s owners have no intention of dismissing the man that’s brought back an abundance of success to Anfield. The club’s former right-back Glen Johnson believes that Jurgen Klopp isn’t deserving of the chop, but does believe a conversation between Liverpool’s board and Klopp may happen if the team’s fortunes fail to pick up between now and the end of the season. Glen spoke to Betfred to discuss all the ongoings at Anfield as well as speculation surrounding the future of Jude Bellingham, why a move to Manchester United would be a ‘sideways step’ for Harry Kane and why Chelsea may need to consider selling Mason Mount in the summer.
After the news of Manchester City being charged by the Premier League over breaking financial rules, Pep Guardiola is now being tipped to not be at the club next season. Do you believe this charge will potentially push Pep out the door? How much of a loss do you believe he will be to the Premier League and do you believe he would ever consider managing another Premier League club?
“I obviously don’t know what the punishment is going to be in terms of whether they’re going to get a transfer ban or anything like that. If any punishment affects Pep being able to sign players, then that’s going to push him towards the exit I imagine. Would he ever manage another club in the Premier League if he’s to leave Manchester City? I don’t think he would. I believe he’d want to go to another country and take over another top team that’s going to be odds-on to win another title.”
After Chelsea’s transfer activity in January, overall would you say you’re happy or concerned by their approach to transfers under Todd Boehly? Do you believe Graham Potter would have wanted to inherit so many new players midseason?
“It all depends on the reasoning for the signing of these players because from the outside it doesn’t look as if Graham Potter has picked them. I don’t believe a new manager would want so many changes to take place so soon. If I’m a young manager and I’ve taken over a decent squad, then I would want to know what I’ve got there first before I go out spending hundreds of millions on new signings, because sometimes that doesn’t work. I can only imagine that it’s the owners trying to go out and buy all the best young players around and asking the manager to work with them. I’d prefer to work with the squad that was already there and figure out who you need to keep and who needs to go. From that, you can figure out which positions you need to sign players in.
“From a fan’s perspective, to see Chelsea’s owners want to spend the money is obviously a good thing, but there does need to be that endgame, which are the results. The manager and the players have to buy into the same plan and that’s not always easy.”
Do you believe the influx of new talent in January will have a positive impact on Chelsea’s fortunes between now and the end of the season?
“I don’t know if anything is going to happen too quickly if I’m being honest. When clubs sign two or three players, there’s always one player that doesn’t hit the ground running and requires time to bed in. None of them have been bought to walk straight into the side because a number of them will be fighting it out for the same positions, and fighting over positions can sometimes cause unrest in squads. I think it’s going to take the new signings a while to bed into the Premier League and discover what their manager wants from them.
“I don’t believe the new signings are going to change anything for Chelsea overnight, but once Graham Potter has been with them for the course of this season and once they’ve all had a full pre-season, then I expect them to drastically improve in the next campaign.”
Chelsea completed the £106 million signing of Enzo Fernández on deadline day. Overall, what’s your view on the transfer? Do you believe this move will eliminate the possibility of Chelsea competing for the signings of Declan Rice or Jude Bellingham? Would you rather Chelsea had spent the money elsewhere?
“Perhaps Chelsea weren’t or aren’t in the race to sign a player like Declan [Rice]. Obviously with Enzo it’s a lot of money, but let’s face it, everybody costs a lot of money nowadays. The money element doesn’t surprise me really. What does surprise me though, is that I didn’t know much about him until the World Cup. Yes, he had a fantastic World Cup, but the thing that concerns me is that there’s a lot of players that have a fantastic World Cup and then don’t do much after. There will be people who have watched him play week in, week out and believe he’s fantastic, but from my perspective I don’t know much about him.”
What are your first impressions of Mykhailo Mudryk? Do you have no doubts that Mudryk will be a success for the club? The winger has already drawn comparisons to Chelsea legend Eden Hazard.
