Jonathan Lee > Just over two weeks now til our first game of the season and still (at the time of writing) no senior outfield transfers, should we be panicking or just keep the faith – let’s not forget the window doesn’t shut til the end of August so still plenty of time for players to come and go, and we know that DM doesn’t like to rush into transfers while agents equally won’t rush unless they know they have got the best deal for their player – it’s a classic game of cat and mouse played out each summer, but what do we really need ?
If we get through a couple of rounds in both the FA and League Cups then with our Europa group games we are looking at a minimum 50 match season which, by definition, needs a solid squad with options in most positions; if we assume for argument’s sake our preferred formation is 4-2-3-1, then what state are we in. Fortunately, we have now completed the signing of a well-respected goalkeeper, providing some much needed competition for Fabianski, who, at 36, is in the autumn of his career. The two full back positions look to be covered by Coufal, Fredericks, Johnson and Cresswell, although the latter turns 32 later this year and that position will need bolstering next summer at the latest.
The centre half problem is well documented with a danger; only Diop and Dawson might be fully fit for Newcastle. At least one more centre half has to be drafted in, if not two, and we know DM prefers experience in that position so don’t be surprised if a 28/29/30 year old is recruited. The two CDM positions are ably filled by Soucek, Rice (surely he will stay to captain us in Europe and share Nobe’s final hurrah season before seeking pastures new), Noble himself, Lanzini and (hopefully) Coventry. The three tucked in behind the striker will (fingers crossed) see a firing Bowen (looking sharp in pre-season), Fornals (can he maintain a consistently high level this season), and Benrahma (can he do the simple things really well plus produce little bits of magic) while Lanzini can fill in here too, but evidently with such a long season ahead, another attacking midfielder (who is prepared to also track back) is required, hence the growing whispers around Pereira.
Surely Yarmo’s best days at Prem level are behind him now (and he may be allowed to go in any event) while Arthur tends to be either quite mesmerising or a downright liability and is also injury prone. Upfront meanwhile is a no-brainer in that a striker is required to support Antonio for both when he is fit and when he (inevitably) breaks down; will DM be prepared to throw any youngsters into the first team this season, highly doubtful bar bench places and maybe a League Cup start.
To repeat or better our sixth placed finish last season will take a huge effort and require a fresh injection of talent, otherwise you are relying on a relatively small group of players achieving 7/8/9 out of 10 in most matches. Can we really expect to repeat some of the results from last season: doubles over Leicester, Wolves, Villa, Leeds, as well as finishing above both Spurs and Arsenal again? But equally we must do better against the likes of Brighton and Newcastle and bustle a point or two from the big boys’ clubs; many of us were fortunate to be around in the summer of 1986 basking in the glory of a recent third placed finish only to see it fall flat with a quiet window, injuries and finishing 15th the next season.
Stay still and things only go one way, let’s trust that DM will be able to bring in 3 or 4 by the end of August and not players who think they are bigger than the club and doing us a favour, that never ends well …