The answer to the question posed is, in all probability, yes, we are! With the club right up against its proscribed player salary cap, and an additional player or two still needed, we will have to sell before we can buy. In that respect, Henderson, McCartney, Taylor and Vaz Te are obvious candidates for outgoing transfer business. The issue, however, is whether we can actually sell them and if the accrued savings on their salaries are sufficient to facilitate us bring in players of the class of Quagliarella or Ba? If not then we may be forced to sell one or two other members of the squad. If we find ourselves in that territory, then names such as Diarra and Maiga could come in to the equation.
Personally, I find it difficult to understand how we have got ourselves in to this uncomfortable position. I can understand the emphasis being upon incoming signings, but the club must have known some time ago that we were approaching the salary cap and could have made plans to move out one or two fringe players. We know that Sam Allardyce began warning against the possible adverse impact of the new Fair Play rules, on our transfer dealings, back in May. We also know that Stephen Henderson was marginal for virtually the whole all of last season. So, why did we not move to quickly sell him when the signing of Adrian was confirmed weeks ago? Similarly, it was a strong proposition that we needed to trade up on players such as Taylor and Vaz Te as a pre-requisite for progressing as a club this summer. So, why not seek to sell them earlier in the transfer window? I hope that I am not being unduly unfair to the club, but surely our current transfer hiatus is at least partially a result of some poor planning.
Do not get me wrong, I think that we have made some very good acquisitions this summer. Securing Andy Carroll’s services on a permanent deal was a landmark piece of business; while Razvan Rat, Adrian and Stuart Downing are all excellent signings that improve the quality of the squad. And all due credit to the club for transacting that business. However, we knew that signing a quality, second striker was always the top priority, once Carroll was on board. Yet, we find ourselves entering the final two weeks of the window and that key signing has still not been secured. And, to compound the situation, our room for manoeuvre is severely restricted by this salary cap obstacle. Arguably, the club should have anticipated this potential problem arising and taken prompt action to circumvent it. I always strive to be fair and view an issue from all possible angles, but that is an inescapable conclusion in my book.
So, time is beginning to run down rapidly and the club have to do some pretty slick business to achieve their objectives before the deadline at 11pm, on 2 September 2013. As stated, it is a possibility that players like Diarra and Maiga may have to be sacrificed to facilitate a deal(s) for a class striker(s). That is a shame because both Diarra and Maiga have shown quality in pre-season. Diarra is exactly the type of defensive midfield anchor that we will need in some of the tougher away matches this season. He is also a very useful as a player to put on to help ‘close up shop’ and protect a lead. While I would have liked to have seen Maiga get another chance to prove himself in the PL. His ability to play both as a central striker and out wide is also useful to retain in the squad. But if one or both players need to be sacrificed for the greater good of our season then so be it.
One proposed move that I am, however, totally opposed to is the sale of James Tomkins, especially for a fee in the region of £6m! I believe that with Reid, Collins and Tomkins we have good cover in central defence. Add the highly promising Leo Chambers in to that mix and the situation looks even better. But what is the value of weakening our central defence to strengthen our attack? That is arguably a classic case of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul.’ I also do not rate our chances of signing a centre-back as good as Tomkins, nor do I believe the rumour that we will sign the likes of Christopher Samba. As such, if Reid or Collins are injured or suspended we could find ourselves with defensive problems. I continue to believe in Tomkins’ ability and the likelihood that he and Reid will recommence their promising defensive partnership sooner rather than later. Lets hope that David Gold remains consistent in his prior view that Tomkins will not be sold because he represents the future of the club.
So it is my expectation that we could be in for a nerve racking finale to the transfer window. However, there is always the hope that this interpretation is unduly pessimistic and the club manages to complete any remaining transfer business quickly and well before the window closes. We are one PL match in to the new season and the really encouraging thing is that we are solid in defence and scoring goals from midfield. Allied to that, we now have pace and skill on the flanks. These are all very positive developments and if we can just secure a greater cutting edge up front, then the indicative signs are pointing towards another very good PL campaign and a possible cup run.