After running the show at Fulham on Saturday, Adam Johnson has grabbed the headlines for the right reasons, with the England winger putting in excellent displays in the Black Cats’ last three matches.
The former Middlesbrough youngster grabbed a hat trick in Sunderland’s 4-1 win at Craven Cottage but has a good week, starting with Sunday’s 3-1 FA Cup win over Carlisle United, where he scored one and was involved in the build up to Elhadji Ba’s goal as well as Sean O’Hanlon’s own goal. He also won the penalty that decided the first leg against Manchester United on Tuesday Night.
Running with the ball is something that we have not seen Johnson do enough of since Martin O’Neill signed him 18 monthes ago, and paid Manchester City £10 million for his services.
However, the Easington born wide man seems to be full of confidence after the Carlisle match, where he gave the defenders a run around. I’ll admit it was against a less than average League One side, but dominating defenders is something of a rarity for Johnson but, on his day, he can do it with ease.
Then there was the Capital One Cup match with Man Utd, in which Johnson found himself starting on the bench. However, when he replaced the ineffective Emanuele Giaccherini, the first thing that Johnson wanted to do was run at Patrice Evra, who had to be helped out by midfielder Tom Cleverly.
This is how the penalty occurred, Johnson using his pace to exploit the Frenchman before targeting the back tracking Cleverly, who ended up tripping up the midfielder and giving away a penalty that Fabio Borini converted from of course.
His great week was concluded yesterday when he scored a sumptuous free kick, beat the offside trap to put the ball through David Stockdale’s legs and also have the nerve to score the penalty which gave him his hat trick and gave Sunderland a more than comfortable three goal cushion away from home, the last time that happening was THAT derby game last season.
Another point that should be noted along with his willingness to run with the ball and target weak left backs (Patrice Evra and John Arne Riise), is his free kicks.
Normally when Johnson steps up for the dead ball, we see it either hit the first man or go flying into the Red and White Army in the terraces behind the goal. However, both his free kicks this week have resulted in goals.
Also, Johnson delivered the free kick for Ki Sung-Yeung’s goal as well as providing good crosses from deep, with one of them almost converted by Steven Fletcher after John O’Shea had headered back across goal.
All these points have contributed to a week that, out of Sunderland’s nine goals, seven of them have either been created/scored by the Englishman. We know how erratic he can be, but hopefully he can extend his current vein of form and get us out of the relegation zone.