Many outsiders are befuddled by our decision to sell but they don’t know the half of it.
Adam Johnson left City for Sunderland last week in a reported £12m deal, ending what proved to be an unhappy spell at the club. A move which started with great promise, slowly descended into failure, leading to a transfer away from the Etihad that had long been inevitable.
Many non-City fans have taken to Twitter and various other internet sites to make clear their bemusement at the decision to sell the winger, claiming he was a victim of the depth of City’s squad, stifled by Mancini’s reluctance to give him a run in the side. Those who follow City at close quarters know differently. Johnson failed and threw away an opportunity to make a name for himself at a club in the hunt for the silverware, with most fans glad to make a profit on a player so clearly incapable of putting in the requisite amount of effort needed to be a top player.
Johnson arrived from Middlesbrough for £5m in the January transfer window of 2010. He made an immediate impact, featuring in every match until the end of the season (14 starts and 2 sub appearances), scoring 1 goal (a brilliant equalizer at the Stadium of Light), and assisting 5. Johnson excited the fans and looked a real talent. All the ingredients were there for him to really establish himself in the side – the fans liked him, he was young, offered something different from the other players in the squad, and cost us next to nothing.
But after his initial positive effect he failed to kick on. The following season he made 26 starts (plus 22 as a sub), with only 6 full 90 minutes in the league to his name. Last season, his last in a blue shirt, he made 19 starts (26 as a sub), completing just 4 Premier League 90 minutes. Clearly, Mancini’s faith in Johnson diminished as time passed.
And for good reason. With the ball, he is capable of committing defenders and creating space, but the quality of his final ball is often poor. He also has a tendency to hang on to the ball for far too long, often surrendering possession because of his reluctance to play the simple pass. He’s a greedy player – infuriatingly childish – like the kid in the school team that thought the game was all about showcasing his individual skill rather than simply playing the game in an effective fashion. That’s all well in good in a shit side, but alongside players who understand the game, Johnson just looked daft.
Without the ball, he is an absolute nightmare, totally unprepared to track back and help his full-back; a surefire way to annoy Mancini, a manager who demands nothing less than 100 per cent commitment from his players. How can you go in to an away match in the Premier League with a player so blatantly uninterested in doing the donkey work? Johnson proved time and again that his work-rate was not up to scratch and that he was reluctant to change.
It’s not like there aren’t big stars at City pulling their weight. Aguero and Silva, far bigger names in the world of football than Adam Johnson, work tirelessly for the side, with or without the ball. They are players who give everything for the team and command respect for their work rate as well as talent. They’re not the only ones either, this City team is full of hard-working players who are also supremely talented. How Adam Johnson watched them train everyday and saw the effort they put in on a match day and still thought that his efforts were enough is unbelievable. He had a great opportunity to become an important part of a terrific side but didn’t want to work for it.
If I was Micah Richards or Pablo Zabaleta I’d be thrilled that a player with such an appalling work rate and attitude had left the club. They can now rest assured that they won’t have a winger playing in front of them who doesn’t care about digging in and stopping the opposition.
Mancini nailed it when, after a League Cup match against Wolves, he said:
“Sometimes he thinks: `OK in this game I scored one goal, I did an assist, that is enough. I think Adam, because he is young can improve a lot. He needs to think in a different way.
“He needs to think: `I scored one goal, I did one assist, I should continue because I want to score another goal and another assist, and run back to defend`.
“He can do this if he wants. My opinion is this, he has everything to become one of the top wingers.”
Johnson never once looked like he wanted to fulfill the potential his manager believed he had.
For those who have tried to manipulate the stats to perpetrate the myth that Johnson was underused and stifled, his appearance stats for City are as follows:
In all competitions: 59 Starts, 50 Sub Appearances
In two-and-a-half years, I feel those figures prove he was given plenty of opportunities to showcase his talents. He failed. Miserably. I, like most City fans, watched every ball that lad kicked in a blue shirt, and by the end of his spell at the club I was happy to never see him play again. I wish him luck but if he wants to be as good as he thinks he is, he’d better get his finger out at Sunderland and prove it.