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Time for Some Strength in Depth?

By Dan Walshe :  26/03/2009 :  Comments (29) :

Over the last few years, it seems to have become something of an obsession that we have to break our transfer record every summer. This obviously enables us to bring in individual players with that bit of quality that we maybe didn?t have before. Everyone can point to the Yak?s goals last season or to Fellaini?s match winning goals this season and say that that policy works. What is less easy to quantify though is how many games/points we lose through a lack of strength in depth. This has restricted our ability to make game changing substitutions and at times this season has affected our first eleven.

The problem with this can be seen with what is happening to Aston Villa. They sacrificed the Uefa Cup by fielding a weakened side and now look likely to be in it again next year. What is the point trying to qualify for that competition if a lack of strength in depth then prevents you from genuinely trying to win it?

Assuming (and I accept it is a massive assumption) we have something like £20 million to spend this summer, I honestly think we should spend say £10 million on one player and buy five £2 million pound players with the rest. If we have less money to spend then adjust the figures accordingly.

Clearly it was an act of managerial genius to get Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta for £2 million each. It would be a huge ask to find five players of that quality for that kind of money. But I don?t think it is by any means impossible. Clearly Steve Bruce has a good scouting network in Central and South America and has unearthed Valencia, Palacios, Figueroa etc. for small money. That is one way of doing it. The other way is to look closer to home at teams that are relegated from the Premier League, the lower divisions, younger players and players from the mid ranking leagues in Europe such as the Dutch, Portuguese, Greek leagues etc.

The players don?t all have to be midfield generals or goalscoring centre forwards either. A decent utility player like Paul Scharner would plug a lot of gaps in the squad and provide experience if we did have injuries or needed a cool head for the last 20 minutes of a game. That kind of signing might not send the heart racing but we would be grateful for it if we were competing on four fronts next season.

We?re not going to outbid even Spurs (never mind the Sky 4) for the really top names so we have to spend wisely. The fact that Bruce got Palacios for buttons and Spurs then paid 14 million for him just shows you the contrasting ways we can do our business.

Before anyone asks, I?m not a Wigan fan ? I am just using their approach as an example of what can be done. One who might be worth a look and fits the bill is Jordi Gomez, on loan from Espanyol to Swansea City, one of the best players in the Championship, available for £2 million according to reports this morning, has a year?s experience in English football and is only 23.

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Ciarán MacGiolla Eoin
1   Posted 26/03/2009 at 14:24:50

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You suggest we need ?strength in depth? and then go on to suggest buying one £10mill player and five £2mill players...

I would suggest that adding five £2mill players would give us depth, not ?strength in depth?...and a depth that would be obsolete considering you can only declare 7 bench warmers (which Moyes seldom uses anyway!).

However, here?s the real rub: our first 11 is struggling to cope with teams like West Brom (where the only notable excpetion was Arteta ? Yakubu would not have been any use in that match as the service to the front was virtually nil).

Therefore, do you not think it would be a bit more sensible to spend our budget (which I don?t think will be anywhere near £20mill before player sales) on quality ? and use those players relegated from the first XI consolidate our ?strength [sic] in depth??
Peter Laing
2   Posted 26/03/2009 at 14:31:48

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Totally agree with these sentiments Dan, its very frustrating having our noses pressed up against the window of the champions league but not having the financial clout to breakthrough. The Sky 4 through their association with the European elite and G18 cartel are seemingly on course to preserve their status ad infinitum.

The million dollar question would be how long that David Moyes is likely to stick around as he appears to have taken us as far as he can with the current business plan in operation at Everton. Two semi-final appearances in two years, top 6 stability and a nucleus of good players is without doubt a pretty good return from the manager; however, a lack of strength in depth, injuries to key players has the potential to once again undermine our aspirations.

Kevin Gillen
3   Posted 26/03/2009 at 14:27:05

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Good post. Bit optimistic though. I think given the credit crunch we will have £0 to invest this Summer in transfer fees like last year (Johnson and McFadden monies = Fellaini). I suspect we may recruit two or three loan signings at best. I expect Jacobsen, Valente and Castillo to move on and Jo to go back to Man City.

The only possible way we are likely to spend money is if there is some horse trading. I can?t imagine what saleable assets we have that we could possibly consider selling. Rodwell, Yakubu, Cahill, Lescott, Jagielka, Fellaini, Arteta, Pienaar and Cahill are the only assets we have that have any considerable value in the transfer market. I can only imagine Yakubu being horse traded as Redknapp likes him and is at a club that constantly seem to find money.

I can?t see Moyes having a much bigger squad. It appears to me he likes a small squad. Yes, we have had some terrible luck with injuries but if everyone gets fit at the same time you have the problem of satisfying egos whilst they are sat on the bench.

