After a week that saw Theo Walcott ruled out of the World Cup in the summer, Adam Johnson’s hat-trick – the first non-Suarez hat-trick since May 2013 – has unsurprisingly seen his name mooted as a replacement.
The Sunderland winger, who hasn’t featured for England since August 2012, also added an assist to his 3 goals against Fulham on Saturday and Johnson still holds hopes for breaking into the England squad before this summer’s tournament.
The talent is clearly evident in Johnson’s play and Saturday’s performance, where he was a constant threat to the Fulham defence whenever he got the ball, showed what he is capable of. Johnson is Sunderland’s leading chance creator (26) and he has the ability to deliver a decent cross, but these attributes need to be shown on a consistent basis – something he has failed to do since joining Sunderland in the summer of 2012.
The reports of Johnson having a poor attitude and work rate were a common feature during his time at Manchester City with Roberto Mancini and ultimately saw to his departure from the North West as he failed to permanently cement his place in the first XI.
“Sometimes he thinks, ‘OK, in this game I scored one goal, I did an assist, that is enough’. I am disappointed when he doesn’t put everything on the pitch.” – Mancini, October 2011, after a League Cup win against Wolves.
The claims have often been repeated by fans and seen Johnson highlighted as a ‘Match of the Day’ player – someone who impresses in a 3 minute highlight sequence and less so on a 90 minute showing. Looking at the amount of touches Johnson made on Saturday (40) and the number of passes (19) – only 15 were completed – shows that Johnson isn’t a team player that Roy Hodgson’s style of play prefers. Compare this to his England rivals for that right wing spot who also impressed this weekend, Sterling and Lennon, and they both had more involvement in the game.
Johnson has failed to develop how many expected when he joined Manchester City as one of the most exciting English prospects in the country at the time, and his preference to cut inside onto his stronger left foot – 22 of his 26 shots have been on his left foot – when faced with a full-back, has made him predictable, thus easier to defend against. The former Middlesbrough winger is a confidence player and with Gus Poyet putting his arm around him, encouraging him to recapture the performances he produced when he was younger, appears to be working after improvements in Johnson’s form in their last 2 matches against Manchester United and Fulham.
Performances like Saturday’s will need to be repeated on a constant basis from now until the summer if the hope of World Cup football becomes a reality for Johnson. After Hodgson claimed there would be no surprise picks though, something Johnson would be now, a month ago and other options more preferable, the chances of Adam Johnson featuring at the World Cup – without injuries to rival players – are slim.