Speculation regarding Graham Potter’s future at Chelsea continues to mount after his side were beaten twice in a week by Manchester City. Despite his former club’s worrying form, Glen Johnson believes that Potter will still be at the club next season, but does admit that he believes Potter’s Chelsea need to focus more on grinding out wins instead of trying to win ‘the pretty way’. Johnson spoke to Betfred to discuss Potter’s future, Chelsea’s João Félix agreement, how Virgil van Dijk’s hamstring injury can impact Liverpool’s top four hopes and why he believes a move to Aston Villa can rejuvenate Harry Maguire’s career.
Graham Potter has now won 1 of his last 8 Premier League games in charge of your former side and was knocked out of the FA Cup by Manchester City at the weekend. Can you genuinely see him at the club for much longer if this form continues and do you believe he will be in charge of Chelsea going into next season?
“I think he will be in charge next season because Chelsea obviously have a gameplan. Of course they’re not going to be happy with the last few weeks but for me it’s strange because they’ve shown glimpses of changing their fortunes. They’ve put in some good performances without getting the results.
“I expect Graham to be there at the start of next season but they need to change their fortunes very soon.”
Is there anything about Graham Potter’s managerial approach at Chelsea that you particularly disagree with?
“I’m mixed about him to be honest. I obviously like the way he wants to play football but ultimately you need to win. I’d rather win ugly. Chelsea and Potter obviously try and do the right things by playing nice football, which is great when it comes off, but sometimes it can be easy to break down. Every now and then you need to rough it up and just win the game. You can’t always do it the pretty way.”
Chelsea have completed the £35 million signing of Benoît Badiashile, a centre-back from AS Monaco. Are you frustrated that the club aren’t focusing their transfer efforts on securing the signature of another forward?
“Yes, because all the top teams have a top striker and Chelsea don’t have that at the moment. I’m sure they have their eyes on someone and something’s bubbling on in the background but Chelsea fans at the moment are going to be frustrated and think the club aren’t doing something about it. The club is probably doing something about it, but it’s just not in the public eye.”
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was subbed on, then subbed off against Manchester City on Thursday and then was left out of the Chelsea squad entirely when the two teams faced off again in the FA Cup at the weekend. Do you believe his time is up at Chelsea?
“From the outside it obviously doesn’t look good. If Aubameyang is happy then you’ve got a great player but if he isn’t then you get zero. There’s no inbetween. If things don’t change for him very soon then yes, his Chelsea days could be up.”
Do you have sympathy with Aubameyang that Thomas Tuchel, who signed him for Chelsea, departed so suddenly after his arrival at the club?
“Not really because it’s his job. You can’t sulk because the manager who signed you is no longer there. That’s the game we’re in, s**t happens and personnel changes. Of course he went there with a different manager at the helm, which is a bit of a shame, but he needs to knuckle down and do his job.”
Enzo Fernández’s move to Chelsea from Benfica looks to have fallen through. Considering that Chelsea would have had to pay a Premier League transfer record to bring the midfielder to Stamford Bridge, despite him only moving to Europe at the start of the current season, do you believe Chelsea have dodged a bullet by not signing him? Were you astonished at the figures being touted for the player?
“He’s a good player but we’ve seen it time and time again where players have a good World Cup and get a massive move off the back of it and they don’t work. It’s seven games. They’ve dodged a bullet in regards to how much they would have had to pay for him. Let’s face it, it’s a risk because they were trying to sign him off the back of a good World Cup.”
Another midfielder linked with a move to Chelsea is Brighton’s World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister. Do you believe his performances at the World Cup and in the Premier League this season highlight that he’s capable of playing for one of the world’s biggest sides? Would you personally like to see him at Stamford Bridge?
“I didn’t see much of him before the World Cup but it’s easy for players to perform at the World Cup because every game is a final and you’re going to give everything to perform at your best. He played well but is he good enough overall to play for Chelsea for the next four or five years? I’m not sure.”
