THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Moving to Manchester was an unwise choice

24 May ~ Adam Johnson spent his formative years at Middlesbrough, deputising for Stuart Downing. Judging by Roy Hodgson's Euro 2012 selection, very little has changed. Despite failing to score or provide an assist since his high-profile switch from Aston Villa to Liverpool, it is Downing that made the cut, with Johnson a mere standby. Downing's inclusion was expected as he has featured regularly for club and country this season, whereas Johnson appears infrequently for Manchester City. If anything, he is fortunate to be chosen as a back-up option, with the likes of Aaron Lennon missing out altogether.

Johnson is clearly a second class citizen at Manchester City. If his England omission does not act as a catalyst for personally addressing his current malaise, then surely nothing will.

As an aggressive, left-footed winger, the Ryan Giggs comparison was inevitable, with both Roberto Mancini and Stuart Pearce making the association at some stage. "I remember Ryan Giggs when he was young and the way he moved. Johnson is the same player," Mancini revealed at Johnson's Manchester City unveiling. "He is probably a Ryan Giggs of his time."

Then England coach Pearce subsequently claimed a few months later, when Johnson was selected in Fabio Capello's provisional 30-man World Cup squad: "He has something unique about him. Johnno is not the completed article but he is an improving player and that is a fantastic thing to be."

Johnson would be afforded more opportunities if he were playing for United, where a pair of wingers are traditionally employed. Johnson is City's only conventional winger for a reason. They tend to rely on their full-backs for width, with David Silva and Samir Nasri utilised wide and exhibiting a tendency to cut inside, with mixed results despite a successful campaign.

Johnson started four consecutive Premier League games in February and City won all four, albeit against Fulham, Aston Villa, Blackburn and Bolton. Yet Silva and Nasri remain first choice, with James Milner and Johnson favoured for weaker opposition. With designs on Eden Hazard, future appearances in the first team are likely to become increasingly scarce.

Entering the final few months of his contract at Middlesbrough, Johnson chose to join Manchester City in the January transfer window rather than remain at Boro until the end of the season. Had the calibre of his new employers been less attractive, he may have remained. But the decision was at least partly motivated by a desire to improve his chances of international selection ahead of the World Cup in South Africa.

It almost paid dividends; he made the provisional squad put failed to make the final cut. Had he secured a loan spell this season, it may have made all the difference.

Johnson has transmitted conflicting messages this season regarding his supporting role at the club. "I've been awfully disappointed that I haven't played many games," in contrast with: "If you want to win trophies, players will tell you it's all about the depth and strength of the squad. At the end of your career it's all about what you have won and who you played for."

Mancini has followed suit by criticising Johnson publicly and withdrawing him early in several high-profile matches this season. Yet the City boss also awarded him a new deal in November. Having not started him in a game since the beginning of March, Mancini has recently expressed more impatience and disappointment at Johnson's inconsistency. Although, by selecting him infrequently, Mancini could be accused of compounding the problem.

Manchester City's recent turnover of players has been rapid. If Mancini decides to make Johnson available for transfer, it is believed that Martin O'Neill is keen to reunite him with his home town. It may prove to be Johnson's salvation. Scott Johnson

Comments (9)
Comment by caleyi 2012-05-24 12:44:26

Good article but I feel it misses the obvious - Nasri and Silva are better players (though I don't remember Nasri delivering many goals or assists per possession, he seems obsessed with running as far as he can with the ball and then kind of forgets where he is) but they are also far more versatile. Not only do they play wide but they consistently move inside, find space and influence the game. Johnson does none of these things - he wants to be given the ball, take someone on and have a pop or a cross, and that's it. When he played for the Boro, Johnson was a terrifically exciting dribbler who added goals to his game when we dropped into the Second Tier i.e. started playing weak defences. City have still got the same player they bought - he just hasn't moved on. That's why he's not going to the Euros.
As for Downing, he's not going to play is he? and while he's been poor this year, it's not his fault that Kenny played his entire midfield in the wrong way, all season, picked Downing when he had no-one to aim crosses at, and basically asked him to be a young Bellamy. Note to Kenny's successor - Stewie lad isn't fast but he will put the ball where it's going to cause problems if you have people moving into the box.
The only travesty of the squad selection is Terry.

