If there is one thing that recent performances have shown us, it is that our squad is in desperate need of strengthening. Whilst I think its fair to say that we have a fairly strong first eleven – on the rare occasion that they’re all fit at the same time – it has become apparent that beyond the obvious starting line up, there is a serious imbalance in the squad.
However, if the summer window told us anything, it’s that Messer’s Gold and Sullivan are as economical with the purse strings as they are with the truth. Their insistence upon abiding by the Financial Fair Play rules early could be deemed to be prudent, but to do so a whole two years early, while clubs with similar income splash out on new signings and ever increasing wage bills – something doesn’t add up. Sure, £20 million was spent on Carroll and Downing, but Financial Fair Play does seem to be something of a convenient excuse.
So splashing the cash is clearly out of the question – but so too would not adding more players. As such, we must be looking at loans. The utterly pointless knee jerk contract offered to Petric will surely not be extended, and nor is it likely that Carlton Cole will still be here by the end of the month. So that will free up some funds, but the Chairmen will still need to dig deep.
But where should we look to strengthen first? The obvious answer is up front, but it’s also apparent that we lack a general creativity without Downing and a weakness at the back when Reid is unavailable. So who should we be looking to target?
It’s clear that our current crop just aren’t up to the job. Cole’s return was nothing more than sentiment, and Petric was a complete waste of time. Whilst Maiga clearly possesses some abilities, goal scoring is sadly not one of them. Without Carroll, we have been ridiculously toothless.
A lot will depend on whether Sam looks to stick rigidly to his preference to playing a big man up front or if he’s prepared to flex a little, and look more at an ability to score goals than to provide a target. Much will equally depend on other clubs transfer business. Should either Chelsea or Tottenham make additions to their forward lines, loans are a distinct possibility for their existing players. Whilst Jermain Defoe would be an ideal option, albeit controversially, it seems he is rather disappointingly headed to the MLS with Toronto. His team mate Emmanuel Adebayor would offer us a genuine threat and an ability to play as a figurehead – and whilst he has spent much time on the sidelines at both Spurs and Man City, it cannot be ignored that he made an excellent initial impression at those clubs. A loan signing for him is a much stronger possibility than the likes of Demba Ba, who would undoubtedly be welcomed back with open arms, but looks to have his heart set on a move abroad. John Guidetti of Man City looks a raw young talent who did well in the Dutch Leagues, but has found his path to the first team blocked, though there is a huge difference between the Dutch League and the Premier League.
A look into the Championship would bring about approving glances at the likes of Jordan Rhodes, Danny Ings or Sam Vokes – but all are unproven at a higher level, and we currently need someone to hit the ground running. Not only that, but a young striker with great potential is unlikely to be available on the cheap – certainly far more than we are likely to be able to sell Maiga back to France for – so whilst a summer move for one of these players would be more likely, in the interim, I suspect Adebayor is the best option.
Not much we need to do here – at the centre of our midfield, we look fairly strong. Diame, Noble and Morrison are the current fans choices in the centre, with a strong case for Nolan to come back in when e Carroll returns, and Diarra a strong and experienced option when fit again. Jack Collison is probably our best ball playing midfielder, but question marks around his future must surely arise given his perceived lack of long term fitness, and Allardyce’s willingness to send him out on loan. Out wide, Downing has proven to be the most creative player we currently have, and his absence will be sorely missed – all the more so given Jarvis and Joe Cole being inconsistent bit part performers so far. If we are to get more chances in to Carroll, we must look at another wide option – and few are better on their day that Wilfred Zaha. Currently overlooked by David Moyes and clearly out of favour at Manchester United, he will clearly feel he has a point to prove to those who doubt he is cut out for the Premier League – and what better platform for a winger than to team up with a side that base their play on getting balls into the box? Questions will be raised over the disagreement for England Under 21’s between Zaha and Morrison, but I don’t see this being a major issue.
The greatest defensive achievement we can accomplish in January would be to keep Winston Reid from the clutches of Arsenal. Back up is clearly the key necessity, as question marks over the likes of Collins and O’Brien. Even Tomkins has at times looked as though he struggles with the pace. With the sole intention of survival, we should be looking to reinforce our defence – the benefit of a World Cup at the end of the season, along with a promise of first team football could be a deciding factor. Jolean Lescott has seen less playing time than either he or Hodgson would have wanted, with Man City at times preferring to play midfielders back in defence than Lescott. Game time would certainly do him good before the summer, and would be first choice alongside Reid if he signed. In a similar position would be QPR’s Julio Ceasar. His position as Brazil’s first choice will be questioned without regular game time at the top level. Whilst Jussi has performed well at times, he is clearly past his best. While Adrian is a signing for the future, question marks exist about him right now – and unlike Ceasar, he has not played in the Premier League. One of the more left field, but worth considering nonetheless.