Chelsea are said to have a big interest in Shakhtar Donetsk’s Mykhailo Mudryk. He’s been expected to join Arsenal in the January window, but Chelsea are reportedly trying to hijack the deal with Todd Boehly being prepared to blow Arsenal ‘out of the water’ by bettering any offer the Gunners make for the 21-year-old. Do you believe Stamford Bridge would be a better move for Mudryk, who’s considered one of European football’s best prospects?
“The Premier League is different and there’s a lot of players who can do something in other leagues and come to the Premier League and not be able to repeat their successes, so there’s always that element of risk. However, for technically good footballers then of course Chelsea is the place you want to go.
“I do think a move to Chelsea is still a more appealing move than Arsenal. The only reason why you’d say no to Chelsea is because of Arsenal’s current league position. They’re a club going in the right direction under Mikel Arteta, so they’re definitely making good progress but I still believe Chelsea are the more appealing destination out of the two.”
Who do you want to see Chelsea sign in the January window?
“Probably Declan Rice. When they were talking about spending big money on Enzo Fernández, you’d rather spend that money on Declan instead, a player who’s proven in the Premier League.
“I don’t know if they could do this deal in January though as it would cost them an absolute fortune, because West Ham would be aware of how desperate they’d be to get the move done in January. You don’t often get the big deals done midseason and West Ham would hold out for too much.”
Chelsea have a verbal agreement in place to sign Atletico Madrid’s João Félix on loan. Do you believe he will be a good signing for your former club?
“He’s a very good player, that’s for sure. Would he fit the Premier League? I don’t know. I’d steer clear of it if I’m being honest. I’d have liked to have seen more of him at Atletico Madrid. I don’t know if I’ve seen enough of him at his best to suggest that he would suit the Premier League.”
Borussia Dortmund’s Youssoufa Moukoko, who scored 141 goals in 88 games at youth level for the club and became the youngest player to ever feature at a World Cup for Germany, is said to be on Chelsea’s radar. Moukoko’s contract expires in the summer and Barcelona are said to be the favourites for his signature, however considering the potential of the player, do you believe this is a signing that Chelsea need to make due to the fact they could have a future superstar on their hands?
“If somebody scores that many goals at youth level, then you can’t do that by accident. The kid’s obviously got a very bright future and if you can sign a player with his potential as there’s no risk is there? Especially if his contract is expiring this summer.”
Leeds United’s Illan Meslier is said to be of interest to Chelsea, Newcastle United and Bayern Munich. Still only 22 years old, Meslier has put in a string of good performances this season for his club and notably was influential in Leeds United’s victory over Liverpool in October. From what you’ve seen of him, do you believe he’s capable of being a long-term first-choice goalkeeper for your former club Chelsea?
“Possibly. He’s a very good player and he’s obviously super young for a goalkeeper. All the top teams have top goalkeepers, so Meslier has a lot to learn but he’s taking a lot in his stride and I’d like to see him sign for Chelsea if I’m being honest.”
Do you believe Kepa Arrizabalaga is showing signs of being Chelsea’s first-choice goalkeeper on a more permanent basis, despite his mistake against Manchester City on Thursday?
“No, not really. I think [Édouard] Mendy is clearly the number one goalkeeper at the club. He’s a good goalkeeper, but the problem with Kepa is that he cost a fortune, he’s on a fortune and he’s your second choice goalkeeper.
“You could have somebody there who’s cost half the money, on half the salary and can do the same job. That’s the reason why Kepa’s got so many critics because if you cost that much money and you’re getting paid what you’re paid, then you should be the number one. Sometimes with Kepa it’s not about his performances, it’s about the whole situation.”
Now onto Liverpool, your former club were dealt with a huge blow last week after it was confirmed that Virgil van Dijk is set to see a specialist regarding his hamstring injury amid claims the injury was ‘worse than expected’. How much of a loss is this for Liverpool and how much will it impact their aims of finishing in a Champions League place come the end of the season?
