Adam Johnson Should Start in the Premier League for Manchester City, Not Europa League

Manchester City have now lost three games on the bounce after Thursday’s Europa League match v Lech Poznan away. Losses to Arsenal at home and Wolves at Molineux in the Premier League have seen a few eyebrows raised in the direction of boss Roberto Mancini who seems to be a bit tactically naive as of late.

Injuries have plagued some of Mancini’s first choice squad in the form of Carlos Tevez, Alexsandar Kolarov and Mario Balotelli, but the strength in depth of City’s squad because of their long reaching financial arm should be able to compete with the likes of Wolves. City’s inefficiencies as of late shouldn’t be blamed on the players, but Mancini, who needs to begin questioning himself and how he sets up City.

Already having secured the dreaded vote of confidence from Garry Cook concerning his future with the club, Mancini has been involved in a number of gaffs as City pursue Champions League football for next season. In City’s home loss to Arsenal in October, Mancini elected to start 19 year old Dedryck Boyata instead of Joleon Lescott in defense. Although Boyata is no mug and can hold his own as a defender, his youth and inexperience proved to be City’s downfall on the day as he was sent off after five minutes.

Star winger Adam Johnson languished on the bench that day as well as City’s next league match away to Wolves. Matters started bright for City as they took a deserved 0-1 lead through Emmanuel Adebayor’s early penalty but then seemed to sit back and invite an accepting Wolves attack to pursue the equalizer. While Johnson has seen his fair bit of action in the Premier League this year, and more recently as a substitute, a player of his quality should be getting the full 90 minutes each weekend as long as match fitness proves he can.

Other instances under scrunty while Mancini’s watchful eye flutters include Shay Given and Joe Hart’s late night drinking session in Scotland, rumors of unsettling within the squad and now Carlos Tevez’s (easily City’s best player) prolonged injury/vacation back home to Argentina. All points raise the question of whether or not Mancini actually has the trust of and control over his squad.

While I don’t believe Roberto Mancini to be a poor manager or one in decline, his exclusion of Johnson as a starter in the Premier League continues to baffle me. The aforementioned Europa League loss on Thursday did witness Johnson start the match, but he was surrounded by what was essentially City’s B squad – Patrick Vieira, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Wayne Bridge and Pablo Zabaleta.

Is Mancini seriously lumping his star winger in the categegory of matches deemed less important than the Premier League? What’s going on with Johnson or at City that we don’t know about? While Mancini’s tactics that served him so well in Serie A with Inter Milan have witnessed City reach 4th spot and likely qualify for the next round of Europa League play, one could only imagine what City would look like both on the pitch and in the table had Mancini set out to attack with Adam Johnson as one of his focal points.

Adam Johnson is a star in the making in the Premier League. There’s no doubt he’ll be as good of a winger as Gareth Bale soon and with age on his side, could terrorize left backs in the Premier League for years to come.

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