There is plenty of focus today ahead of the derby on Adam Johnson following his meet with Manchester-based journo's this week. The theme running through the pieces is the intriguing possibility that Johnson could be making a late bid for Fabio Capello's World Cup squad, with the Italian's comments that hinted that the winger was set to receive a call up for the remaining friendly fixture prior to the squad being announced.
The suggestion that Johnson could make the squad was not lost on him, and from Daniel Taylor's piece in The Guardian:
"It was only January that I was playing in the Championship with Middlesbrough so to be talking about the World Cup and possibly qualifying for the Champions League with City, everything has happened really quickly. I don't want to get ahead of myself but at the same time I always felt that playing with better players would help me improve, and I am quite confident I can force my way in. The key, I suppose, is to play well for City in the last five games and if I do that, hopefully England will follow."
The right-hand side for England is most definitely an issue at the moment - although the intensified focus since David Beckham's injury is strange given he was set to only be a squad player - with a number of players under a cloud through either injury or patchy form.
The front-runners appear to be Aaron Lennon, Theo Walcott and Shaun Wright-Phillips with the former currently making his way back from a lay-off and the latter two largely consigned to the bench as opposed to having the chance to play their way on to the plane.
What could benefit Johnson therefore is he is the 'hot hand'. It is strange now to think there was criticism that surrounded his move from Middlesbrough in January, that he was not a Mancini signing and here was a young player that would now get lost amidst the millions of pounds of talent at the club. That has been proved as anything but the case as Johnson has been a virtual ever present and currently revelling in his role on the right hand side of City's attacking quartet which has been raining in the goals.
The 'off winger' appears to be the vogue position at the moment, giving the attack a different dimension from a traditional out and out winger. Lennon, Walcott and Wright-Phillips are largely similar players - small, pacy, plenty of tricks, but Johnson can offer something different to the aforementioned trio. Added to this of course is he is left footed, which would also provide Capello with the option of filling the long held problem of the left hand side.
Should Johnson receive the call and be included in the final twenty-three, the downside of this is likely to be - and mirroring the situation at the club - is that you feel it would be Shaun Wright-Phillips who Johnson would usurp.
Wright-Phillips has remained on the periphery of the England set-up, his pace and spark always favoured by managers yet he has never quite translated his club form consistently on the international stage. He has also dropped down the pecking order for the most part under Mancini, with only a handful of starts and the longer he is left kicking his heels on the bench the more likely he will be forced to watch Johnson take a grip on not only his club position but of that in the England squad.