But the winger has failed to live up to both his price tag and his star billing in a season of struggles for Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland.
Johnson arrived as a marquee summer signing along with Steven Fletcher, who joined from Wolves. But he has been well and truly outperformed by the Scotland striker. Johnson’s return to his native northeast simply hasn’t worked out the way it was planned.
Johnson spent a significant portion of Manchester City’s title-winning season on the bench and subsequently missed out on a place in the England squad at Euro 2012 under Roy Hodgson as a result.
The move to the Stadium of Light was thought to be the perfect chance to gain his England berth back by playing regular first-team football. Only half of that has come to fruition, however, with Johnson starting 27 times in a Sunderland shirt but failing to impress Hodgson to get back into the England picture.
It is no surprise, either, given that Johnson has arguably been Sunderland’s least effective player this season, which is no mean feat given his teammates have also struggled to make an impact in the EPL.
Johnson was brought in to provide some creativity from the flanks and add to Sunderland’s goalscoring prowess, but he has found the net only four times.
Of more importance has been his disappointing supply line from both wings—he has alternated between right- and left-sided roles—with Sunderland scoring only 33 times in the EPL this season, the sixth worst in the division.
Admittedly, new signing Danny Graham, creative man Stephane Sessegnon and midfielders James McClean and Sebastian Larsson have also failed to live up to their potential this season in an offensive sense.
But the fact O’Neill has chosen to substitute star man Johnson on several occasions this season—in an attempt to change games Sunderland were struggling to win—underlines the ineffectiveness of the winger in a red and white shirt.