Glen Johnson: Time for Liverpool's Bombarding Full-Back to Prove Critics Wrong

Tom CleggContributor IIIAugust 10, 2011

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20:  Glen Johnson of Liverpool celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on November 20, 2010 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

During Liverpool's struggles over the past two seasons, a number of players have emerged as scapegoats for the fans. One of the primary targets for criticism has been England international full-back Glen Johnson.

The harsh words have come thick and fast—Johnson has been labelled overpriced, unfit, and incapable of defending—an obvious problem for any player who plays in defence.

Yet much of this criticism has been unwarranted. Perhaps Johnson has been somewhat shaky at times—but who hasn't at Liverpool over the past two seasons? Even captain Steven Gerrard hasn't been at his best for the past couple of years.

Johnson was unfortunate to be part of a struggling team, but the correlation of his arrival with the Reds' struggles mean many fans and pundits haven't taken to him.

Towards the end of last season Johnson showed his true ability—though the praise was heaped upon Luis Suarez during the Reds' 5-2 demolition of Fulham last season, Johnson was also superb, charging forward to support the attack as well as remaining solid in defence.

Even if Johnson isn't the greatest defender in the world, the top sides all now employ attacking full-backs who aren't the best defensively. Just look at Barcelona, the finest side on the planet—Dani Alves is a key part of their play, but excels far more offensively than he does defensively.

Johnson can suffer occasional lapses defensively, but he hasn't been helped by the team's poor performances over the past two seasons which have meant he's been under constant pressure and lacked support. In an all-round stronger team, Johnson will have less defensive work to do and will be able to get forward and do what he does best without worrying about being caught out.

An on-form Johnson will add an extra dimension to the Liverpool side, helping to break down sides which come to Anfield with the sole intention of defending—if Luis Suarez's guile or Andy Carroll's power cannot unlock the defence, Johnson's bombarding overlaps give the team another option.

Perhaps £18 million was too much to pay for Johnson, especially when Alvaro Arbeloa was allowed to leave for a pittance that very summer. However, the fee must be forgotten now, with all that's important being that Johnson performs for the team.

Johnson faces competition for his place in the team from academy graduates Martin Kelly and John Flanagan, and this should drive him on to perform even better. Despite his young rivals, Johnson should start the season as Liverpool's first choice right-back, as he is a player of proven quality who can help Liverpool reach a new level this season.