Glen Johnson Injured for 10 Weeks: Liverpool's 7 Other Options at Right-Back
During the international break, Liverpool fans could be forgiven for looking out for the interests of their beloved club, and in that sense, Daniel Sturridge’s failure to recover in time for England’s World Cup qualifier against Ukraine on Tuesday, per the Guardian, will have been good news.
Unfortunately, however, Reds fans will also be cursing their luck as Glen Johnson, who limped off in their home win against Manchester United last Saturday, has been ruled out from first team action for up to 10 weeks due to an ankle injury, according to the Liverpool Echo.
Johnson, who was an impressive performer in all three of Liverpool’s opening Premier League games, will be a big miss for Brendan Rodgers, who will be disappointed that he won’t be able to name a consistent starting XI against Swansea City on Monday, even if Sturridge is passed fit by then.
So who else at Anfield can fill in at right-back? Let’s take a look at the seven options that Rodgers has at his disposal to use as a potential replacement for Johnson.
Enjoy, and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
As Glen Johnson’s replacement off the bench against Manchester United last Saturday, Andre Wisdom is naturally the most obvious choice as Brendan Rodgers’ stand-in for the Liverpool No. 2.
Thrown into first-team action last season with a series of mature and composed performances as right-back, Wisdom has been tipped for big things in football—and his recent nomination to the England U21 captaincy, as confirmed by the Daily Mail, provides ample evidence.
Strong in the tackle, mature in his reading of the game, and composed under pressure, Wisdom will likely get another run of games in light of Johnson’s injury, but he will have to improve on his unsteady showings this preseason if he is to hold off the challenges of several pretenders.
It’s been a while since Jon Flanagan burst onto the scene—it was in the tail end of the 2010/11 Premier League season that he impressed in his first-team debut against Manchester City in April 2011, under the tutelage of Kenny Dalglish.
He made several strong performances for the rest of the season, but his form dipped dramatically come August 2011, and he hasn’t featured much for the Reds first team ever since.
Suffice it to say that his development has plateaued for the time being.
As a match-fit option with first-team experience as a right-back, Flanagan will be hoping that his decent displays over preseason will warrant him a chance in the first team, but with Manchester United as Liverpool’s opponents in the third round of the Capital One Cup, it looks unlikely that Flanagan will even be given an opportunity in the cups just yet.
The other senior right-back in the squad, and arguably the most impressive and talented of the trio, is Martin Kelly, who has bulked up considerably over the course of the summer.
Injuries are his death toll for now, however, as he battles his way back to full fitness: The injury he suffered to his cruciate knee ligament in September 2012’s match against Manchester United ruled him out of action until this preseason, when he returned in a friendly against Preston North End.
When fit, however, Kelly is the best option available for Rodgers.
However, according to this ESPN report, it could be at least late September or early October until he becomes a realistic choice to stand in for Glen Johnson.
Among the halls of Anfield, one name from the Reds Academy rings loud and clear whenever the right-back slot is discussed: Ryan McLaughlin.
His mature performances, particularly against AS Roma legend Francesco Totti, in Liverpool’s preseason tour of North America in the summer of 2012 will only have served to enhance his reputation in the eyes of the Liverpool faithful.
Of course, it is telling that he has yet to make his competitive debut for Brendan Rodgers.
Would Glen Johnson’s injury mean a first chance for McLaughlin to step up and justify his reputation? His commitment to the Liverpool cause—he turned down a call-up to the Northern Ireland squad over the summer, as reported by BBC Sport—is endearing, but it seems likely, with so much at stake, that Rodgers will opt for more experienced options.
Moving away from specialist right-backs, a senior player on the Liverpool books with experience at right-back is Martin Skrtel, who put in a dominant display against the Red Devils and Robin van Persie last Saturday.
His nightmare on the right against a rampant Tottenham Hotspur in the calamitous 0-4 capitulation at White Hart Lane in September 2011 stands out as a strong reason to not field Skrtel as a right-back, but experience could be what Rodgers needs on the flanks for now.
If Kolo Toure fails to recover from his groin injury—sustained in Liverpool’s extra-time win over Notts County in the Capital One Cup—and new signing Mamadou Sakho is deemed unready to partner Daniel Agger in the center of defence, then Skrtel will be needed in the middle.
Tiago Ilori was one of two defenders, and one of three players, to be confirmed as a deadline-day summer arrival at Anfield, as he signed in a reported £7 million deal, according to BBC Sport.
Like Martin Skrtel, Ilori is a center-back by trade and by practice, but has been known to play on the right side of the defence in the past, during his days at Sporting Lisbon.
His pace will be a tremendous asset to a Brendan Rodgers defence looking to play a high defensive line, but his lack of first-team experience in the Premier League and as a right-back for Liverpool will see him as a long shot in the running here.
And now for our customary left-field candidate.
Why Jordan Henderson you may ask.
Of course, this question, taken in the context of three outstanding performances for the first team in an advanced midfield role so far this season, is entirely understandable.
Such has Henderson’s professionalism and improvement been, that he has transformed from an unwanted outcast to a near undroppable first-team player in the space of 12 months, and that alone deserves credit.
But the additions of Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure hint at a possible change to Brendan Rodgers’ 4-2-3-1 system to a 3-5-2 with two wing-backs, and Henderson’s pace, energy and commitment might make him a suitable choice out there on the right, where he could make use of his incredible stamina.
Add in his previous cameos at right-back…