I can?t see them going for quantity, it?s wasteful. If we are to recruit one would hope that we are able to persuade some players from the top four that they are better playing with us than warming the bench elsewhere. We nearly got Fletcher on that basis last year and he has been close to United?s best player this year.

El-Ray Jackson
4   Posted 26/03/2009 at 14:54:12

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I watched Swansea play Fulham in the FA cup. One player that stood out was this Spanish fella called Jordi Gomez. Roberto Martinez brought him on loan from Espanyol for a fee of £200,000. He looked head and shoulders above the rest of the players, very composed on the ball and technically a very good player. He reminded me of Arteta, he played in a similar role that of Arteta. I think if Moyes offered around £2mil he could have a potential Arteta on his hands.
Mike Oates
5   Posted 26/03/2009 at 15:23:44

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Fully understand your comments Dan but the days of a quality signing for £10m and "reasonable signings" for £2m have well and truly gone.

We could guess forever more what Bill will give to Davy but whatever it is then a quality ? "straight into team" CL quality signing will cost us at least £15m and when you consider Jags and Baines cost us £4-6m each then I suspect the very best we can hope for is 1 quality and 1 good potential signings. We have to hope that Rodwell and Gosling step up a gear and Wallace and Baxter develop to the extent we can get half-dozen games apiece.

Might be heresy to Moyes but we should use Carling and the early Europa games to get these lads time on the pitch.
Kunal Patel
6   Posted 26/03/2009 at 16:01:30

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I think Moyes will be lucky if he gets £10M to spend (Sky money). One decent signing perhaps and a couple of freebies, but don?t expect too much.
Larry Boner
7   Posted 26/03/2009 at 16:07:31

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Money, money, money... well, let's look at this season shall we?

We sold Johnson for whatever it was, but apparently for more than we paid for him. We had previously sold McFadden, for more than we paid for him, but up to the last second of the transfer window we had recruited NOBODY!! We then apparently bought some kid from Standard Liege for £15,000,000! Now we find that it was £4 mil with add ons. We brought in 3 players on loan, one who had been released by his club, a 3rd rate keeper and journeyman midfielder.

We begin the season without a 1st team squad, but with a youth team squad, so we use them instead; we go out of 2 comps and play catch-up for the rest of the season. We are now at the stage where we have to play anyone who can lace up their own boots, which is why Jacobsen played on Saturday instead of the 9-year-old right back we have playing for the juniors.

I believe that Yakubu was on his way to Spurs in January, but the injury he sustained (against Spurs!) stopped that, so all that happened was we got a non-performer from City for the rest of the season when we also needed a solid midfielder.

We are now back to the situation at the start of the season ? hanging on by our fingernails... the Portsmouth result showed th ]at, even with a goal start, we could not compete.

My humble opinion is that, unless Yakubu recovers in time for the transfer window, we will bring in NOBODY apart from possibly one or two loan signings, which will not even cover for the departure of VDM, Castillo, Jacobsen etc. Harsh, I know, but in the current financial climate, banks are not going to loan money to debt-ridden clubs, unless they have assets they can generate cash from. All we have is the playing staff as everthing else is mortgaged to the hilt.

Tony Marsh
8   Posted 26/03/2009 at 17:14:17

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First off, Dan, don''t believe for a minute that we paid anywhere near £15 million for Fellaini, it's Bullshit. BK needed a way to loosen the rope around his neck pre-season when we didn't buy anyone. The figure quoted for Mo is a smoke screen, a kind of 'look what we have spent' type bollocks. I hear the real figure is around £4 million with add-ons... so don't fall for it.

As for the Uefa Cup, I don't think teams do try to qualify for it. It's more of a hinderance than anything else and the way it is shunned by managers, players and fans alike proves this. The reason we want to be as high in the league as possible is to try and crack the big 4 and the rewards that go with it.

Every place higher in the PL you finish earns you an extra £250,000 in the kitty. So, from 10th to 6th is a million quid difference. That sum is roughly what you would make for playing 17 games and winning the poxy Uefa Cup.

O'Niell and Redknapp were right to shun the Uefa Cup and can you imagine the state we would be in right now if we would've had an extended run in the Useless Cup... We would be fooked mate.

We need at least 6 new players next season just to stay in the top eight places. If you want us to compete in the arse end of Europe as well make that number 12 players... It just won't happen, though, will it?
Kevin Tully
9   Posted 26/03/2009 at 18:13:21

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Don’t forget Dan, you have to pay a decent player 20k a week in the Prem. So your 5 squad players will cost 5 mill a year in wages, not a luxury we can afford.
10   Posted 26/03/2009 at 20:39:39

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Totally agree with TM and others about the lack of cash and Fellaini’s TRUE COST.

Unless and until we get a new owner with more vision we wont have anything to spend and we’ll just be paying debts and reducing the quantity of the squad even further.

It is not possible to bring youth through to immediately play in the prem apart from the odd Rooney and there are’nt many of them about.

