England v Spain: Liverpool's Glen Johnson Proves His Lack Of International Class

Picked ahead of Kyle Walker and Micah Richards for England v Spain, the Liverpool man was a constant weak link and displayed a worrying lack of basic defensive technique...
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Picked ahead of Kyle Walker and Micah Richards for England v Spain, the Liverpool man was a constant weak link and displayed a worrying lack of basic defensive technique...

Picked ahead of Kyle Walker and Micah Richards for England v Spain, the Liverpool man was a constant weak link and displayed a worrying lack of basic defensive technique...

When Liverpool signed Glen Johnson for £17.5m in 2009 I will admit to a heavily-arched eyebrow. Liverpool have long needed a right-winger and could've easily got one for that price, rather than a right-back who thinks he's a winger but often fails with a poor chice of final ball. The fact that Alvaro Arbeloa - no defensive stalwart himself but much more effective than Johnson from either flank - was allowed to join Real Madrid for a paltry £5m also led me to think that Rafa had been at the Manzanilla.

Due to my dual Welsh and English parentage, I am no more than an interested observer in England matches these days, any youthful confused support long having dribbled down the khazi as I urinated pint upon frustrated pint after getting excited by the national team. But that is beside the point. Despite playing in a defensive unit that didn't concede a goal against the World and European champions, Glern Johnson showed tonight that he is completely unequipped to play international football. He was, as my colleague Samuel Luckhurst tweeted "predictably atrocious."

"Agreed, lacking all of the basic techniques," I replied, before sitting down to write this.

Earlier in the match Johnson had been faced with Iniesta down his wing. Rather than adopting a side-on jockeying position and making a decision where to force Iniesta (ideally down the line and away from goal on this occasion) he approached him square and flat and sort of bounced up and down like a sprinter ready to warm up. Iniesta bypassed him easily with a pass inside and the England goal was under threat.

I'm sure I don't have to explain why you should defend side on, in a low position and ready to pivot, so why a man who earns  £100,000 a week struggles with a technique that is taught to 7, 8 and 9 year olds is beyond me. Not once did I see him force an opponent in a certain direction.

Why a man who earns  £100,000 a week struggles with a technique that is taught to 7, 8 and 9 year olds is beyond me

He also has no positional sense, and there are two reasons for this. Either he has zero footballing intelligence and has always got by relying on his strengths of pace, power and the odd spectacular goal or that he is not getting the correct information from Jagielka who was playing nearest to him and should have him on a string at all times with calls of "show him inside, don't get too tight," or whatever is required. I'd say it's probably a 80/20 split between the former and the latter. When the ball was played away from his flank and across the field, his defensive position was consistently wrong. Rather than being open and aware of what was going on down his flank, he was closed, following the ball and had to keep looking over his shoulder. This doesn't sound much, I know, but games can be won and lost in a half of a second and it is often the tiniest of mistakes in the build-up that allow teams the calibre of Spain to score.

His heading was also poor, consistently mistimed and back into the danger area, it put England under the gun on more than one occasion and led to Theo Walcott having to leave the station from where he was meant to counter and come back up and mop up after Johnson. His forays up field this evening were average at best and, to cap it off, he let the ball go under his foot and out for a throw in on one occasion.

The only position for both club and country that he could be anything other than fools gold is at wing-back, but he has no chance of that happening under Capello and Dalglish will only flirt with the formation on occasion away from home.

Martin Kelly is a much better prospect for Liverpool and England. Defensively sound, quick, good distribution and with the ability to score with both head and feet he could well go onto be Liverpool's right back for the next ten years. If I was Dalglish, I'd flog Johnson now while we can recoup some of the fee and reinvest that cash further up the pitch. If I was Capello, I'd apologise to Micah Richards and take another look.

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