Monday, July 28, 2008

The Price Of Success?

A lot has been said about the proposed move of Andy Johnson from Everton over the last few weeks. It's very hard to work out when paper talk is real or fiction, but with prolonged and continuing claims from a wide range of sources it would seem that we are definitely interested and working quite hard to secure his services.

My experience of seeing him play is pretty limited. I remember him setting the league alight in his first Premier League season with Crystal Palace. A lot of those 22 goals came from penalties and there was much discussion about how easily he went down in the box. He looked pretty sharp when he played against us at the Cottage. He scored (a penalty of course) but faded as the game went on and we recorded a comfortable 3-1 win. Since moving to Everton he's stayed on his feet a lot more and has (appropriately) seen a subsequent drop in his goals tally. In fact looking at his last six seasons (even allowing for the difference in quality between leagues) there is a clear decline in his goal totals.

2002-03 C.Palace Championship 14 goals
2003-04 C.Palace Championship 32 goals - Promoted
2004-05 C.Palace Premier League 22 goals - Relegated & England debut
2005-06 C.Palace Championship 17 goals - Lost in playoff final
2006-07 Everton Premier League 12 goals
2007-08 Everton Premier League 10 goals

If his transfer fee was lower I don't think this would seem as quite so big an issue.
Playing for Everton he was one of maybe four contenders for a starting place, at Palace he was probably the first name on the team sheet. Moving to Fulham might give him that status again and provide greater opportunity to show the league what he's got. However, when a fee is reported of £10.7Million it's not surprising we fans start to get a little agitated.

For one thing there's a feeling we're being ripped off. Everton paid £8.6Million for him back in 2006 and there's not much evidence to suggest he's improved in that time. He has added to his England caps but is a long way from being considered one of the prime squad members. There's also the concern that the last time we spent this much money - and if the figure is true we are looking at a total that is only £300k below our all-time record fee - it all went horribly wrong. Steve Marlet wasn't a bad player per-say but he struggled to shrug off the expectations of an enormous transfer fee. For a club of our size to pay so much money suggests high expectations at management and board level which AJ can only really meet by scoring a lot of goals.

Should it really matter to us what price the club pay? Should it affect our judgement of how good a player is? I think it does matter. I think it is fair to have greater expectations of a player that cost £10Million compared to a player that cost £3Million. That said I'm happy to leave these decisions in the hands of Roy Hodgson. If he thinks Johnson is worth that sort of money then I'm content to accept that he is. Roy has talked of building a squad of 20 or so core players, increasing the quality so that any of those players are capable of performing for us, reducing the number of fringe players who aren't up to scratch and looking for players who are intelligent users of the ball. These are exciting times again. We earned a reprieve from certain relegation and now we're doing our best to make sure that doesn't happen again. If AJ completes his move I hope he plays a big part in doing just that.


Chopper said...

Sorry for any format issues with my attempted table. It seems Blogger does not always deal with html code the way you expect. Although it could just be me being a bit dim.

Anonymous said...

against that, I think we've shown that players who can score 10 a seaon in the top division are worth having and quite rare. And he should be someone who can do that.

Rich, clutching at straws somewhat

Colin said...

Those expecting a "proven" 20 goal man will be disappointed - the only way Johnson scores 20 is if he joins Man Utd. I'm sure there will be plenty of people who complain when he only scores 10 goals. That said, he's a fine player who is very good at creating chances out of nowhere, which is something we don't really have outside of Bullard.

I must say, though, that I've been struggling to figure out where Johnson fits into our projected lineup. Surely we'd be playing some sort of 4-5-1 in order to keep as many of our talented midfielders on the pitch as much as possible, right? Maybe not. One thing that was pointed out quite a bit when we signed Zamora was how well he played toward the end of the 06/07 season partnered with Carlos Tevez. Johnson's style of play, only IMO of course, shares quite a bit with Tevez.

Chopper said...

Agree with you both to some extent. In reality I'm not expecting AJ of being able to score much more than 10 goals. The question is do we really need to spend £10Mill (possibly now £12Mill) to find a player who can do that.

I'm much more comfortable with the Zamora deal and I find it difficult to accept that Johnson is worth THAT much more or that he would score many more goals.

That said I've no real candidates to offer who could contribute up front for better value.

Anonymous said...

and this is the point. You really have to pay for someone who can get near 15 goals, I'd say, which is a realistic best case scenario for Johnson.


Chopper said...

Maybe you're right. The fact that Johnson has managed 10+ in the last two seasons, whilst maybe not setting the world alight, might mean he can do so again with us. Maybe that is worth the money, I'm just not convinced yet. My gut feeling is you could find a player for £6-7 Million who could also manage 10 goals and you've not quite put so many eggs in one basket. Looks like it's pretty much a done deal now anyway so I guess we're going to get to find out for real.

Soccer Boots Blog said...

He need a massive support from his teamate to score more than 10 goals..

chopper said...

SBB - Agreed, but for me that's what he'll need to do to justify the price tag.