Adam Johnson – underrated and unappreciated

by Alex Byers

Is Adam Johnson one of the most underrated and unappreciated players in the Premier League?

The Manchester City winger has never been a regular since signing from Middlesbrough in 2010, mainly due to City’s depth of attacking options and Roberto Mancini’s belief that Johnson is inconsistent.

At 25 years old I believe Adam Johnson needs to be provided with the platform from which to demonstrate his obvious ability. On the rare occasions that he has been afforded the chance to prove his worth Johnson has shone and whilst he occasionally flatters to deceive it is my opinion that there are inferior wingers playing regularly at the top of the game both domestically and internationally

It is difficult for a winger coming in and out of a team to establish any form of consistency, yet Johnson still managed 9 goals in 25 appearances for club and country last season, despite 20 of his appearances coming from the bench.  That poses questions as to why he is not thought more of from the management at Eastlands and also at international level, the statistics suggest Johnson delivers even when used sporadically, so why is he so unloved?

His mazy runs on the right wing, his ability to go inside or outside a defender, and his prowess at cutting inside and firing in shots make him a nightmare to contain. Playing in a similar style to that of Arjen Robben, Johnson is match-made for the 4-2-3-1 formation, being afforded a license to go forward and express himself, interchanging with forward players in a fluid system off the right hand side with his favoured left foot.

Sometimes I get the impression that Johnson is a victim of being a normal lad born in Sunderland, if his name was Johnsinho and he were to have arrived from Brazil instead of Middlesbrough, would he be thought of more highly? Would his increased reputation result in more first team chances? I think so, I also think that his relatively low reputation makes him easy to leave out, there was no media clamour for his inclusion in the England squad, but I think their should have been.

With Liverpool eyeing Johnson as part of the deal to take Daniel Agger to City I can’t think of a more ideal player for Liverpool to acquire this transfer window.

If you are looking for a winger to be direct, beat players, create goals and score goals, I believe that Adam Johnson can provide all four if given the opportunity to have an extended run in a team that will give him freedom on the right wing.

I sincerely hope that Mancini provides him with this opportunity in what is a pivotal season for his career. However if Brendan Rogers is able to entice him to Anfield – and there’s no guarantee he will want to sign for the Reds – then it would represent a magnificent signing and one that could potentially take Liverpool to a higher level.

Thinking back to Euro 2012 and England’s relatively average and uninspiring performances I can’t help but think what Adam Johnson would have provided. It is a crying shame that a player with a touch of arrogance and belief in his ability was left at home, his confidence in retaining the ball and going past defenders is something that was badly missing from England’s play, but once again Johnson was over looked in favour of a more robotic and honest approach that left England with little creativity and invention.

Sometimes players just need to be given an opportunity, this is the case for Johnson, the 2012-2013 season is a huge one for the man from the North-East, he has too much ability to go to waste and Mancini needn’t look abroad for a wide-man to score and provide, he already possesses it in his ranks and it comes in the form of the man who rarely started last year.

As a follower of a team operating outside England’s top flight in the new season I only have a few wishes for the forthcoming Premier League campaign, one being the desire to see the potential of a terrific English footballer fulfilled.

Underrated and unappreciated, the time has come for a manager to remove the shackles from one of the most naturally gifted England wingers I have seen in the last ten years, it’s time for Johnson to have his day in the sun, so give him a go Mancini, or it will be nineteen Premier League left backs who will be the most appreciative.

8 Responses

  1. Tim says:

    While I feel there is some validity in what this article suggests, I feel that the claim that his Englishness belies his ability is perhaps non-founded. I’d actually go as far as saying the opposite in that his nationality exaggerates his ability as is the case with homegrown players in the Premier League.

    Johnson’s a solid player, but he’s not an upgrade on any player at City when really, he should be in the prime of his career.

  2. Phil says:

    No, he isn’t. He’s one of the most overrated players in the Premier League.

    As a City fan, I’m going to guess you only really see Adam Johnson on MOTD.

  3. Win Soon says:

    I agree with you in some parts. Adam Johnson definitely has the ability to be a top player. But he is not as good as you might think. Sure he had some good games and is great individually on the ball. But his movement without the ball and the runs her makes are not as good. Definitely not a team player unlike the others in the Manchester City squad. He is a good impact sub, someone who can offer a little magic but definitely not someone you would want to start a game with. Unless you are playing a 4-3-3 with all out wingers. Manchester city play a more narrow 4-2-3-1 with 3 forwards creating behind.

  4. Wigan Blue says:

    “his ability to go inside or outside a defender”

    OK then – just tell me the last time he went outside a defender? The simple answer is, he can’t. He ALWAYS cuts inside. And, while it’s true that he occasionally scores by doing so, City have others who can do so more consistently. The simple fact is that Adam Johnson, likeable chap though he is, cannot take the ball to the byline and put it across the face of the goal. And that is the definition of a winger. Micah Richards is actually a better winger than Johnson.

    The lad isn’t stupid, he knows what he has to do to be picked consistently for the starting lineup, but he just doesn’t do it. The manager can only afford so much patience (and he HAS been patient – based solely on performances the number of appearances he’s made are testimony to that) So I’m afraid your sympathy is wasted…..

