He's missed out on each of Liverpool's last two matches, but ahead of Newcastle's visit Brendan Rodgers was keen to remind everyone just how good Glen Johnson's been this season.
"Glen's arguably been the player of the season in the Premier League - never mind at Liverpool. He's been absolutely outstanding when you consider he's played a lot of the season at left-back. He is a world-class full-back. When you miss a player of that quality, that does weaken you as a team. I look at him and Daniel Alves as the two best right-backs in world football.
"I've been very impressed with Glen. His attitude to training; to the game. And he's had to fill in at left-back because of Jose Enrique's injuries this year. For me, he's one of the top full-backs in the world. I still think he can improve even more."
Strong words from Brendan Rodgers, and judging by the reaction in the comments of the article's home on Soccernet--one of world football's great forums for intellectual and level-headed discussion--not an opinion that many are going to being falling all over themselves to agree with. Too irresponsible defensively, would be better as a winger, only fancied because he's English, etc. etc.
There's elements of truth in the criticisms of Glen Johnson, at least if we're accounting for his career on the whole, and even during the time he's spent on Merseyside. He's struggled to shake the reputation as an attack-only fullback, even in the midst of what's arguably been the best season of his career. He's been largely defined by the shortcomings of seasons past rather than what he's managed to produce in the present, which is play on a level that is, at minimum, among the league's best.
I'm not sure why that's such a difficult concept for many to come around to, even if Rodgers might be overstating the point a bit. Everyone's seemingly got a handful of fullbacks they're quick to point out are better than Glen Johnson; if it's not right at this moment, it's on a longer-term basis, and if it is at this moment, it's only a matter of time before Johnson regresses to the mean of a player who's somehow managed to be both celebrated and condemned solely on a reputation that has him either too good or not good enough at any given moment.
What doesn't seem worth arguing is that Glen Johnson has had a collection of very good moments this season, and certainly far more good than bad despite playing out of position in nearly every appearance. Whether or not that qualifies him to be the Premier League's player of the year, or even on the same level as Dani Alves (which is, again, either an honor or an insult depending on who you ask), is up for debate, and given the player's reputation, it'll likely continue to be.
Maybe for now we could just agree that the conversation about Glen Johnson not being entirely terrible is one worth having, and those holding onto the idea of him as a player with only one dimension might not have the full picture. Liverpool will be much better when he returns, and that's not an indictment of where they stand as a club--he has been and hopefully will continue to be exceptional by any standard, regardless of what overblown and outdated stereotypes might tell us.