“For one, he looks absolutely rapid doesn’t he? He looks very composed with the ball and there’s a lot of fast players out there who can’t keep up with themselves or they run into wrong positions, but Mudryk looks as if he’s great with the ball at pace and very in control of what he’s doing with the ball at his feet. To compare him with Eden Hazard at the minute is a bit strong, but I believe he has more raw talent than that at the moment. What Eden did at Chelsea was phenomenal, so if Mudryk can be 80% of what Eden was then I believe the fans will be over the moon.”
On deadline day, Jorginho completed his £12 million move to Premier League leaders Arsenal. How much of an impact do you believe the Italian international will have at Arsenal? Do you believe he suits the style of play that Mikel Arteta has implemented at the club? How much will Chelsea miss him?
“For some reason Jorginho gets a lot of criticism from neutral fans but I think he’s a fantastic player. I’ve always liked him a lot and he’s a luxury player that every top team needs. When you’re in possession, you always need a player that can hold the shape of the team and he’s a much better footballer than people give him credit for.
“I think his style of play now suits Arsenal more than it suits Chelsea. I don’t think Chelsea will miss him greatly but because of the way Arsenal play at the moment, I think Jorginho will suit their possession based game down to the ground.”
One midfielder that didn’t leave Chelsea in the January window was Conor Gallagher. He was reportedly disinterested in a move to Everton, but in your opinion, do you believe he should have pursued a move elsewhere? Do you see him having a long-term future at Stamford Bridge?
“I’m not sure. I don’t know if he was aware that Chelsea were going to complete the signing of Enzo Fernández, but if he did, then he should have tried to pursue a move out on loan. Everton may not have been the right choice anyway. He’s got a lot of ability, but will he be at Chelsea long-term? I’m not too sure. He needs to go on loan again, but this time to a top team, and show Chelsea what he can do. I don’t want to sound disrespectful to Crystal Palace but it’s a lot easier to perform at Crystal Palace than it is to perform at Chelsea. He should look to move to a club in Europe that’s fighting for honours and prove he can perform in big games. If he can do that, then I’m sure he’d catch the eye of Chelsea a lot more.”
Arsenal are said to be interested in Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi, who’s currently on loan at Bayer Leverkusen. Do you believe a move to Arsenal, a club with many young, talented footballers, would present the perfect platform for Callum to rejuvenate his career? He’s still only 22 years of age.
“He’s a player that offers to do a lot but he doesn’t do a lot. I think for now, he needs to go to a club that takes him out of his comfort zone because for me he always looks too comfortable. For him to have the best career he possibly can, I think he needs to find a club permanently where he can prove that he can play the game in many different ways, roll his sleeves up when things aren’t going well for his side and then see where it lands him. If he goes to Arsenal in the summer, then he may think that he’s back in the big time and stroll through the motions again and then get to a point when he’s 28 or 29 years of age and ultimately not done anything. He needs to remain out of his comfort zone, learn the game, work his socks off, realise what it’s like to not be in a top, top side and then kick on.”
The Times last week reported that Ben Chilwell is wanted by Manchester City as a replacement for João Cancelo. Do you believe he’d be a perfect replacement? Do you also believe that Chelsea would ever consider selling him to Manchester City?
“I believe he would be a good replacement for Cancelo. He’s a very good player, so if Manchester City could get him then I’m sure they’d bite your arm off for him. However, I can’t imagine Chelsea would let that move happen unless it was for a silly amount of money.”
Moisés Caicedo failed to secure a move to Arsenal from Brighton at the end of the January transfer window. Now considering that move is off for now, do you believe Chelsea should force themselves back into the race for his signature?
“Possibly. Now the windows over and Arsenal were unable to make the move happen, it means that Chelsea don’t need to act hastily if they do want to sign him. I think they’ll just wait and see how it goes for the next few months. Unfortunately for players, timing is everything. If he wants a move in the summer, then hopefully he can continue to perform the way he has been for Brighton up until this point and hope the big teams are still interested in him come the summer. Unfortunately for Moisés, the big clubs don’t have to do anything now do they? I think most clubs who have an eye on him will just monitor how he gets on from now until the end of the season. If he continues to perform to this level then I’m sure a club will look to try and get something done quite early.”
