Â£18m is a lot of dosh for a full back who still has certain question marks against him, but personally I’m happy with the Glen Johnson deal. Is he overpriced? Definitely, and all things being equal I wouldn’t expect us to be paying this kind of money for a right back, unless it was for a 25 year old Cafu. But all things aren’t equal, and there are certain situations when you have to pay more than you would like. For me, this was one of them.
We needed to bring in more English players, and having missed out on Gareth Barry we were running out of options. If we sat back and said ‘˜Â£18m is too much, Chelsea can have him at that price’, what then? Take away the need for English players, and we could certainly have done that and looked abroad for a cheaper alternative. But we desperately need to add to our English contingent, and had we passed on Johnson we would not only have had to go looking for another right back, but we’d also still be facing the problem of having to sign another Englishman, if not at right back then in another position. Who else is there who we could realistically go for?
If Johnson was the player Rafa wanted for right back, then on this occasion I think we were right to push the boat out to get him. The likes of City and Chelsea are happy to pay over the odds when necessary, so how long can we sit back and just let them outbid us for players we want? At some stage you have to bite the bullet and pay up. Could we afford not to pay the extra for Johnson if he is the player Rafa really wanted? Besides, we don’t know the exact details of the deal and it may not be as expensive as it appears. Portsmouth owed us money for Crouch, so when you knock that off and assume that we are paying the rest over a period of two years or maybe even longer, it doesn’t look so bad.
Personally I like him, I think he’s blossomed into a very good player. A few years ago I thought he couldn’t defend to save his life, but he’s improved a lot since the days when Diouf tore him a new arsehole at Anfield when he was playing Chelsea. I haven’t watched him every week, so I can’t really say he’s ironed out all of the flaws he had in his defensive game, but from what I have seen he looks a lot more solid then he was, and he’ll only get better as he’s still young and improving.
The key for me is whether he will improve our starting line up, and with all due respect to Arbeloa I’d say that he will almost certainly do that. Arbeloa has been a good signing, a very good one in fact when you consider what we paid for him. We almost got Lucas Neill, but thankfully his greed scuppered that and we got Arbeloa instead. He’s done a good job, and had a solid season last year.
I just think that when you look at our regular line up, then both full back positions and left wing stand out as the weakest areas of the side. Aurelio, Arbeloa, Insua etc aren’t bad players, far from it, but we can improve on them and hopefully the signing of Johnson will help us do that. Whether or not Arbeloa stays or ends up back in Spain remains to be seen, I’m not bothered either way. I’d take anything over Â£5m for him given his contract situation, but if he signed a new deal I’d be happy for him to battle it out with Johnson or maybe even switch to left back, where he has done well for us in the past.
One of the biggest gripes I’ve had with Rafa’s transfer policy, is that every summer we seem to be rebuilding the squad, with half a dozen players coming in and the same number leaving. Often, those who come in are moved on not long after, and I’d prefer to see us use the bulk of the budget singing one or two players to go into the starting eleven instead of swelling an already over sized squad with players who are no better than those we have.
The signing of Johnson is the kind of thing I’ve wanted us to do for a few years. By that I mean identify the position(s) that most needs strengthening, and then find a player who is better than what we have and bring him in. If we’d done that last summer and strengthened two positions instead of spending Â£40m on players who couldn’t force themselves into our best XI, we may have gone closer to the title. So I’m delighted to read Rafa’s comments about only looking for a couple of players this time.
Of course, that may change depending on who we may lose, but that is somewhat out of Rafa’s control. If he has to replace players, then so be it, but in an ideal world we would just be looking to sign a couple of top class players and keep the good players we have. A lot of reds have been trotting out the mantra: ‘˜No more squad players’ for several years. Could this be the first summer when we get our wish? Glen Johnson is a good start.