Javier Manquillo Arrival Is a Final Warning for Glen Johnson at Liverpool

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistAugust 6, 2014

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23:  Glen Johnson of Liverpool in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Swansea City at Anfield on February 23, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Liverpool continued making inroads to strengthening the defensive side of their team on Wednesday as they confirmed the loan capture of Javier Manquillo.

The Atletico Madrid defender has moved to Anfield on a two-year loan, according to BBC Sport, becoming the Reds' second addition of the summer for the back four after centre-back Dejan Lovren's arrival.

Liverpool will have the option, at the end of this season, to make Manquillo's move permanent for a fee of £5m should they wish. [Echo] #LFC

— Anfield Bond (@AnfieldBond) August 6, 2014

While the 20-year-old might not be expected to slot straight into the Reds' side from the start of the season, it's another sign that manager Brendan Rodgers is continuing to improve the depth for the campaign ahead and gives a clear sign to current first-choice Glen Johnson that there are plenty of players who can take his place if he doesn't pick up his own form, significantly and quickly.

 

Full-Back Woes

Both sides of the defence have been a real problem for Liverpool over the past couple of seasons. From inconsistent players to consistent injuries, there has been a high turnover of faces at right-back and left-back under Brendan Rodgers.

Quite aside from the dreadful form and fitness of both Jose Enrique and Johnson himself, the likes of Andre Wisdom, Stewart Downing, Aly Cissokho and, for short spells, even Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling, have all had game time at full-back or wing-back as Rodgers looked to find a balance between ability and consistency.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - APRIL 20:  Jon Flanagan of Liverpool celebrates victory at the final whistle during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Liverpool at Carrow Road on April 20, 2014 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Get
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

That it was Jon Flanagan who ended up being the Reds' best full-back last season was testament to the player's own performances, yes, but also to the crazy run of poor performances and lack of options which led to Rodgers turning to him eventually.

 

Johnson's Form 

It's past the point now when Liverpool fans can say "when he's on his game, he's great"—Glen Johnson's performances have been nothing short of abysmal since he returned to the side after injury in early 2014.

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 27:  Glen Johnson #2 of Liverpool is defended by Dimitris Siovas #23 of Olympiacos FC during the International Champions Cup 2014 on July 27, 2014 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
David Banks/Getty Images

Even stretching back before that, he was poor, interspersed with some effective or average performances, but his run of form since February has been a huge standout in a team otherwise filled largely with excelling individuals.

Lazy, pointless passes forward, very poor delivery into the final third, constantly unsuccessful dribbles into opposition defenders and, above all else, taking far, far too long to release the ball have made Johnson a liability rather than an outlet when the Reds are in possession.

Pre-season hasn't seen any change in that pattern, with his display at left-back against Manchester United offering several cases in point, culminating in an aimless, lethargic attempt at a lob over an opponent's head in the latter stages of the game, just outside his own penalty box.

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

If the arrival of another young, hungry player to play in his position doesn't shock Johnson into earning a new contract—and his place in the team—then it's fair to assume his days are rightly numbered as a first-team player.

 

Competition

Liverpool are still expected to bring in a left-back, and rumours continue to link them to Sevilla's Alberto Moreno, per the Daily Mirror. Should that or another move come off, Liverpool will have five senior full-backs in the team, as well as Jack Robinson still at the club and Andre Wisdom out on loan.

Manquillo, right, tackles Cristiano Ronaldo
Manquillo, right, tackles Cristiano RonaldoAndres Kudacki/Associated Press

Depth is important for the club as they look to finish high in the Premier League again and challenge on three cup fronts, but that depth will only benefit Rodgers and his team if he utilises it—in other words, if he takes out regular starters who are not performing.

The smart money right now is probably on Johnson starting the season in the team and being given the chance to earn his place, but once there, he has to perform far better than he has this year to keep hold of the shirt.

Flanagan and now Manquillo will both be looking to take possession of it. Johnson has had time, he has now been given another indication of the direction the club are taking.

Should he fail to heed the warning and raise his own game, he cannot complain about losing his place sooner rather than later—to the overall benefit of the team.