Friday, June 9, 2023

Johnson’s plight sends a message to Arsenal’s cosseted youngsters

This picture shows two players who were considered very promising at the time battling for the ball in a Premier League game at the start of the 2007/08 season.

One of them, Cesc Fabregas, is now at Barcelona, where, even at that stage, it seemed inevitable he would return to one day, whilst the other is now without a club and, to all intents and purposes, unless somebody is willing to take a gigantic gamble on him, out of a career.

Even if you haven’t clicked on the picture, you have probably guessed from the headline that the other player being referred to was Michael Johnson, who, back then, had just broken into the Manchester City first-team and had announced himself on the senior stage with an impressive strike against Derby County a week prior.

Everything seemed to be in place at that point for Johnson to enjoy a long and prosperous career for club and country, with the midfielder also gaining international recognition for England at U21 level. Slowly, but surely, however, things took a turn for the worse as Johnson suffered a serious injury before being consumed by personal problems and offences which led to him not playing senior football for over three years before finally being released by City this week.

What has this got to do with Arsenal? Well, lessons can certainly be learned from Johnson’s sorry plight. It is true that this situation may be a somewhat isolated case, but there are many footballers who commence their senior careers at big clubs who drift away from the game altogether within a matter of years.

There are, of course, some who are destined to make it to the top, with Jack Wilshere the prime example, but for others ability is not the only requirement for a distinguished career at the top level. Players such as Jermaine Pennant and David Bentley have struggled to carve out as successful careers as they may have done, owing largely to attitude problems, whilst others fail for different reasons. Defender Paul Rodgers, for instance, made a solitary senior appearance for Arsenal against Burnley in 2008, but has been without a club since last summer after being released by Welsh side Newport County.

Arsene Wenger, perhaps owing to the pressing need for a trophy after such a long barren run, has been reluctant to deploy youngsters as frequently in cup competitions so far this season as in the past, but the likes of Serge Gnabry, Thomas Eisfeld and Jernade Meade have all featured intermittently and given a good account of themselves. Those three also, from a distance at least, appear to possess the required mentality and determination to succeed at the highest level, even if not all of them will be first-team players in the future.

What Johnson’s case shows, however, is that, even once you have broken into the senior squad, that is by no means a guarantor of future success. He made 36 league appearances for City, but now, at an age where he should ordinarily be reaching his peak, he is instead on the scrapheap.

This lesson does not apply specifically to Arsenal, but to all young players seeking to make a breakthrough in the game, and, even if it does prove to be something of a one-off, coaches everywhere would be well advised to use this unfortunate situation as a warning to those seeking to make a breakthrough.

Jeorge Bird is the author of  Follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird


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Wtf did I just read

arsenal depression

that been at arsenal can turn a yyoung player and make them a worldclass player not to mention a legend ergo Thierry Henry,cesc, jack Wilshire and the list goes on and on…whilst been at man city can make u…well see picture above.


If you can’t figure it out, might I suggest a series of books that might be more up your street? –

Still struggles to read at 28

My small small brain doesn’t understand the article, but the Ladybird books are really helping me learn at a faster rate.

Thanks Arseblog!


Great article, Blog. Something different and refreshing. Something that everyone–players, coaches, and fans–to think about.


it’s a shit article, mate.


Still remeber how Johnson caught my eye during his early days at City. He looked a promising young player. Also remember talking with a City supporter on how the squad structure would be changing when the oil money came in. Not much room for home grown talent in their squad other than Hart. Richards maybe.


Jermaine Pennant has played consistently for Premiership teams his entire career. How the fuck has he “struggled to carve out a successful career”?


because we bought him at 15 for a record fee. He was supposed to be a worldbeater and established international, not a rugby playing police tag wearing ork, especially in his prime.


You missed the key words “as succesful careers as they may have done”. Both players have had decent Premier League careers, but both could have had so much more had they had some brains as well.

Andy Mack

Pennant was going to be a major cog in the national team.
He’s ended up as a ‘journeyman’.

