Ben Twelves discusses whether now might be the right time for Liverpool to cash in on full-back Glen Johnson.
It has been a good start to the transfer window for Liverpool, with Brendan Rodgers securing the early additions of Kolo Toure and Iago Aspas to his squad for a relatively small outlay. But as I discussed in a previous piece looking at the future of midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, there is very little concrete movement going out of the club. While inevitable speculation surrounds a few players such as Pepe Reina and Luis Suarez – who continues to try and talk his way into a move to Real Madrid – Andy Carroll remains the only player staring at the Anfield exit door with a move to West Ham on the verge of completion.
There is one player however, who is sure to have slipped under the radar of transfer debates amongst reds thus far, following the constant speculation of perhaps more high-profile players leaving. Full-back Glen Johnson has been the subject of rumours suggesting that he is considering his Liverpool future, with a move to Italy being a potential option for the England international. If correct, the news could come as a huge blow to Rodgers, who is already facing up to the possibility of having to replace two key components of his back 5, having lost scouse legend Jamie Carragher and Reina’s future currently an ongoing issue.
The speculation has led to some voicing a number of reasons for Johnson to be sold and replaced, one being for his lapses in concentration at times and another for his supposed inability to defend, a harsh tag that has seemed to have followed him throughout his career. Another case for selling Glen is that he is now 29 years old and how much longer does he have left in him before performance levels start to drop? The right-back has also just enjoyed a good season in a very suited style, so it could be viewed as an ideal opportunity to cash in while there is interest and develop or reinvest in a younger full-back.
With the back four already in need of a reshuffle though, Johnson leaving would provide another unwelcome headache for the manager, who would have to no doubt drop his interest in adding to other areas of the team in order to fill the gap left by any departure. It wouldn’t just be filling a gap however, as it would certainly be difficult to find a right back of Glen’s class and adaptability, who is ready to go straight into the team. Johnson is an underrated and underappreciated player by many, certainly on a national level, and he epitomises a lot of what Rodgers likes and desires his players to have.
He is quick and strong, but most importantly for the manager, is comfortable with the ball at his feet which allows him to play from the back and contribute to Liverpool’s play in the final third of the pitch. He never panics or aimlessly blasts the ball up-field, is good with the ball at both feet and is brave in possession, often taking the ball from the back and carrying it forward to start the play moving. He is also incredibly dynamic, has a great work rate, displayed with his exciting marauding runs forward and his final ball is fairly productive, but could be improved. Glen is also a lovely player to watch from a supporter perspective, with an elegance and calmness in possession that many British players don’t have and perhaps a great attribute that is often overlooked, he is also a very capable left-back and provides good cover for that position.
The defensive insecurity that is often associated with Johnson is something that I feel is unfair. Due to his style of play and with the instructions from Rodgers to play high up the pitch, Johnson is subsequently out of position if play breaks down. It isn’t uncommon to see him in the final third trying to run from deep, providing an outlet for a through ball or carrying the ball into danger areas. However, when the play breaks down and the ball is cleared, Glen is often seen tracking back and this leads to criticism of his defensive understanding and capability. Even though one of his main strengths is his athleticism and capability to get up and down the right flank, to be that quick to recover is unrealistic.
For what Glen Johnson offers to Liverpool, the club should absolutely keep him. Arguably the best right-back in the Premier League, his plus points far overshadow the criticisms and with him very much suited to the current way of playing, along with his experience and intelligence, moving him on is not something that should not be in the interests of Liverpool Football Club