Glen Johnson may return for Liverpool against QPR on Sunday, but unless he puts his previous poor form behind him, he won’t be a Reds player for much longer, writes Henry Jackson.
Glen Johnson looks set to return to Liverpool’s side for Sunday’s showdown with QPR at Loftus Road, having not started a game since August 25th. The thigh injury the 30-year-old picked up on that disappointing night against Manchester City kept him sidelined until his second-half cameo in the recent 2-1 win over West Brom at Anfield.
With Javier Manquillo showing promising early signs in a Liverpool shirt while he was out, and Jon Flanagan also set to return at some point in the coming months, this signals a crucial time in Johnson’s Liverpool career. He echoed that sentiment in a recent interview with the club’s official website.
“I just want to take it week by week. I’m back out on the pitch now and I want to stay fit and well and get back into the team and put in some good performances.”
Since joining the Reds in the summer of 2009, Johnson is a player who has always divided opinion. Some feel he is an extremely talented full-back who offers the Reds plenty of attacking thrust, while others believe he is nothing more than a defensive liability.
One thing that cannot be denied is that the England international’s form has been very poor over the last year or so. So often during the Reds’ brilliant 2013/14 campaign you felt he was trying to undo all of his teammates’ hard work.
In fairness, there is an argument to say that Johnson has not been fully fit and firing during that time, but despite that, his defensive work, decision-making and general level of focus have simply not been good enough.
At 30, Johnson’s Liverpool career is at a crossroads, especially with his contract set to expire next summer. He could either recapture the form that made Rafa Benitez sign him for £17.5m from Portsmouth in the first place, or carry on being a weak-link in Brendan Rodgers’ side. The latter would surely see his time at Anfield end sooner rather than later.
On Wednesday, the Express claimed that Benitez is planning on teaming up with Johnson again and bringing him to Napoli in January, which raises further question marks about his future.
Because he is such a naturally talented footballer- if he had the mental game and consistency of someone like Gary Neville he could have been a world-beater- and because there is a chance we might be about to see him at full sharpness for the first time in while, it’s certainly worth giving Johnson one last chance to shine.
When he’s in full flow he can add an extra dimension to Liverpool’s game, even if his defensive work can remain inconsistent to say the least.
These next few months leading up to the January transfer window are almost something of a trial period for Johnson. It’s tricky to know which way it’s going to go in terms of both his performances and his future- Rodgers is clearly quite a big fan- but if he wants to remain at Anfield he must deliver now.