It has been an incredible 18 months for Manchester City winger Adam Johnson. Plucked from the mediocrity that is the Championship, he has turned into a Premier League star. His wonderful skills and outrageous pace, combined with great finishing, has conspired to make him a menace to Premier League defenders.
Though there is one issue for Johnson. His consistency over 90 minutes is very questionable, and many times this season his status as a starter or substitute has come into question. He has the tendency to drift in and out of matches, and this has harmed City on occasion. So, what suits Johnson and Manchester City better — starting from the outset or coming on late to try and change the game?
Johnson’s electrifying pace makes him a thrill to watch. It means he can make fast starts to matches, and give City an early lead. He catches defenders off guard, and he is oh-so-dangerous when cutting in on his left foot. The problem is he drifts out of matches. In the FA Cup semifinal vs. United, and more recently against Tottenham in the Premier League, he started brightly then did nothing of note for the rest of the match. This frustrates Roberto Mancini and the fans quite a bit.
So, until Johnson starts producing on a 90 minute basis every match, it is perhaps better for him to come off the bench. When he does come off the bench, he more often than not changes the game (see City vs. Newcastle in November, where he came off the bench and scored the winner). This earns valuable points for Manchester City, gives Johnson a confidence boost, and gives Mancini some faith in the Englishman.
With said boost to his confidence, Johnson can then make a case for starting. He has done this throughout the season and, every time, he has had one good 90 minute performance and God knows how many 20 minute performances. If Johnson is put on the bench, he gets frustrated, annoyed and wonders why he is not starting. It is not good to have that attitude at the club, as it can only be detrimental.
The Adam Johnson situation is a difficult one and hard to answer. Whether or not he starts at Wembley in the FA Cup may go some way to answering the question of whether he should start or not. In my opinion, he should not. Right now, he is of far more use to City if he is coming off the bench and winning matches later on.