The Sunderland winger has been in incredible form and despite a rough Premier League season so far for the club, Johnson could be the key difference in the relegation battle..
By Shikharr Chandra
A new manager can often make or break a player’s confidence. Juan Mata, Chelsea’s player of the season for two consecutive years saw his role in the team diminish under Jose Mourinho while Eden Hazard has excelled and grown into a key figure.
Adam Johnson’s case was similar as he suffered a dip in form when Paolo Di Canio took over the reins at Sunderland from Martin O’Neil. The Italian demanded a lot from his players but his methods weren’t always well received. Following his sacking, the former West Ham player ended up putting the blame on several players rather than introspecting his tactics.
Up stepped Gus Poyet to take over from Di Canio and since then Sunderland have been a revelation. There were question marks raised when the former Brighton and Hove Albion manager was called up from the Championship to take charge of the Premier League side. This was despite the club being linked to various other experienced managers but it seems like owner Ellis Short's decision to go with Poyet has reaped benefits.
Sunderland's improvement under Poyet is for everyone to see. Under Di Canio the team averaged 0.75 points per game but that has improved to 0.90 under Poyet . Even the possession and the style of play has improved drastically.
Their season had started off in the worst possible way with the side being one of the bookies favourites to go down to the Championship after the first few games. But Poyet and co. have answered their critics well so far and their trip to Wembley next month for the Capital One Cup final has been the icing on the cake for the Black Cats.
"A player like Adam needs to be played in the right way, and we’ve been trying to make sure the team play in a way that suits him to make the difference. The last two or three weeks I think he’s been outstanding and if he can maintain this level and consistency he’s going to be a great help."
But the most notable change under Poyet has been the confidence he has re-instated in his players and especially Adam Johnson.
The former Manchester City winger has seven goals in the Premier League this season and has been one of the key reasons for Sunderland's rise from the drop zone.
Back in August, QPR manager, Harry Redknapp revealed that Johnson could be on his way out of the club in order to generate more funds. However Sunderland’s decision not to sell has been a perfect one.
Johnson never really lived up to his potential at Manchester City. Under Mark Hughes, the former Middleborough winger failed to get regular game time as he made only 16 appearances the entire season. Although Roberto Mancini seemed quite fond of him when he arrived but Johnson's form deteriorated as time progressed.
With the arrival of Samir Nasri and David Silva, Johnson's place at the club was restricted to the bench and with James Milner being above the pecking order; Johnson was sold off to Sunderland for €15m.
There is a lot at stake for Johnson this season. Along with keeping Sunderland's survival hopes going, the winger know that if he produces top performances on a consistent basis, he could go to Brazil for the World Cup given England’s lack of options in wide areas.
With Theo Walcott injured, Ashley Young, Aaron Lennon out of form and Andres Townsend not being able to replicate his early season promise, Roy Hodgson could have well found a solution to England's obvious problems.
Johnson suffered a tough start to his Sunderland career under Poyet when he saw himself left out of the squad. There were complaints over his attitude, his reaction to being substituted but since then the winger has fought his way back.
It all started with the FA Cup game against Carlisle where Johnson delivered two assists along with scoring an outstanding free-kick in Sunderland's 3-1 win. The next game, Johsnon was called up from the bench against Manchester United in the Capital One Cup and he made his presence fell instantly when he won a penalty, which was converted by Fabio Borini as Sunderland ran out 2-1 winners.
The winger’s best performance though has to be in Sunderland's 4-1 triumph at the Craven Cottage where he scored a hat-trick and also set up Ki Sung-Yeung.
There is still a long way to go for Johnson as there are still moments of misplaced passes, poor crossing but the way he has been performing, Sunderland fans can forgive him for those mishaps.