Gus Poyet has tried to shed light on Adam Johnson's recent surge in form, and is confident he has discovered how to coax consistency out of the winger.
In the last three games - all of them Sunderland wins - Johnson has scored 4 goals as well as laying on three assists. His manager has insisted that it is not just a purple patch, but a result of careful planning.
He needs a team to play one way, I am convinced of that. Even if he is a player who can do things individually, you need to use him well.
You can’t just give him the ball and expect him to dribble past everybody every time he gets the ball. You don’t see a player do that apart from your Messis and Ronaldos. And Messi does that because he plays in a team that keeps the ball for ever.
They give you the chance to rest and when you get it and you are fresh, you can go past players. But we didn’t do that. We were trying to use him too much, at least when I got here. That was the idea back then, just give it to Johnno and he needed to perform.
First, it’s predictable and second, it’s very easy for the opposition to deal with. But in the last month, I would like to say he has been better because of the consistency of the team and his own personal individual improvement.
Managers are always going to take the credit, aren't they? In this case, though, I think Poyet is fully justified in doing so. Let's not forget that he is the third permanent manager Sunderland have had during Johnson's brief stay and is the only one to have unearthed the player we were all excited about signing.
What especially struck me recently was when Poyet said he believed that the 'responsibility was always split between player and manager' with regard form. In Sunderland's recent history, particularly under Steve Bruce and Paolo Di Canio, you always kind of felt that they believed answers lay solely in the transfer market.
How nice it is to hear a manager acknowledge the role of tactical planning rather than retreat behind a solution of transfer trouble-shooting.
In the cup game against Carlisle, during the second half Poyet could be seen on the touchline very animatedly pointing Johnson to sit right on the touchline on the far side of play. The message was to prowl the space and let his team mates find him rather than running around searching for the ball, which tallies very neatly with the 'rest and be fresh' mantra above.
Johnson and players of his ilk are generally inconsistent by design, so I am not sure you will ever cure him fully of it. Hopefully Poyet has at least found a way to bring the very best out of him more often, as opposed to bringing flashes out of him once in a blue moon which has very much been the case previously.