Since Adam Johnson was left out of England’s 23-man squad for the World Cup finals last summer, the Manchester City man has responded by proving himself last season as one of the most dangerous wingers in the Premier League. Despite 18 of his 42 League and Cup appearances for his club coming from the bench due to the intense competition for a places at City, Johnson has played a key role in helping his side to automatic qualification for the Champions League and an FA Cup triumph at Wembley.
Yet since starting England’s first game following the World Cup against Hungary last August and following this up by scoring from the bench in England’s next 2 games against Switzerland and Bulgaria, Johnson has been unable to cement a regular place in the England side. Indeed, Johnson’s failure to even make the bench for England’s qualifier against Switzerland and add to his modest tally of 6 caps has demonstrated that he is anything but an England regular.
Based on Capello’s selection against the Swiss, Johnson currently lags behind Theo Walcott , Stewart Downing and James Milner in the battle for a starting spot in the wide positions, There are few players at Fabio Capello ’s disposal however who possess the same qualities as Johnson and after England’s poor showing against the Swiss resulting in a disappointing draw, there is a case for Johnson to be given his chance to shine again.
It is Johnson’s incisiveness and directness, which separates him from the England talents currently ahead of him in the pecking order. Whilst Walcott possesses incredible pace, too often he is hesitant to attack the full-back and when he does, his control is too often lacking. Downing has improved throughout the season with Aston Villa and has grown into one of their most important attacking assets but has never looked capable of making the step up to International level. Milner’s form in contrast dipped during the second-half of City’s campaign resulting in Johnson himself being preferred to his teammate on numerous occasions.
Playing predominantly from the right wing this season, Johnson’s pace, trickery and close control have caught the eye, often more so than the talents of big-money signings of David Silva and wonder kid Mario Balotelli . His ability to cut inside or go down the line from his position on the right wing has caused uncertainty and anxiety for defenders all season and with 9 goals for club and country, Johnson has weighed in with his share. With his left-foot, the former Middlesbrough winger also provides England with greater balance and options with his ability to switch wings effectively.
Johnson’s task of becoming an England regular however has the potential to get even tougher next season with Manchester City looking to spend big as part of their assault on the Champions League and Premier League title. Time will tell but approaching the age of 24, Johnson is at the stage of his career where he needs to be playing regularly in the starting XI and warming the bench is certain not to help him to reignite his England career.
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