Arsenal > Spurs

That said, I’d be happy with a career as a journeyman footballer in the Premiership… *sigh* I’d be happy getting Steve Carr’s career average salary.


really good article. If anything, it highlights just how good our academy system is compared to most others.


Good Message for budding footballers, but is it the right platform???


on a football blog?

who would have thunk?

articles about subjects further reaching than who we might buy for 30million have a place in modern football reporting now more than ever.
you don’t have to read it past the headline by the way.


Why isn’t it the right platform? Pretty relevant even to the transfer market at the moment when you consider how attitude has – possibly – ruined the career of M’vila, who only a couple of years ago was widely considered the most promising defensive midfielder in Europe. Have to say, I think we’re missing a bargain and I’m terrified Redknapp is taking a clever approach in telling him to think of QPR as just a staging post. Wouldn’t be amazed if after a well-behaved and sensational season and a half M’Vila will be off to City or Barca for 50m.… Read more »


Lansbury had an attitude? From what I ever read, he kept his head down, worked hard, and bled Arsenal. But just didn’t quite have the quality/opportunity to make the appearances in the first team due to players like Jack and Aaron and the fact Arsene has more pressure than ever to win a trophy and thus cannot afford to give the youngsters as much time as before. Maybe I missed something though.


So the lesson is: don’t get a serious injury and then develop mental health problems?

Genius stuff.


Not sure it would be right to describe JET or Lansbury as having ‘mental health problems’, not unless lack of application and the ambition to make it to the top constitutes a mental illness. As for injuries, of course they can sometimes end a young player’s career but didn’t Yennaris have a very bad one early on? He seems the classic example of a kid who didn’t possess many natural advantages – apart from the long injury he was also very tiny when he was young – but he’s overcome them by sheer graft. He doesn’t look especially talented but… Read more »


Oh I wasn’t having a go at your post – just the article, and others like it in recent days , that seem to be skirting Johnson’s admission of mental health problems. It just seems a bit crude to put his career problems down to his “attitude.” Sport and society in general often don’t want to accept that mental health issues exist, and when they do, they seem to view it as something under the control of the individual (get your head sorted out, etc.). On Joe Cole – great street footballer (or freestyle, or whatever it’s called), but he… Read more »


Well he had enough insight and vision to make his millions.


Is Blogs after another award? He’ll definitely go to heaven….
I think teenage stars of today are better educated and generally have something to fall back on. But if you are born a cunt, you’ll be a cunt. Take a bow Bentley.


For any sportsman the most important trait to possess is strength of character. You can be as skilful as anybody else, but if you don’t have the right personality then you will have grave problems. From George Best to Gazza to Michael Johnson, football is littered with players who just couldn’t handle the pressure that comes with the game. I feel sorry for Johnson but I wouldn’t blame football. He just wasn’t strong enough to handle the position that he was in.

Los Polandos

Yap, on other hand we have seen many mediocre footballers that succeded purely becase of ther determination and focus. Coincidentally – about half of them seemed to have played for united…

Merlin's Panini

heh, so true.

the only sam is nelson

the voice of the daily mail speaks


Actually, I read The Times – and the Daily Sport.


frimpong take note.. the guys heading downhill

Deadwood Gooner

I don’t agree with the expression but I agree that Frimpng’s time at Arsenal is done, no matter how long he is on the books for. With Coq, Diaby, Arteta, Rambo, AOC all fighting for the DM / CM position I can’t see him making a first team appearance until COC first round next year if ever again.

If he is smart and actually wants to be a footballer he should move to the Championship in the summer.

Arsenal Rising

Hey. On sky sports news (sky sources) it says… ” Theo Walcott AGREES NEW THREE-AND-A-HALF YEAR ARSENAL DEAL ON PRINCIPLE” What does the in principal part mean? He hasn’t signed but it’s pretty much agreed and FINALLY done with?


not bad work if you can get it – he leaves City as a millionaire and has earned more in that period than other footballers will

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