Not so long ago when Adam Johnson signed for Man City, I doubted the reasoning behind the move on the player’s behalf, I felt he’d chosen a big club a step too soon. Well it’s safe to say I’ve been proven resoundingly wrong on that one, I stand corrected.
But with Fabio Capello analysing his wing options, a two horse race looks set for one of the last places on the plane to South Africa, between Aston Villa winger Stewart Downing and his former Boro understudy Adam Johnson – surely there can be only one choice here?
Stewart Downing has largely frustrated in his 23 England appearances to date, his failure to beat his man has been noticeable and his delivery has sometimes lacked the pace and accuracy that he’s capable of and shown to a greater degree at club level.
His switch in the summer to Aston Villa for the princely sum of £12m was originally seen as a replacement for the newly departed Gareth Barry, the thought behind this being that his sweet left peg could help Villa dictate games from the middle with his range of passing, something Barry had been capable of doing at times the year before.
But James Milner’s transition from good player to superb all action midfielder this term has taken everyone by surprise, and with this shift in style, Downing has returned to his primary role on the wing, a move which has marked a return to the steady if unspectacular form which plagued his last few seasons at Boro.
Adam Johnson though looks to have made a late play to be part of Capello’s World Cup plans and he truly is the form winger of the league of the moment. Long seen by many Boro fans as the better and more exciting player out of both him and Downing, he truly has emerged from his mentors shadow the last few months and could be a wild card pick for Capello.
Capable of playing on either wing, his versatility is a big plus, as is his form which has seen a return of 3 assists and a spectacular goal against Sunderland in his eleven City appearances to date. Capello has always said that he picks players on form and a call up for Johnson surely awaits for the productive and direct winger.
Capello has even gone on record as saying “Johnson has caught my eye, now it’s important he gets some international experience” so the Italian seems to be eyeing up the winger for a friendly call up after all, and with the provisional 30-man squad for the World Cup decided on May 16th, Johnson wold still have time to impress in the friendlies against Mexico and Japan.
Having hurdled the deeply frustrating Shaun Wright-Phillips from the City line-up, a man who seems to have played himself out of contention rather than in, Mancini’s charges look a far more threatening outfit capable of delivering on their promise with dangerous play and good results.
There are of course other wingers in contention, Joe Cole looks to have finally found some form and caught the eye of Capello the last few weeks or so, and Ashley Young who remains inconsistent and poor at ball retention, a big thing for the Italian, but he’s unquestionably lively and an excellent crosser of the ball with either foot.
The composition of the squad will probably see James Milner go as central midfield back-up alongside Michael Carrick as well as Steven Gerrard’s understudy on the left. That then probably opens up four spots on the wings.
Lennon if passed fit is an absolute must and resident speed merchant Theo Walcott remains a Capello favourite, and for all of his faults, he does seem to rise to the occasion at international level.
With a back-up left back unlikely to be needed if Ashley Cole returns in time and with Barry, Milner and Lescott all capable of playing there, there seems to be two wing positions remaining. Cole looks to be edging ahead of Young for his guile and ability to turn a game on it’s ahead in a heartbeat is an attractive thing to have on the bench in reserve should the occasion call for it, and the other choice rests between Downing and Johnson.
Johnson looks to be the more creative of the two and as an impact sub he’d be a lot more useful to bring off the bench than Downing, a player who would surely just provide more of the same. Pace will play a big factor at the World Cup and is undoubtedly an integral part of the modern game at international level, Johnson has it in spades, Downing doesn’t, it’s a simple choice surely?
Written By James McManus