Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The Curious Case of Glen Johnson

Glen Johnson has been in high demand throughout his career. From being the first big money Roman Abramovich signing to playing a major part for a strong Harry Redknapp Portsmouth side, managers and boards have never been afraid to splash the cash on the England international. Johnson has cost more than 30 million pounds in transfer fees and has played for some of the biggest clubs in the Premier League. So, when Rafa Benitez splurged close to 20 million on the right back, the decision was received well as the Reds were getting a proven Premier League player with pedigree at the highest level.
Johnson playing for Chelsea
Source - Getty Images 

Johnson started out really well making a great impact in his first few seasons. He was a mainstay in a team which endured a lot of struggles and slumped to mid table mediocrity. While players were going in an out of the team, Johnson was an ever present either at right back or left back. There were a lot of different managers at the Anfield helm during this time and all rated Johnson from Roy Hodgson to Brendan Rodgers.

 Johnson has made 192 appearances in total for Liverpool. There have been memorable moments for sure during Johnson’s Liverpool career such as goals against Chelsea and West Ham and a brilliant defensive performance against an inform Gareth Bale. However, it has been palpable for some time that Johnson’s form has regressed. He has been a shadow of his former self and there has been a considerable drop in his energy levels.

Johnson did have memorable moments
Source -
Unlike a fine cheese, Johnson’s condition has deteriorated with age. For someone allegedly on 120 pounds a week, that is not good enough. Johnson cuts a disinterested figure on the pitch and always looks to blame others when something bad happens. Johnson must only look at Steven Gerrard to see that despite Gerrard’s condition declining, he still gives 100% in what he does. Johnson on the other hand just looks disinterested. In the past two seasons, Johnson has only won a measly 57% of his duels and only has a Squawka performance rating of 133 this season which is worse than any of Liverpool’s other starting defenders.

Despite these poor showings, Johnson is still consistently picked by Brendan Rodgers when fit. Rodgers has shown himself to be trigger-happy many times this season but when it comes to Glen Johnson, Rodgers is firm and resolute. Why is it that a player that is underperforming so much is given so much playing time when players like Javier Manquillo are not even getting a sniff? Manquillo has more defensive actions in fewer games and yet is time and time again left out in place of Glen Johnson. When Johnson was injured, players like Lazar Markovic played in the right back position despite Manquillo being on the bench but the moment Johnson came back, he was put straight into the team.

Always regarded as a player who is great at attacking but a bit suspect in defence, Johnson has lost the attacking element of his repertoire. He is very slow in his passing and seems lost with the ball. The little bit of mobility that he had was lost and this resulted in him playing the game at walking pace which is bad for the team considering the express nature of the Premier League. Rarely do we see him make those marauding runs that made him desired in the first place. In fact, it could be argued that he was the worst player in a season where everyone was being praised to superlative levels. When better players come along, Johnson is just played in a different position. He has played everywhere across the back line without any change in his performances.

For a player who is known for his attacking impetus, Johnson has been shockingly poor in that department. In the past two seasons, Johnson has only scored 1 solitary goal and has a shooting accuracy of only 20%. This season, he has only created 3 chances in 13 games. In contrast, Lazar Markovic, a player who has seemingly struggled according to the media has created 17 chances and Jordon Ibe, a player who was not even considered at the beginning of the season has a higher duel win rate and shooting accuracy and has a higher chance per game ratio. Their Squawka indexes are also very close to that of Johnson’s despite not playing as many games as the Englishman.

But, the fact is that most pundits, media and even some fans are oblivious to this. While many heavily criticize Mario Balotelli for “not showing enough effort” even when playing well, Glen Johnson gets a free ride no matter how bad he plays. The hard fact is that Liverpool has a much better record this season when Johnson is not part of the team. While stats might be a bit inconclusive, the Reds have also scored more and conceded less without Johnson in the backline. In fact, it was after Johnson got injured that that the Reds went on their best defensive run in close to 30 years. The facts are not pointing in Johnson’s favour but yet Rodgers consistently picks him.

Johnson has lost his verve
Source -
In addition, Johnson disrupts the balance of the team. Instead of the team being lined up seamlessly, Rodgers has to adapt and change positions of players just to accommodate Johnson. For example, Emre Can had to move out of defence where he excelled so that Johnson could take his place resulting in a poor performance from the young German who seemed to struggle with adapting to the new position. At the start of the season, star performers like Alberto Moreno were dropped in favor of Johnson. Moreno has created 27 chances in the time he has played which had been limited because many were made as a substitute showing. Despite his attacking fluency and calmness in possession, Moreno was made to look like a scapegoat during the Reds’ disastrous run.

While calls of favoritism or jokes about Johnson having ‘dirt’ on Rodgers may seem a bit far-fetched the fact is that he is taking up a space in the team which should go to more deserving players and in essence, he is being carried by the team. Johnson has been a great servant for Liverpool but he has waned and waned dramatically. The harsh truth is that no other team in the Top 8 will have Johnson as an automatic starter and the fact that the Reds do is very worrying considering they have better players on the bench or being played out of position.

Rodgers has gotten rid of most of the Rafa Benitez core with players like Pepe Reina and Daniel Agger shipped out ruthlessly. But for some reason, he seems content on keeping Johnson despite the fact that he has been much worse than the aforementioned players when they were kicked out. These two players had a much greater connection with the fans as well but were sold without much hesitancy. But, Rodgers is going out of his way to get Johnson to sign a new contract when the Reds have at least 6 replacements. The fact that Jon Flannagan, a player who is Scouse and performed immensely last season is close to being shipped out and Johnson is not is a huge worry for the Reds as club and a community.

Johnson’s performances have dipped so considerably that even an ordinary performance such as his against Blackbrun, a Championship team was lauded as brilliant is testament to how far the standards have dropped. A player once tipped for glory at the European level is now being reduced to being praised for poor performances. In the summer transfer window, even teams like QPR shirked away from buying the 30 year old. If the Reds are to move forward, they have to get rid of players like Johnson and push on hungrier players like Flannagan and Ryan McLaughlin. It is the cold but hard truth.

Stats from and Transfer Fees from

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