Liverpool’s drop off this season has been alarming, but do you believe that their form is temporary and that they’ll be back competing on all fronts next season? Or do you believe the team is desperately in need of a rebuild?
“Their form has been worrying for some time now. They’ll come back with a good performance or a good result, but then they tail off again. There are a lot of players that don’t look like themselves. However, these are good players we’re talking about and they’re not going to lose their ability overnight.
“They need to find some form somewhere, but that’s easier said than done. Jürgen [Klopp] could look to try something different or spice it up a bit and bring the confidence back to the squad. You have to wait and see how things are between now and the end of the season before you can set expectations for the next one.”
Can you see Jürgen Klopp walking away from his role if things continue to get worse between now and the end of the season? Could you even see him getting sacked?
“Sacking him would be very harsh. It would be harsh in the sense of what he’s done for the club, but ultimately football is fickle and people have short memories. Liverpool have bought some top players and at the moment it’s just not working for them at the moment. If anything was to happen regarding his role then I’m sure it would be a mutual agreement.
“For the players who have been at the club for a while, and there’s a lot of them, it’s hard to maintain Klopp’s philosophy for five or six years. They put everything on the line and work super hard every single week and that’s very hard to do over a five or six year period. If the team doesn’t show any real progression between now and the end of the season, then it’s possible that the owners and Klopp may have to have a chat.”
Can you genuinely see Jude Bellingham at Liverpool next season considering the problems their squad is currently facing? Do you believe he’d want to go to a club where there’s a more guaranteed prospect of accolades and trophies?
“If Liverpool want a serious chance of signing Jude, then they need to be in the top four. Let’s face it, anybody else that’s looking to sign Jude in the summer is going to be playing in the Champions League next season, and some of them will be trying to sign him off the back of winning their domestic league.
“Let’s say if Liverpool finish sixth, then how can Jude pick them over a club like Real Madrid? I think if Liverpool don’t finish in the top four, then they may eliminate themselves from the race to sign him.”
Joël Matip’s performance against Wolves on Saturday was heavily criticised and there’s now speculation suggesting that Liverpool are open to selling him this summer. Do you believe this would be a hasty move by Liverpool, or is it time to move Matip on? Alan Shearer this weekend claimed he was not good enough to play for Liverpool anymore.
“In the past I believe he’s gotten away with some bad performances purely because the team was doing so well. Is he good enough anymore? You don’t become a bad player overnight but I believe that some weak parts of his game are being highlighted because the team isn’t doing as well as it once was. Even if your team isn’t scoring goals, then you’d still like to believe that you can keep the ball out at the other end so you can draw more games than you lose. Liverpool have been smashed by a few teams that they should be beating, so ultimately I do believe that Joël is still good enough to play for Liverpool but he needs to turn it round quickly. He’s not the only player underperforming, it’s bloody loads of them. It’s not fair to solely dig out Joël because lots of them should be under the spotlight.”
It was reported that Jürgen Klopp requested that his club make a late January move for Chelsea’s N’Golo Kanté. The move obviously didn’t come to fruition but with Kanté’s contract expiring in the summer, do you believe pursuing Kanté on a free transfer is something Liverpool should do?
“If N’Golo Kanté is available on a free transfer, then that’s something you need to consider seriously. The guy wears his heart on his sleeve and he has the energy to perform how Jürgen Klopp expects his players to perform. If Liverpool can sign him on a free then blimey, you need to put your hat in the ring.”
Mason Mount is another Chelsea player who’s linked with a shock move to Liverpool. Chelsea are reportedly speeding up contract talks between them and Mount amid Liverpool’s interest. Do you believe Mount would welcome a move to Anfield?
“As soon as Liverpool come calling, then that’s going to prick the ear of any player. Any player would be happy with their interest.
“Chelsea still have time to sign him up to a new deal as he still has 18 months remaining on his contract, but if it ever gets to a point where Mason’s contract has six months left on it, then Chelsea have lost control of the situation. Whilst there’s still time remaining, they’re going to come to a point in the next six months when Chelsea go, “You can either sign this new contract with us now, or we sell you in the summer.” Chelsea can’t be daft enough to risk Mason walking out of the club on a free. They’re signing all these players for £80 to £100 million, so Mason has to be worth as much as they are to the club. I think they’ll either agree to a new contract in the summer or they’ll sell him.”
Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans’ contract expires this summer and he’s been linked with Liverpool for a long time. Do you believe Liverpool should pursue a move for the player when he’s possibly available for free? How many new midfielders do you believe Liverpool need to sign this summer?
“I’d say they need to sign two or three midfielders in the summer. Once they sign one or two midfielders, then they’re probably going to have to sell some others too. They’ll need six midfielders in their squad going forward, at least, and if you can sign someone like Youri Tielemans on a free then you have to seriously consider pursuing a move. If we’re sitting here in the summer and Liverpool have signed N’Golo Kanté and Youri Tielemans for free, then that’s bloody good business. They’ll then have plenty of money left to pursue a big deal elsewhere.”
Could you provide us with a prediction for the upcoming Merseyside derby? Do you believe there’s any chance of an upset considering Liverpool’s run of form?
“It’s certainly going to be more uncomfortable for Liverpool than was previously expected. It’s one of those big games where form goes out the window to a degree, because it’s such a big game for both teams in the city. Everton have a new manager and have just got a fantastic result against Arsenal, so they’re going to look forward to the game more than Liverpool.
“Liverpool aren’t themselves at the moment, so it’s a very slippery fixture for them. Luckily for them, the game is at Anfield but if Everton get a positive result there especially, then that’s going to put them under some serious pressure.”
Declan Rice continues to be linked with a move to Arsenal, and it now looks like the most likely destination for Rice to make a move to in the summer. Why do you believe Declan would choose a move to the Emirates over any of the other clubs interested in his signature?
“I can’t see him moving to Arsenal in all honesty. Even if Arsenal win the league this season, I’d still be really surprised if they win the league again next season. They look great at the moment and things are going really well for them, but this is a total outlier season for them because they’ve been nowhere near this good previously under Mikel Arteta. Have they turned everything around in six months to be title challengers on a consistent basis? I don’t believe so. Even if Arsenal win the league I don’t believe Declan will move there because the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool, three teams who haven’t been at their best, are not all going to underperform again next season. If two or them can get back to their best next season, then Arsenal are going to be fourth or fifth possibly.”
Reports regarding Manchester United’s interest in Harry Kane continue to accelerate. Do you believe Harry would guarantee trophies for Manchester United if he was to sign? Do you believe a move from Tottenham to Manchester United represents a step up for Harry?
“In our era, Manchester United has always been a bigger club, but at the same time, if Harry left Tottenham for them, then you’d be thinking “What the hell, you’re taking a sideways step’. I can see it both ways. Manchester United aren’t winning anything, so what’s the point in Harry leaving Tottenham to go to a club that’s also not winning anything. That wouldn’t make sense to me. If I was the player and thought like that, then I would stay at Tottenham, and may still not win anything, but smash every record that I possibly could and remain a hero at the club. If he’s going to go somewhere to not win trophies, then he should just remain at Tottenham and be a hero.”
Moving back to Jude Bellingham, German publication Sport Bild have claimed that Newcastle United are trying to involve themselves in the race to sign the Borussia Dortmund midfielder. Now whether you believe this is true or not, considering the rise of Newcastle over the previous year and the abundance of wealth they have at their disposal, could you actually see Jude being interested in that move?
“No, I can’t see that happening. If there’s any team that can afford him then it would be Newcastle, but that would be a mind blowing football decision. If he’s available and all the top teams know that he is, then Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid and everybody else would want to take him. If he went to Newcastle United, then I believe it would purely be a financial decision. However, wherever he goes, he’s not going to be on a small contract, so I can’t see him going to Newcastle at all.”
In your opinion, what was the best signing made by a Premier League club in the January window?
“I’d say Mykhailo Mudryk. Against Liverpool at Anfield he looked really impressive, but obviously he’s still got a lot to prove. He’s the one signing though that’s burst onto the scene and looks as if he’s got loads of potential.”