Date: 11th December 2012 at 5:30pm
Written by:

TIS the season to do such things, so I’m going to do some eating – eating some humble pie. For a number of years now, stemming back to his Chelsea days, I haven’t rated Glen Johnson all that highly.

As an attacking fullback there have always been few better, but the defensive deficiencies have frequently been there for all to see.

I still think there are some – I thought it was bizarre that he didn’t close down West Ham’s wide players particularly keenly in the game on Sunday, allowing them to throw the ball into the box with ease. But Johnson’s all-round game has been evolving slowly and he has turned into a very, very reliable fullback.

One of the best things about Johnson is his ability and willingness to switch to leftback, where he looks equally comfortable.

He has done a stellar job when asked to play in that position by both Kenny Dalglish and Brendan Rodgers and if anything, looks more comfortable there. The possible reason, words from his own mouth too, is that he “has to concentrate more.”

It’s testament to Johnson’s ability as a footballer that he is an attacking threat whichever flank he plays on. He has a great touch, works tirelessly to get up and down the pitch, can cross with either foot and has an eye for goal that very few other fullbacks in this country have. He stands out particularly in our team because he has that searing burst of pace that lets him get past people, and our team isn’t necessarily the quickest though the manager has made attempts to address this issue.

Some games it does feel like he is our biggest attacking threat. For the first twenty minutes until Sam Allardici (if he was Italian, he’d be managing one of the big teams, don’t you know) sorted out his left hand side, Johnson was getting into the box at will. He was single-handedly tearing West Ham to pieces, and they aren’t ones for giving goals away. He quietened down after that but he had already scored a screamer and set up a great chance for Sterling.

Is he the best rightback in England? Personally I don’t think it’s in question, but that’s not to say he’s perfect. He does have issues defensively at times; too often he isn’t close enough to his man or has gone rampaging upfield and got caught out of postion. The latter though is just something you need to deal with if you sign a fullback like Johnson; someone who always gets forward and is constantly on the attack. However, he does have the pace to get back and if he is off positionally, which he can be, he has the ability to get back over and snuff out the danger.

He gave a goal away against West Brom last year when he didn’t look up and passed straight to a WBA player, who fed Odemwingie who scored, seeing us lose a game we had totally dominated but in which we could just not score. He has these lapses – sometimes just mistakes and sometimes just lack of concentration. But for whatever reason this has not been as prominent this year. He has, in fact, been excellent in defence. In the hard fought game at Chelsea for example, he seemed to sweep up every loose ball. He seemed to be everywhere.

And that’s the sort of season he’s having. He is an out ball, a constant threat and a very useful player to have in the team. He’s a perfect fit for the way we want to play – we just need to start scoring more of the chances he sets up. I was a big critic of Glen Johnson’s defensive work, but this year he has won me over.

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