  5. James says:

    completely agree, he desperately needs to leave city if he wants his career to go anywhere, every time i see him play he makes something happen, which is more than i can say for almost every winger i can think of

  6. Mustafa says:

    Perfect article! Took the words out of my mouth.
    The one thing Liverpool have lacked in the past decade is a destructive winger. That is what makes all the difference in matches. All of the top 6 teams have atleast one, but not Liverpool. The flanks are the single most important factor of attack and where the source of majority of goals. Spurs: Bale, Lennon. Chelsea: Mata, Hazard. United: Valencia, Nani, Young. City: Silva, Nasri and Adam Johnson ofcourse. And Liverpool…Downing and Henderson who totalled 2 goals and 2 assists between them.

    Compare that to Nani and Valencia with 12 goals 26 assists. I’ve been looking at some stats and Adam Johnson has averaged more goals and assists per minute player than any other winger in the league, ahead of the likes of Silva and Gareth Bale. And this is exactly what I have been saying, the fact he’s an ordinary guy from Sunderland makes him easy to leave out but things would be very different if he was an Argentinian called Johnzinho.

  7. Alex Byers Alex Byers says:

    Great comments lads, football is all about opinions, you all make valid points.

    I do stick to my view that Johnson’s background and quiet demeanour makes him easier to leave out, he doesn’t go to the press, he wasn’t signed for big money, he isn’t a ‘sexy’ name, this, in my opinion, is one of the reasons why he is so often left out.

    Johnson didn’t play much last year, so I did see the majority of his displays (City were on tv every week and he only made 5 starts), I was also at the home game vs Villa when Johnson ripped them to shreds.

    Granted he is not always on his game, but the stats suggest he delivers despite not being able to gain rhythm by having a run in the team.

    I don’t feel he is inferior to most of the other wingers in the top 6 (Walcott, Nani, Lennon), many of which are inconsistent but play enough games to make an impact.

    There are not many wingers who are not frustrating, but how many goals and assists do you think Johnson would get if he was given 30 PL starts next year (plus sub appearances)? I think he wouldn’t be far off double figures in both.

    Nasri, Tevez, Balotelli, Nani, and Walcott are all inconsistent yet are given more opportunities to make an impact, this is despite the statistics suggesting they are not as productive, so why is Johnson not afforded this?

    Again, just my opinions, all comments welcome, I enjoy the debate.

  8. JohnUK says:

    I couldn’t agree with the article more.

    The stats on Adam Johnson’s actual performance for Man City and indeed England show he is better value for money than almost any other Premier League player of his type.

    In my view he’s the victim of the meanest and most sustained smear campaign from a manager against one of his own players I’ve ever seen.

    Mancini even criticised Johnson’s performance after he won man of the match!

    The MOTD panel even expressed doubts about Mancini’s apparently baseless and unduly negative criticism of Johnson on MOTD.

    Most of the City fans couldn’t give a damn, because all they care about is winning trophies and outdoing Man U.

    They couldn’t care less it’s ruined AJ’s career both for City and England, they just buy the “impact sub” argument and accept Mancini’s invalid criticisms just because he has brought them trophies.

    As you also said, it’s partly because he’s an English lad from Sunderland and came from Middlesborough cheaply, instead of where the likes of Tevez and Silva came from with all their previous success.

    Mancini is a moron in my view who respects people for what they’ve done in the past, as opposed to how good they are now.

    Lots of other players he has like Kolarov, Tevez, Milner and others make numerous blunders, but get no criticism. But Johnson misses a shot by a few yards and there’s hell to pay, Mancini is screaming at him from the touch line and barking fresh orders at him.

    Johnson is a poor defender, no doubt about it, so if that’s what Mancini wants, he’ll never get it. But his outstanding skills in midfield and attack more than make up for his defensive inadequacies.

    After all – how much defending do the likes of Messi and Ronaldo do?

    Adam Johnson can’t be chasing over the park flat out for 90mins and still have the edge of acceleration as a winger to go past defenders, and it’s another dumb decision of Mancini to not appreciate this, and keep his defensive role minimal.

    But despite limited play given him, Johnson has also got Mancini out of some very tough spots, scored and set up some important key goals. So Mancini has just used him cynically at tough moments, to dig himself out of a hole, and would almost certainly have never won the Premier League without him.

    And even then he’s got no gratitude, still belittling Johnson no matter how hard he tries, and he has given it 100% every time he’s played, so all that talk about “poor work rate” is also pure cobblers .

    And Mancini accepts no blame for Johnson’s omission for Euro2012. But just tell me then how he managed to have him not even on the bench for the last 3 games of the season, when he must have known that would screw up Johnson’s Euro chances?

    I think Mancini has deliberately sabotaged Johnson’s career, I think it’s simply a case of a bullying boss keeping an employee down.

    Hoping he can finally escape from the tyranny of Mancini, finally I am delighted to see it seems Adam Johnson himself is finally waking up to how abused he’s been, I think we will see as you say, that Johnson is one of the best English/British footballers of the last 20 or 30 years, when he gets a sensible manager who gives him a proper chance to develop his talent and play his natural game.

    I just hope he gets transferred and not loaned, so these ungrateful City fans can see what it is like to have Johnson play against them, and hopefully play a decisive part in defeating them

    We’ll see how much of an “impact sub” they still think he is then, when he rattles 2 or 3 goals past them, which it is my belief that given the right managerial and team support he quite likely can.

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