Do the numbers add up on Adam Johnson?

Having agreed a deal to ship England international Adam Johnson to Sunderland for around £10million last weekend, Roberto Mancini brought closure to one of the most speculated transfer rumours of the summer and in doing so ended a City career for Johnson that in truth never reaped the returns of his obvious promise.

Do the numbers add up on Adam Johnson?

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August 31st, 2012

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The move itself should be a good one for Johnson. Under Martin O’Neill he will get plenty of opportunity (witness the use of James McLean during the latter stages of 2011/12) as O’Neill looks to expand the attacking threat at his disposal, having also brought in Steven Fletcher from Wolves; a player whose high conversion rate suggests he will be capable of linking well with Johnson. O’Neill too has a good track record in developing wide players, with Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and James Milner all profiting under him at Aston Villa.

Whilst Johnson spoke of the opportunity that awaits at The Stadium of Light, his departure from City will undoubtedly be tinged with a sense of unfulfillment. Amongst the myriad of offensive weapons; the attacking threats of Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli, through to the creative talents of David Silva and Samir Nasri and to the powerhouse that is Yaya Toure, Johnson offered a different outlet for Mancini. The ability to run directly at defences and attack from wide areas (from both the left and right) was something that was not possessed elsewhere in the squad.

Much was made of the fact that Johnson failed to get the opportunity under Mancini, but this is a viewpoint not strictly true. The following graphic shows some high level numbers for Johnson through the past three seasons since his arrival from Middlesbrough:

  2011/12 2010/11 2009/10
Starts 10 15 14
Substitutes 16 16 2
Minutes 1137 1531 1178
Goals 6 4 1
Assists 2 5 2
Total shots 35 35 17
Shot conversion 24% 15% 9%
Clear cut chances scored 2 1 n/a
Clear cut conversion 50% 50% n/a
Total crosses 59 108 113
Total cross % 25% 19% 19%
Open play crosses 34 60 68
Open play % 21% 17% 13%
Set play crosses 25 48 45
Set play % 32% 21% 27%
Touches 825 1052 828
Dispossesed 18 21 17
Final third passing 235/290 177/223 n/a
Final third % 81% 79% n/a
Final third entries 50 47 48
Through balls 17 9 10
Through ball % 17.64% 55.55% 10%
Total chances created 38 35 33
Open play chances created 32 26 18
Clear cut chances created 6 3 10
Dribbles attempted 39 82 59
Dribble % 36% 43% 47%


It is true that Johnson had less starts last season than in either 2009/10 or 2010/11 yet his overall minutes played were not significantly reduced. Nor were his touches or other key measures such as final third entries or chances created. What was significant however was the drop off in terms of both crosses and dribbles attempted; indicating a much reduced role for Johnson in the areas where he is arguably most dangerous.

What was also telling is his efficiency last season when comparing his role when starting to that when introduced as a substitute.

Johnson was clearly more effective when coming on as a substitute, yet this should come with the caveat that on average City were a goal ahead when he was brought on; and at times when the opposition defence was more stretched:

  Starting Substitute
Games 10 16
Minutes 836 301
Mins per chance created 41.8 25.1
Mins per clear cut chances 209 150.5
Mins per shot 36.3 25.1
Mins per goal 278.7 100.3


Perhaps the biggest criticism of Johnson then could be that he was unable to truly put together consistent spells of form, which precluded him from getting more starts than he perhaps may well have done. Equally, the opposition fans view of Johnson was often higher than that of those at City who had the benefit of watching him more regularly. The feeling that he was a ‘Match of The Day’ player (someone who excelled in short bursts of highlights) was a common criticism.

In fairness to Johnson though, the development of Mancini’s systems at City was an added barrier to him getting a higher number of minutes. With the full-backs given a greater licence in attacking positions (especially when experimenting with the 3-5-2) means that a ‘true’ out and out winger becomes more redundant. At times, not only was Johnson not getting a start but he was also failing to make the bench and we also saw Shaun Wright-Phillips and Vladimir Weiss (fellow members of the wingers club) also moved on.

It is clear that Johnson had to move in order to progress his career but his time at City shouldn’t be viewed as a wasted one. Since being signed by Mancini in the first transfer window after taking over as manager, Johnson became an England international and also pocketed an FA Cup and Premier League winners medal and in the process undoubtedly became a more rounded player – something that Sunderland will no doubt see the benefit of.

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