Guest Post by ForeverBlowingBubbles
With our premier league status almost certain to be retained with the win over Watford, despite not being mathematically safe, thoughts immediately turn to next season.
Like him or loath him, or somewhere in between, David Moyes looks to be staying on as our manager at least for one year. The argument remains that he deserves time to put his stamp on the team, and – for some – based on the acquisitions of Soucek and Bowen, credit where credits due. However, who made those signings? Do we know? It has been well reported that we don’t have a scouting network that other clubs boast, we rely on agents who are largely out for themselves and on the fabled David Sullivan punt. I don’t know who to thank in this instance, David Moyes, David Sullivan – grits teeth – or a combination of both? Or was their discovery and subsequent impact on the team just dumb luck? Whatever it is, at this point, I’ll take it.
So with the transfer window – augmented due to the fallout of Covid19 – opening shortly, who should stay and who should go?
It goes without saying that we’re not going to have much – if any – money to spend and therefore the majority or all incomings will need to be generated by player sales.
With that in mind, I would be inclined to consider the following for sale, and I’m going to stress this isn’t necessarily what I’d like to see happen but what seems realistic under the circumstances.
Well first off, we’ve already lost 3 players. Two of which can hardly be considered a loss for very different reasons – the ineffective and expensive Carlos Sanchez and the bright young prospect Jeremy Ngakia who was either chasing a payout for himself or his agent. Lastly, veteran Pablo Zabaleta has left the club and while we need more youthful options in the fullback positions, I think you’d be hard pushed to find anyone who could criticise this man’s effort and leadership. He’ll be missed. However, we have lost at least £100k a week from the wage bill, nothing to be sniffed at.
In terms of selling, I think you have to start with Felipe Anderson.
Some people will read this and agree, others will think I’m insane for suggesting it based on what a ray of light he seemed to be for us when he first arrived. We all know the ability he has – as the old adage goes, form is temporary class is permanent. However, I’d like to see him leave for two reasons. One is simple practicality – we need to sell to buy – and he is the only player we have that will recoup a relatively decent amount of money and who we can afford to lose. I would imagine even in the current climate, we may get around £25million for him. That buys us one top quality full back, or two quite decent ones, considering we haven’t spent more than a few million on those positions in years. The second reason is his own mental state. For whatever reason he has gone off the boil for us in a major way and he looks extremely disinterested. Even more concerning, as Daz pointed out recently, in the last game he played he ignored the manager’s instructions repeatedly, when asked to play centrally rather than out on the left. If we’re going to back Moyes, we can’t afford to have someone like that in our squad. We need team players. Not to mention the fact that we are well covered on the left wing/left of a front three. Antonio aside, we have Grady Diangana to welcome back in that position, and Snodgrass and Masuaku can both play there. The latter I would keep for this reason. I don’t want to see him played as a defender, but he’s good going forward and we’ve recently given him a new contract. Snodgrass is good cover across many midfield positions, but he won’t last much longer, and we’d need Masuaku as back up for Diangana on the left if Anderson leaves.
Next for the chop – Ryan Fredericks.
He was worth a try. We took him on a free, albeit on reasonably high wages. His positional sense is really quite poor for a defender, the only reason he often gets away with it is because his speed tends to make up for some of the mistakes. We need better than that. We could recoup anywhere up to £5 million for him in the current climate which would be useful. Let young Johnson have the position for the time being and let us invest properly in a new RB to compete.
Jack Wilshere … where do you start?
One year left on his contract. Should never have been given 3 years in the first place but that was reportedly MP’s fault not Sullivan’s so I suppose we can’t blame him for that. His lifestyle doesn’t support football and he’s rarely fit. He contributes next to nothing to the team for the vast wages he’s on and we have plenty of others who can play in his position as it stands. There is a slim chance we could shift him now for a paltry sum – possibly a bag of magic beans – which would free up another 80-100k from the wage bill before he leaves again for nothing after barely playing for us next summer.
The lad’s never really been given a chance, but he still retains some sort of pedigree in Europe. He was never what we needed. We needed to buy a striker with premier league experience to compete with Haller. The requirement hasn’t changed, we still need that or a youthful prospect. Possibly one of each. If we’re lucky we could still recoup £4million of so from Ajeti, around half of what we paid.
He’s been on loan now with Charlton for a couple of seasons. They look like they’d be interested in buying him and we should allow them to do so for a suitable fee – a couple of million maybe – as he doesn’t look like he’ll ever make the grade with us at 24. The championship seems to be his ceiling. Whereas our other loanee, Grady Diangana, I hope we will welcome back with open arms, after a season with West Brom that shows he has what it takes.
Need I say more?
There’s a few others I’ve seen mentioned but I’ve left out. Cresswell? I don’t rate him, but we need some cover in the LB position. However, there’s no way he should be our first choice back if we invest properly in the fullback positions this window. Balbuena? I rate him, he was doing well for us before the dip in form and before Ogbonna went full beast-mode. He cost us a pittance and is more than good enough for back up. I don’t think we could replace him with similar quality for what he cost us realistically. Reid? The forgotten man. He still has a long-term contract with us, doesn’t look like we’ll be able to sell him given his high wages and we need a fourth centre back as cover, and we can’t afford to buy one right now when funds are needed elsewhere. Seems a no brainer to me. Lanzini? This is difficult one. He really does look a shadow of his former self, through no want of trying. I feel quite sorry for him actually. He doesn’t look like recapturing his quality, which may be impossible after an injury that could have been career ending. Really it comes down to do we get rid of him or Wilshere? We only need one or the other, as we already have Noble and the improving Fornals who can play in that role. If sold, Lanzini would grant us more funds to spend elsewhere, but there’s also the chance he may come good given more time. I personally would give him one more season to see if he recovers at the expense of Wilshere.
So then, in terms of what we need? I’d argue even a blind man could see it. We need to invest heavily in both the full back positions, at least one new RB and new LB of pedigree who can come into our first team set up. We need to buy a striker to compete with Haller, regardless of Antonio looking difficult to dislodge in that position given his form. We all know he’s one hamstring injury away from putting us in trouble. It would also be nice to see Xande Silva make the step up now he’s fit again. We need to get the fantastic Soucek in on a permanent deal and more importantly than anything, we need to try and convince Declan Rice to stick with us at least one more season. However, if Chelsea do come calling, I personally wouldn’t begrudge him leaving. I would be inclined to purchase someone in the Doucoure mould (if Watford go down) in preparation for that event, so we’re not left short again.
Given all this, our squad for next season could be:
Goalkeepers: Fab, Randolph, Martin
Right back: NEW PLAYER, Johnson
Left back: NEW PLAYER, Cresswell
Centre backs: Oggie, Diop, Balbuena, Reid
Defensive/Central Midfield: Noble, Soucek, Rice, Snodgrass
Attacking midfield: Fornals, Lanzini
Rightsided midfield: Bowen, Yarmolenko
Leftsided midfield: Diangana, Masuaku
Strikers: Haller, Antonio, NEW PLAYER, Silva
Given our resources, I’d say that looks reasonable. We have cover where its needed and we would have bought in the areas that have been lacking for some time. Of course, we would all prefer additional outgoings and incomings in various areas of the pitch, but it doesn’t seem doable right now. Other than the top teams for whom money is no object, I think a lot of clubs will struggle this year with transfers. Inviting 3 new players into our squad, potentially 2 straight into our first team, plus the purchase of Soucek seems like necessary and sensible business.
What do you think?