Glen Johnson is one player who I have always thought was pretty good, generally dependable, and chips in with the odd goal and assist in a season.
Yet, I think that I have been wrong in my assumption of Johnson just being a decent first teamer. I can currently think of no single player who is more important to Liverpool’s play than Glen Johnson.
Let us start with the Anfield defeat to Southampton this season. Rodgers played four centre backs in defense, it didn’t work, Liverpool failed to score and conceded from a sloppily defended corner. It was not the conceded goal which was particularly worrying, you can always concede in football, even with the best defense in the world, the trick has always been to score more goals than your opponent.
You can see why Rodgers went with four central defenders in that game. Enrique, as the only attack minded full back, would have unbalanced the shape of the team. What was evidently lacking was any width to Liverpool’s play, the system that Rodgers utilized (before the current three at the back) required the full backs to get forward wherever possible to create overlaps for the attackers who tend to come in from the flanks to attack.
Johnson is actually amazing at doing this. He is strong, relatively fast, can beat a man and tends to make the right decision regarding passing, crossing or shooting, this coupled with his defensive form this season has led to him becoming, in my opinion, Liverpool’s most important player.
Cases can be made for a lot of current first team players being key, but none are as irreplaceable as Johnson, when Liverpool play four at the back. John Barnes recently made an argument for Coutinho being Liverpool’s most important player, yet Coutinho is more replaceable than Johnson. If Coutinho, Gerrard, Suarez, Sturridge, Lucas, Enrique or any of our centre backs get injured there is an adequate replacement. After Johnson was injured Liverpool have had to change the entire system in order to get some decent width in attack.
I know that playing three / five at the back somewhat negates the need for Johnson, but I am sure that the more usual four at the back is best for Liverpool as we tend to be able to exert more control over the midfield.
Lastly, Kyle Walker isn’t a bad player, Spurs have been doing pretty well with him on the right, yet after watching him for England I was crying out to have Johnson back in that position, Johnson’s decision making and positional sense are leaps and bounds ahead of Walker’s.
I cannot think of a better Premier League right back than Johnson on current form.