“It’s huge. They’re clearly a better side when he plays and even with him fit they’re up against it in terms of making the top four, so without him they’re really going to have to pull out all the stops. Let’s hope it’s not as bad as suggested, but for them to make the top four, they need him fit.”
You’ve previously stated that you wanted Liverpool to hijack Manchester United’s move for Cody Gakpo, and that wish has been granted. Do you believe he has the capabilities of emulating Luis Díaz’s impact from when he signed for the club in January 2022 and can Cody Gakpo help Liverpool guarantee a finish in the top four?
“He’s been bought with the bigger picture in mind. He’s a young kid, so you don’t want all the pressure on him from day one. Has he got the ability to make an impact? Definitely. To have the same impact that Luis Díaz had early on is obviously tough to match but I believe he has the capabilities and the ability to do so.”
Jürgen Klopp has claimed that Liverpool are not in a position to “splash the cash” in January after their signing of Cody Gakpo. So if this is the case, should they have not pursued with a move for Gakpo and invested the money in a new midfielder instead?
“The answer is no if Gakpo ends up going on to score 15 goals, but if he doesn’t then the answer is yes. I’m very happy Liverpool have signed Gakpo if I’m being honest.”
What are your thoughts on Darwin Núñez’s start to life at Liverpool?
“He’s a fantastic player that wears his heart on his sleeve and in another season’s time, I believe he will be Liverpool’s main man. He has a lot to offer. He’s quick, aggressive and once he fully adapts to the Premier League then he definitely has the chance to be successful.”
Despite Jürgen Klopp stating that they won’t be spending again in January, reports in Ecuador have claimed that Liverpool will ‘make their second move’ for Brighton midfielder Moisés Caicedo. With the attributes he has, do you believe Caicedo would be a perfect midfielder for the club?
“I don’t know if he’s the perfect signing for Liverpool’s midfield but he’d definitely be a good signing. If they could get a deal done for sensible money then it would be a great deal, but if it was going to involve ridiculous money then it wouldn’t. He’s a tidy footballer that would suit the club but I don’t believe he’d be the perfect midfield signing for the club.”
The Telegraph have claimed that Liverpool are considering a £44 million move for Wolves midfielder Matheus Nunes. What have you made of his performances for Wolves this season and can you genuinely see them selling their summer signing of £38 million for just £6 million more than they signed him for in the first place? Pep Guardiola last year claimed that Nunes was ‘one of the best players in the world.
“It’s hard to believe that Wolves would sell one of their main men for a £6 million profit. If Liverpool offered Wolves double what they paid for him then they’d probably usher him out of the door. I think Wolves would certainly hold out for more money, but I definitely believe he’s a good player and he’s caught the eye of many clubs.”
Real Madrid are said to have ‘overtaken’ Liverpool in the race to sign Jude Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund. You’ve said previously that you believed Jude will join either of the two, but if it’s true that Bellingham is set for Real Madrid, do you believe that there’s a part of him that’ll regret not coming to the Premier League first and testing himself in arguably the world’s most competitive league?
“Every player wants to play in the Premier League, but obviously Real Madrid is Real Madrid. I think as an Englishman, if he finishes his career without ever playing in the Premier League then it would be a shame for us all as fans. However, if he goes to Real Madrid then he will still have the opportunity to compete with the best in the Champions League, but the Premier League is stronger than La Liga, that’s for sure. It’s very hard to say no to Real Madrid but as an Englishmen, you’d kick yourself if you never played in the Premier League.”
David Moyes has admitted that it’s right for people to speculate over his future, but in your opinion, do you believe it’s time for Moyes to depart the club?
“Right now West Ham have to dig in and stick together. Obviously David isn’t doing a great job because West Ham wouldn’t be where they are in the table. Sacking the manager isn’t always the solution and when things aren’t going well, sacking the manager is another negative. Just dig in, stick together, get results and David Moyes probably won’t be there next season regardless. West Ham sacking him now probably won’t help their situation.”
