That is probably a tougher question to answer as we move into the homestretch of this season than it was last year, which says a lot considering how much the team has changed this season. For much of last season I wrote about the value of Ravel Morrison and how I hoped he was the team’s future. That of course has fallen by the wayside due to his continued off the field problems and his relationship with Sam Allardyce.
Taken in a vacuum the difficulties Big Sam had with the young star could be ignored. However, when you look at the strained relationship with Zarate there seems to be a pattern forming; young and talented creators have no place in a Big Sam run team. However, as it looks like we are closing the book on Big Sam’s time at Upton Park we can look forward to see what the team might look like next year.
It is my fervent hope that whoever our manager is next season they learn a lot from this year. I hope to see us continue to play in the diamond with Stewart Downing at the tip. I hope to see Kouyote sitting in front of the top 4 and making the occasional run that has been his hallmark this season. I don’t believe we are going to hold on to Alex Song and to be honest well it would be nice I am not sure he is worth the cost. I would love to see Mark Noble and Morgan Amalfitano rounding out the midfield.
It seems likely we will be able to keep Jenkinson beyond this season, which would be excellent, and Cresswell has been fantastic as well. I could easily see any combination of our three Center Backs playing between them although we need reinforcements in this department. It will be nice to see if Doneil Henry can prove useful here.
It goes without saying that Adrian will continue to be our stalwart goalkeeper, or at least I hope it does! That leaves the position of forward to be considered. Diafra Sakho has simply been a machine this season and I am not sure where we would be without him. The question is who do you want next to him? For my money, as much as I love Andy Carroll, I think the answer is still Enner Valencia. We had our best run with those two in the lineup and they seem to be our best chance moving forward.
This notably leaves Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll out of the starting XI. As much as I am a Kevin Nolan fan I think his time is past as a starter. I would love to see him continue with the team though and come on as a goal scoring threat when needed. He is a great leader and can still turn it on from time to time, but he cannot be a 90 minute player anymore. Andy Carroll is a more complicated problem. He clearly has the talent needed to be a top threat in the Premier League, but his injury record is simply terrible. Perhaps rotating into the lineup with Sakho and Valencia is an answer or perhaps, sad as it would be, it is time for him to move on to a new opportunity.
Ultimately, I think with the starting lineup outlined here and players like Diego Poyet and, yes, Mauro Zarate waiting to make an impact we have a strong foundation from which to build next season. Remember that this is a team that was in the top 4 at Christmas. Some people may think it was a fluke but to me it looked more like a sign of things to come.
Let me know what you think here or on twitter, and thanks for reading!