I spent a lot of time last season defending Stefan Johansen. His goals, goals created and interceptions stats were incredible. He needed defending because apart from when he was scoring or creating goals, lots of his work was done off the ball. Those who take note of off the ball work, his direct opponents, voted him Player of the Year (those who follow the ball, or action on TV, miss lots).
This season’s been different, none of the markers he put down a year earlier have been met. I don’t have enough information to explain why this is, so I’m not going to absolve the player from responsibility, but what we got from him on his return to Norway on international duty was the talking part of a good game:
“I am dissatisfied with the way I was playing”
“But in recent months I have felt my rhythm is better and that my body is good”
Perhaps more importantly:
“We are going to get those two trophies [league and Scottish Cup]. We have decided to do that.”
You very occasionally hear players talk in those terms – “deciding” to win. I remember writing up that Fraser Forster “decided” to make the England World Cup squad. He made his mind up, put the vagaries of form and fortune out of his head.
The commitment from Fraser in the year-or-so before the 2014 World Cup was enormous. He worked harder than any Celtic player. Enormously harder than some. That’s how you decide something which isn’t actually your decision.
Stefan has a lot of work to do to get back to where he was a year ago. Only he can decide if the time for talking off the park is over.