I thought I’d said pretty much everything about the Glen Johnson deal in the previous post, but seeing as it’s been seven days, it almost feels like new news. And I’ve got a few addenda I could make, although some of this might sound familiar. Plus, having 20+ comments in the last post necessitates some new material.
First and foremost, I’m struggling to think of many deals done before the window’s opened since Benitez came to the club. Lucas was, maybe Bellamy and Reina, and that’s it. Whether that’s down to Parry’s exit and Rafa’s subsequent rise in power (more likely) or the owners actually backing the manager (far less likely, but hey, at least Gillett finally sold the Canadiens), it’s a very good sign.
Rafa identified a player who was ostensibly his primary target, and got the deal done by June 22. As said, it’s a record fee for a defender, and the third-highest fee in Liverpool history (yes, offset by the £7m still owed on Crouch, but still). And I still doubt Benitez would spend all his money in one place – the summers of ’05-07 showed how Benitez spends on a budget. Right back is a place where Liverpool needs to improve, especially in the opposition’s half, but I still don’t think it’s the biggest weakness, and more deals will be done.
The “news” over the last week makes me think Arbeloa’s probably leaving. Which is an utter shame, both for morale and defensive purposes, and I’ll be very sorry to see him go. I think Liverpool will have to buy a replacement or promote Darby, because Degen wasn’t bought for his defense (I’d argue he’s who Johnson’s replacing). But against 16 or so teams, the fullbacks will be attacking as much as defending, and this transfer shows the need for more from that position.
Last summer, I wrote about how width had to come from fullback for Liverpool to fully utilize the 4-2-3-1. Unfortunately, in the same post, I rejoiced in the signings of Dossena and Degen for that purpose. Ha.
But the sentiment remains. When teams sit back, Liverpool needs fullbacks who can charge upfield, supply crosses, and even offer a threat at goal. Aurelio does this. Insua’s done it on occasion (and much more so for the reserves), but has been restrained more often than not (and rightfully so given his age and experience). And Johnson has done it well enough to become first choice for England.
Arbeloa gets forward, but his overlap and crosses aren’t always up to par, and he and Kuyt can be one-dimensional. It’s similar to Finnan at his best; both were consistent, both were decent, but both also had a tendency to stop on the ball and play back into center midfield instead going at a defender, although I'd argue Arbeloa is marginally better.
I’m not saying Glen Johnson is a panacea, or the end all, be all of transfers. I’m massively afraid these last two posts are over-hyping him and his potential impact on the squad. I’m similarly afraid he might be a big fish, small pond player, and it’s a surprisingly large fee for a right back that cost £4m two years ago.
I obviously think he’s going to help the team or I wouldn’t have written these posts. And without regard for jinxing it, Benitez rarely fails with big money deals (no one mention last summer).
And again, I still think money needs to be spent in attack. But this is a very encouraging signing.