Comment by JimDavis 2012-05-24 14:10:36

Part of me thinks Roy has picked all those Liverpool players to show King Kenny how they could have been utilised togther better

Comment by sw2boropetrovsk 2012-05-24 14:38:29

What caleyi said.

Comment by jertzeeAFCW 2012-05-24 14:52:42

English players are simply shit in comparison because of the way we teach kids, or not as the case me be, from an early age.

Comment by johntheface 2012-05-24 15:54:19

First things first, Adam Johnson is a far better player than Stewart Downing.

BUT

He's not as good as the hype. I wouldn't pretend for a second to speak for all City fans but I can speak the (reasonably large) portion I know and sit near at home games who share my opinion that he is not and will never be good enough to be a regular at Eastlands.

He's got one trick, cut inside a shoot and, to be fair, he's pretty quick (but not enough to be considered one of the quickest wingers in the league) and he does have one hell of a shot on him but it's not enough. I won't say he can't beat a man but he just never does. I don't know whether that's down to him being found out by other defenders, a lack of confidence (he's got a pretty big ego on him too so I can't see that being the problem) or Mancini telling him he's not allowed (pretty likely). He's also pretty poor at crossing.

It's hugely frustrating because every now again he shows glimpses of being an absolute quality player but it just doesn't happen any where near often enough. When they do happen they get plastered all over Match of the Day and all of a sudden the nation thinks he's the next big thing again.

At a club playing regularly in the Champions League and aiming for top honors I just can't see him being anything more than an impact sub. I hope I'm wrong because, last season in particular, he looked to be an absolute gem for club and country.

But he's far better than Stewart Downing

And Nasri got 9 assists in the league this season.

Comment by sw2boropetrovsk 2012-05-24 23:31:41

He might be now, but he definitely wasn't four or so years ago.

Comment by trickydicky 2012-05-25 10:42:46

Even if Johnson had never played football before, and showed no interest in the game, I would rather have him in the England squad than Stuart Downing. I'm not even sure what Downing does, he doesn't provide assists, score, take his man on, take players out the game with a mazy dribble, or offer any kind of entertainment, passion or drive. All he offers, by standing on the touchline, is width. But so would the reserve goalkeeper or physio if they were asked to stand there. He is widely derided as being useless, but even with that is still one of the most overrated footballers of all time.

Comment by sw2boropetrovsk 2012-05-25 11:13:35

Stewart Downing is also near the top of the list of players that people can't be arsed to get his name right.

I've never quite understood the level of abuse Downing gets, his ever-present tongue aside.

Obviously I've not really seen him play much for three seasons now, but understand most Villa fans thought he was pretty good, certainly after he'd settled in after coming back from the injury they bought him with.

At the Boro he had his critics for trying to cut in too much, and for being a bit of a fanny in the tackle, and although you might argue we're used to a lower standard than Liverpool fans, you simply couldn't fault him for his delivery of the ball right onto where someone's head or foot was going to be in the box.

As caleyi alludes to, many people I know thought he'd do ok at Liverpool if he had Carroll's geet Easter Island head to aim at, but from what I can pick up they barely played together, one coming off for the other to come on. But I'm not a manager or a great tactician, no doubt there was a plan I was unaware of.

Similarly, many Boro fans felt he was an outsider at England, possibly because he's not the same kind of wanker as many of the FA's players. I can remember an incident where England were playing a friendly, I think in Trinidad or Tobago, where Downing played a brilliant ball, England scored, all the players rushed to congratulate each other, Downing was stood apart from the throng.

I mean, I don't care that much - just a little - as he plays for a different side now and I'll not celebrate an FA goal until we get our three points back, but the level and style of criticism Stewie gets just strikes me as bizarre. I guess I might think different if I'd watched Liverpool all season, but I do know that whenever I've watched him play for England, ineffectual as he's been many times, there's not been any when I've thought he was the worst Lion of the Three.

Comment by Dalef65 2012-05-25 16:26:59

"English players are simply shit in comparison........"

To what exactly......??


I would like to think that SOME English players are worse than SOME overseas players,while SOME (ok,a few if you like)are better..

But I thought we were talking about Adam Johnson....

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