Despite his youth and relative inexperience at the senior level, Brendan Rodgers appeared ready to give Liverpool's right-back spot to Javier Manquillo on a full-time basis this season. The 20-year-old arrived with only a handful of appearances for the first team at Atletico Madrid, but with starts against Southampton and Tottenham in two of Liverpool's first three matches--starts that led to very good performances--it looked as though the right-back position was his to lose.
Which he's done, apparently, but it doesn't really have anything to do with a sudden loss of form or fitness, or another player in the position performing so well that Rodgers has no choice but to drop him. Glen Johnson, whose form can charitably be described as "awful," has been the preferred option of late for Rodgers on the right, making starts in five of Liverpool's last seven matches.
And while that's limited Manquillo's time, the young Spaniard is curiously (mockingly?) positive about his teammate's quality, lauding him as one of the best on Earth. I think we're talking about the same Glen Johnson:
"I came [to Anfield] and I knew what to expect. Johnson is one of the world's best, but it was the best move for me. Atletico and I decided it was best, I needed to leave and play. It was very important. It is true he did not mind my age or anything. He has helped me a lot. Rodgers speaks Spanish and that helped me and Alberto Moreno to understand. [The language] is the hardest things, but I have help. Jose Enrique and Suso are some of our guides here.
"My goal is to play the most minutes possible for Liverpool this season. I do not look beyond that. The results will come because it is working fine. There are many new players , but it's no excuse. We will be at the level that Liverpool demand."
Part of the problem is that Glen Johnson hasn't been at whatever sort of level Liverpool should be demanding, unless that level requires carelessness in possession and lackadaisical defensive commitment. Against Newcastle and Chelsea Johnson was handed starts ahead of Manquillo, and in both losses the more senior defender continued his slide into one of the more serious liabilities in the squad's defensive contingent.
At one time Javier Manquillo might have been right about Glen Johnson, but that time seems to have passed long ago. Manquillo's far closer to the level that Liverpool require at the current time, and we should be seeing far more of him than a player that's now past his prime.