Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughAdam Johnson: Superstar or Supersub? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Adam Johnson: Superstar or Supersub? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Adam Johnson: Superstar or Supersub?

Peter Drury said during Man City’s game that Adam Johnson’s involvement from the bench has been the subject of much debate. Drury is stating the obvious, but has highlighted the heated discussions that Johnson’s ability and playing time have ignited up and down the country.

The predominant argument against including Johnson from the start has been that he is much better as an “impact sub”, the kind of player that can bring urgency and freshness to Man City’s game when they look to be flagging. Mancini has taken the “hard love” route with the player, claiming he loves him like a child and that even children have to be shown a tough side sometimes.

Other criticisms of Johnson’s claims to be a first team regular have been that he simply doesn’t work as hard as the likes of James Milner when he is needed defensively. This argument carries a lot more credence than the idea that the way to take Johnson to new levels is to not play him, as Mancini seems to be rather confusedly claiming.

So far this season, Johnson has played 10 Premier League games, 3 in which he has been sprung from the bench. From seven starts, he has scored 3 goals and notched 1 assist. He has also recorded a passing accuracy of 89%.

Mancini seems to be in no doubt as to the ability of the player he has on his hands. He has constantly praised Johnson’s technical ability, yet he has also constantly tempered this praise with criticism of his attitude. Mancini, in saying that Johnson can go up one or two levels in his performances, seems to be implicitly suggesting that Johnson is not yet ready to share the field with his more illustrious team-mates.

However, when one examines the current players filling Johsnon’s position, there is room for argument. Yaya Toure and David Silva aside, Johnson has definitely got the talent to challenge for a place in the Citizens’ starting line-up. While James Milner has notched 2 goals and 4 assists, he seems less likely than Johnson to unlock a game at a crucial time. Johnson offers that explosive option, the ability to produce something out of nothing.

This conviction of Johnson’s flaws has, unfortunately for Johnson, apparently translated to Mancini’s compatriot and England manager Fabio Capello. Mancini claims that Capello and himself share the same approach when it comes to Johnson; “Fabio Capello and I are of the same opinion. A player like him should play well every game, like David Silva.”

Capello’s team selections have reflected that he doesn’t feel he can trust Johnson to contribute at international level yet, particularly when he declined to select Johnson for his World Cup squad last summer. England’s lethargic, uninspired displays were crying out for someone with the ability of Johnson. As is the case at the Etihad Stadium, Johnson faces competition in the England set-up that he could easily claim to be capable of matching, if not bettering. In the past five games, Capello has kept faith with Theo Walcott and Ashley Young, two players that have failed to impress on a regular basis this season. Up until the Chelsea game recently, Walcott was having a season to forget with Arsenal, while Ashley Young’s bright start to the season has fizzled out and he is often on the fringes of games at Johnson’s Manchester rivals.

What Johnson has by way of deficiencies, he more than makes up for with a dazzling array of skills, the most valuable being a turn of pace combined with excellent close control that allows him to drive at defences and open up spaces that other players cannot find. He is also in possession of a wicked left foot, equally as adept at finding a good cross as the back of the net. Johnson also solves the age-old problem that England has struggled with, in that they haven’t produced a left winger capable of taking the international arena by storm.

The rest of this season is a crucial point in Johnson’s development. If Mancini succeeds with his hardened stance, then Johnson could become a genuine superstar on both the domestic and international stage. As Mancini himself says; “I say what I want because, if he were not a good player, then I wouldn’t waste my time on him. He has some characteristics that are different from other players and because of this he could become one of the top wingers in the game”.

However, if the player becomes demoralised by the seemingly harsh treatment, then there is a real danger that Johnson could remain as nothing more than a super-sub.

Damien Edgar

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