Arsenal are the latest side to be reportedly interested in West Ham and England midfielder Declan Rice. Do you believe Declan would be interested in making that move, especially if Arsenal were to qualify for the Champions League?
“No. If Declan Rice is available, then all the top clubs are going to want him such as Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool. I don’t believe he will leave West Ham to go to Arsenal. I know Arsenal are doing fantastic at the moment, but if he was to leave West Ham then I believe he will go to a team that can go deep in most competitions on a more consistent basis and try and win himself some silverware.”
In a recent interview, you claimed that you believe the Premier League top four at the end of the season will consist of Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham, but considering Chelsea and Tottenham’s restart to the season, do you believe they will still finish in the top four?
“It’s a tough call because neither Tottenham and Chelsea have been as good as they were. Newcastle are still looking good but can they continue this form until the end of the season? I’m not sure. I still believe Chelsea will get top four, and I know that’s a brave call considering they’ve won one in eight Premier League games and they’re miles off in terms of their position, but I believe they’re still capable of putting a good run together. Let’s face it, they’re not going to have a similar record over the next eight Premier League games, so I think the top four will consist of Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Newcastle United. However, if Manchester United can contain their current form then I’d say them over Newcastle.”
Mikel Arteta’s touchline antics against Newcastle United last week has attracted criticism, with his actions being labelled as ‘embarrassing’ and ‘disrespectful’ by pundits. What are your thoughts on his actions? Do you believe it was the behaviour of a man who’s cracking under the pressure in the title race? If you were an Arsenal player, what effect do you believe Arteta’s erratic touchline behaviour would have on the players in the squad?
“I do like managers that are passionate but I think there are certain ways you should behave, especially if you’re a manager. I do believe Arteta’s actions against Newcastle were over the top and there’s no need for it really. However, at the same time I’d rather see someone who’s energetic and passionate instead of someone who’s just stood there in silence. I can see it from both ways but Arteta needs to be careful because you don’t want to annoy certain people.
“If you’re a player and your manager’s running up and down the touchline then it’s just annoying and a distraction that you just don’t need because he looks out of control. You want to see a manager who can still get the same message across in a more calm and controlled manner. If you’re frantic, then your players may see you and they may become frantic as a result. On the flip side, if you lookover and you see your manager acting calm and controlled then it could settle you and your teammates down.”
Casemiro has claimed that Marcus Rashford, who we know you’re a big fan of, has the ability to be one of the top five players in the world. Do you agree with this notion?
“I’m a big fan of Marcus Rashford and I believe he has everything. To say he could be one of the top five players in the world is a big shout from Casemiro but to see him in the form he’s in now doesn’t surprise me at all. Even when he was out of form last season, I still believed in what he could do. When you get him running around and being aggressive, then he’s unreal. He’s going to have to kick on massively to be one of the top five players in the world but he certainly has the potential to do so.”
Manchester United have had to deny rumours that their captain Harry Maguire is on the verge of joining Aston Villa. Do you believe a move to a team of Villa’s standard can help him rejuvenate his career?
“No disrespect to Aston Villa but if Harry went there then the limelight would be off him slightly and he wouldn’t be up against the top, top strikers, like you would be if you’re playing in the Champions League. A move to Aston Villa could suit him and help him rejuvenate his career.”
Harry Kane’s contract at Tottenham expires in the summer of 2024. In your opinion, do you believe it’s time he seeks after a new challenge and if so, then where do you believe he should go? Which club side across Europe do you believe would benefit most from signing him?
“I think pretty much any team would benefit from signing him. Who needs him most right now? Probably Chelsea. Making a move from Tottenham to Chelsea is a big call but I can’t really see him ending up there if I’m being honest. Let’s face it, if he stays at Tottenham then he’s not winning anything and it would be a shame for a player of his ability to have a career where he doesn’t win anything. He’s a legend at Tottenham, so would he want to ruin his status by moving to another team in London? I’m not sure. It would probably be easier for him to move to a club outside of London.”