In the last few weeks I have been visiting plenty of websites, forums and following Twitter with interest regarding the above question. I think first we need to look at the facts of who has left the club and who has come in.
- Carlton Cole
- Jake Larkins
- Gary O’Neil
- Jack Powell
- Jami Rafati
- Patrick Wearen
- Robert Hall
- Emanuel Pogatetz (Loan end)
- Marouane Chamakh (Loan end)
- Wellington Paulista (Loan End)
- Stewart Downing
- Andy Carroll (Loan made permanent)
- Razvan Rat
- Daniel Whitehead
- Alou Diarra (Returned from loan)
- Ravel Morrison (Retuned from loan)
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Other than Carlton Cole and Gary O’Neil the remaining departures from the club have no real effect on the 1st team and while the additions to the squad is not big on quantity, I’m sure we all agree that on quality it is a marked improvement from last season?
I am reasonably happy on the goalkeeper front, Jussi Jaaskelainen improved greatly as the season progressed, so no doubt he will be first choice, with Adrian pushing for starts in the cup. We also have Henderson in reserve, however, I would not be surprised if he is moved on before the end of the window, given that we also have Raphael Spiegel in reserve.
Now when it comes to the defence I am slightly more concerned. We have 3 quality centre backs in James Tomkins, Winston Reid and James Collins. But we are only a couple of bad injuries away from being in trouble here. I know George McCartney, Diarra and Joey O’Brien can fill in if need be, but at Premier league level this is not enough. Allardyce does not fancy Jordan Spence so we clearly need to get another centre half in.
At full back, again injuries do worry me, Guy Demel who I like a lot does pick up lots of niggling injuries, however, I expect to see him and O’Brien battle for that position, so touch wood we are ok here. At left back we got the Rat! I don’t know much about him but it is an improvement on last season, which is no means a dig at O’Brien who performed admirably out of position for most of last season. George McCartney is adequate cover, long-term injury permitting while this could be the season for Dan Potts to finally stake a claim for a regular role. However, I do not want to see Matt Taylor at left back!
On to the midfield, option galore and this is where we are strong. I am well happy with the signing of Stewart Downing, 2 years ago he was signing for Liverpool while we were contemplating Championship football and getting excited about signing Matt Taylor! I know Downing splits opinions but I think he is the perfect fit for our club and he is going to be a real asset. Ravel Morrison is basically a new signing and he excites me greatly, I expect he will start the season on the bench but I expect to see him starting games fairly soon. Kevin Nolan will start every game, again another player who splits opinions, he scores goals, but the rest of his play leaves a lot be desired. However, he is a great captain, but Allardyce should drop him if he does not perform. I expect Matt Jarvis to push on this season but he needs to add goals to his game. It would appear Mohamed Diame is staying which is obviously good news, hopefully he has a new agent who will pipe down a bit. Be interesting to see how Joe Cole is used, I would love to see him in centre midfield where he can really dictate a game. Mark Noble needs to add more to his game given the increased competition while Jack Collison I sadly now only see as a squad player. Then of course we have Diarra back in the mix, but he will need to get back in Allardyce’s good books. There is talk of Matt Taylor moving on and I hope this happens as I believe him to be Championship level at best.
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So now we come to our striking options and this is the real cause for concern! Andy Carroll is already injured and I don’t expect to see him until mid-September. No point rushing him back, we need him 100% fit for the whole season. For this reason alone I would have kept Carlton on for another season, apparently we offered him a new deal which he turned own, how much do you pay to a back up striker? Modibo Maiga is an interesting one, I don’t understand why we ever bought him if we are never going to give him a decent run of games up front to prove himself? The glimpses I saw last season he looked ok in his preferred position, however it would appear that the club are keen to move him on and if this is to fund a new striker then fair enough. Ricardo Vaz Te I suppose is our remaining option but there are reports linking him with a move to Nottingham Forest which would be a shame as I do believe he has it in him to succeed in the Premier league. We are woefully lacking upfront and in this regard I would go for Defoe, he knows where the goal is and after 10 years I am prepared, to forgive if maybe not forget!
Hopefully some of the youth players will come through, been reading good things about Dylan Tombides who thankfully would now appear to have a clean bill of health. Elliott Lee and George Moncur would also appear to be thought of highly.
So in conclusion in terms of quality of squad we have improved, the midfield is fine numbers wise but much like last season I worry about defence and the strikers situation and fingers crossed this will be resolved before the transfer window closes.
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