Chelsea Transfer News: Adam Johnson and 5 Things to Know About the Winger
Chelsea executive Ron Gourlay announced last week that Andre Villa-Boas and the club were planning on making two signings within the next eight to ten days.
Palermo's Javier Pastore is a heavily favored name that could make up a crucial half of that statement.
However, the other half has been somewhat of a mystery.
Luka Modric, Romelu Lukaku and Sergio Aguero have all been suggested. But with Tottenham still looking like they will not budge on their position on the Croatian, Lukaku waiting for more offers and Aguero completing a move to Manchester City, the second player is as much of a mystery as ever.
Recent reports suggest that Chelsea may be turning their sights away from the big names listed above and more toward a humbler prospect in Manchester City's Adam Johnson. The English winger has been a reliable first off-the-bench player for the Eastland's club, but is now ready to make his mark as an everyday starter.
With Aguero's move, Johnson will only find himself further down the pecking order at City. His aspirations to be called up for England next summer for Euros or the World Cup in 2014 would then be in jeopardy.
Chelsea needs a winger for the Villa-Boas 4-3-3 formation and the team could not ask for anything better than this young Englishman.
Good with His Feet and Creative with the Ball
Above all else a winger must be good with the ball on his feet.
Wingers are often isolated with the ball in one-on-one situations and intuition, creativity and the ability to pull off moves to beat that defender are what separate premier wingers from the rest of the lot.
Adam Johnson appears to have all the technical abilities you would want in a good winger.
Highlight videos show him consistently beating defenders in those one-on-one situations, either pushing the ball and using pace and strength or dribbling at them with shifty foot work.
The 24-year-old has the bravado to play against the most experienced full backs and seems eager to take on the challenge.
Though his dribbling may often get him in trouble with turning the ball over, he is persistent and does not back down—an admirable trait in any player.
For a side that is often criticized for lacking creativity, Johnson would be a welcomed signing and bring some of the 'flair' that Villa-Boas has been speaking so fondly of.
Right Man for Villa-Boas
As I just said, Johnson would bring 'flair' to the squad, but he would also fill other needed roles for the Portuguese boss.
Right now Chelsea is really lacking a true wing player. Nearly all their forwards and midfielders can be adapted into a winger role, but then you lose them at their natural position and possibly upset their disposition.
Johnson is listed as a winger and has the resume of one to prove it.
Furthermore, Villa-Boas expects the type of play from wingers that Johnson naturally thrives in. He consistently makes darting inside runs after playing the ball off to the midfield or center forward. Villa-Boas has asked his players to do this at Porto and will probably expect the same at Chelsea.
This tactic will pull the defense back as well as release the center forward of one center back. The wing will also get more room for the full back to move up and make a cross with two or three players waiting in the box.
If no one decides to follow Johnson, the ball can be slid into him behind the defense with just the keeper to beat.
This may sound like a lot of moving parts and complex positioning and it is, which is why Chelsea has had difficulty doing it in the preseason.
Luckily, Johnson would not need to be taught since he naturally performs this way.
Limited to the Wing
Johnson's unique traits are generally limited only to a high wing play. If he were forced to come back into the midfield and play with multiple players surrounding him, he may experience some difficulty. This only matters if the 4-3-3 formation ends up not working for the squad.
As of right now, most fans would assume that Chelsea is nowhere near where they need to be with this formation to compete in the Premier League. They are still attempting to learn how to play off each other in these positions.
The game against Kitchee showed they are beginning to understand their formation, but it also showed that players like Drogba and Torres will have to figure out ways to free themselves when two center backs are on them.
If things go poorly in the beginning of the season, Villa-Boas may be forced to resign to a more conventional 4-4-2 diamond.
With what we have seen of Johnson's abilities so far he likely would find difficulty breaking into a role with this formation. Playing as a right midfielder has much more defensive responsibilities that he may not be use to—or capable of—performing.
He would also find himself lying much further back on the pitch and more congested by midfield defense, full backs and occasionally a forward helping in the defense. This would decrease the effectiveness of his foot work.
This is of course presupposition and not actual fact—either that Villa-Boas will resort to a 4-4-2 or that Johnson is incapable of playing in such a scheme. But it should be noted as Johnson would not want to move to another club just to sit the bench if formation changes.
Decision Making Needs Work
Johnson does a great job of gathering the ball, beating defenders and scoring goals. However, at times he seems to be too involved with his own play to be aware of what is going on around him.
There are far too many times when he will beat a defender and then decide to shoot when he should have passed.
He tends to bite off more than he can chew in regards to defenders. While his guts and tenacity are something to be admired they can also be detrimental to the team, leading to counter attacks and frustrated teammates.
Overall, it appears that this is merely a case of a young player learning his strengths and attempting to understand the game. It is not a matter of egotism taking over play and dictating his selfishness.
Wingers learn by trial and error, as it takes time to realize that you are not quite as isolated as you think. Experience will teach Johnson to raise his head and think pass first and play the defender second.
Chelsea May Not Be Right for Him
Geographically, economically and tactically Johnson could not ask for a better move. He would be playing in capital, for huge sums of money, in a style that caters to his preferences.
But a move from Manchester City to Chelsea is like trading a Budweiser for a Coors: different taste, same outcome.
Aguero's move hurts Johnson's chances of playing for Manchester City and though he may be the only natural winger on the Chelsea side there are also plenty of players who have earned the right to compete for the spot.
Reports suggest that Johnson regrets his move to Eastlands from Middlesbrough. Expecting to be an everyday player there, he has found himself swamped in competition that is difficult to beat especially given the huge price tags that management cannot justify keeping on the bench.
If he goes to Chelsea he could find himself in a similar situation. Perhaps more playing time would come his way, but he needs to be a consistent starter in the teams biggest matches to impress England boss Fabio Capello.
Sunderland's Steve Bruce and Everton's David Moyes have expressed interest in the youngster. Both clubs cannot compete with Chelsea financially, but Johnson's statements suggest that he is more concerned with playing time than money. At either of those clubs he would not only start, but potentially be a star and fan favorite.
Everton looks like a particularly strong suitor. Wingers have done well there—you need look no further than Landon Donovan and his successful loan spell. Donovan and Johnson have similar playing styles but the Englishman shows even better foot work and promise.
Everton is also a relatively young squad that Johnson could grow with and bring back to prominence in the English game.
It is difficult to tell what a Johnson signing would mean.
Chelsea would get a boost at least for the fact that Johnson is a young homegrown player. But from Johnson's perspective it may not be an ideal move.
This Chelsea fan is relatively happy with the team as it stands now. But I would welcome a move from Johnson as would most Chelsea fans.
However, I don't see a move necessarily benefiting the club beyond its own natural greed to accumulate the best and brightest.
Villa-Boas is reportedly 'keen' on the winger, but these statements have little factual backing. Even if he were interested that does not mean Johnson will be walking into a starting role.
Your feelings on a move for Johnson really depend on where your loyalties lie.
If you bleed blue, you will be praying Johnson becomes Villa-Boas first big signing. If you want the three lions to roar again, Everton seems to be the obvious choice.