Interesting to hear Moyes say we’ll be lucky to stay in the top ten if as expected there is no money available in the summer.
Billy Bradshaw
11   Posted 26/03/2009 at 20:57:54

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The problem of the size of the squad will never go away until Mr Kenwright does one or bring in some funding. What the hell has he and his board done for this club of ours in the past 10 years ????????????
We have had the smallest squad in the prem for the last 5 - 6 years, even the clubs who come up from the chamionship each year have bigger squads.
Keith Glazzard
12   Posted 26/03/2009 at 21:15:57

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The OS lists 33 members of the first team squad. 4 are keepers, 5 are youngsters with hardly any PL experience, plus Rodwell and Gosling. So we’re really talking about the 22 others.

Van der Meyde and Castillo will go - Nuno Valente? Jo? Yobo and Yakubu might possibly move on. Yakubu, Arteta, Vaughan and Anichebe have injuries which are a long way from healed right now.

My point is that there could be the need for a great deal of movement into the squad before we start talking about strength in depth.
Alan Kirwin
13   Posted 26/03/2009 at 21:41:17

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If we do have funds available, and in all honesty boys not finishing 4th will mean we will have little if any, then it’s in the area of magic that we’re lacking. Arteta has it, but despite others such as Yakubu, Lescott, Jags, Cahill, Pienaar etc all being important players for us, we don’t have the extra ingredient that can turn the occasional dodgy day into a victory.

We need to be fair though, even with an outrageous injury situation this term, we remain up there. In truth we have very little right to be on Arsenal’s shoulder, but we are. But I confess to almost salivation when I ponder on the creayive options available to Arsene Wenger.

Diaby (fabulous player), Fabregas, Denilson, Eduardo, Rosicky, Walcott, Adebayor, Arshavin, Bendtner & Ramsay. In all honesty I think just about every single one of these guys would be in our first team. So it’s a mixed bag, because I’m jealous and proud in equal measure (actually, maybe more on the jealous side).

Going forward, we have proved how solid and uncompromsing we are defensively and as a team. There have been few exceptions to this and, being fair, Pompey was a blip (so far). Our whole focus now HAS to be on the offensive & creative side of our game and particularly in midfield. We need to be better in possession and more arrogant & ambitious when we have possession. In fact I believe our whole coaching ethos now has to be about getting & keeping the ball and being clinical in the final third.

Yes, easier said than done. But Moyes has proved how far he can take the squad as it stands. I disagree with a number of his selections, tactics and purchases, but his record stands up. It now really is time to cross the Rubicon and show just how revelatory he can be as a coach.

Great things are possible with the right philosophy. One daft example. A Welsh member of my extended family (& Swansea fan) has been raving about Jason Scotland all season. Sure, sure, I thought. Then when I saw the guy he was magnificent. Big, strong, fast, skilful and POSITIVE in approach. He has scored shed loads of goals this season and I wondered where he came from. When I was told St Johnstone’s reserves, for £25,000, I thought this was a joke. But I checked and it’s true.

Wenger buys players to fit his system. His system is essentially keeping the ball as much as possible and attacking at every opportunity, with a particular emphasis on turning defense into attack as quickly & brilliantly as possible. That’s where we now have to aim. It is most definitely not all about money. Arsenal’s transfer record is lower than ours and was set in 2000.

Getting into the Champions League would have helped massively this season. But the odds, after our pre-season, start to the season, injuries and squad depth, were always against us. That shouldn’t disguise another great effort by everyone involved. But it’s simple, we now just have to aim not just higher, but better.
Tony Williams
14   Posted 26/03/2009 at 22:58:49

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Tony, I almost agree with you. Our squad is too small to fight in the Uefa Cup; however, the cautionary tale has to be Villa this season. They haven?t won a game since surrendering in the second leg of the cup... I suppose the moral of the story is to get knocked out in the qualifiers and save your strength for the league... to get back into the Uefa Cup ? hang on that doesn?t seem right!!! And also we can slate Moyes more if we get knocked out in the qualifiers, so job's a good'un.
Ray Walker
15   Posted 26/03/2009 at 23:34:12

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Assuming we do as you suggest (1 player @ £10M & 5 @ £2M) we will have increased the depth of the squad by one. This is because loan players (Jo, Castillo & Jacobsen) wil be leaving along with out-of-contract players (Van der Meyde & Valente).
Trevor Lynes
16   Posted 27/03/2009 at 05:54:34

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Agree with Alan 100% and I also agree that DM has produced wonders in making a frankly mediocre squad into a team that is generally very hard to beat. I just envy teams with players in every position who are comfortable on the ball and know how to pass... unfortunately that includes Liverpool, Man Utd and Arsenal. We still have ball control problems in many positions and Arteta is the only REAL football player we have...

Rooney is heavily maligned by EFC supporters who see him as a traitor but I for one do not. I reckon the lad wanted to win things and soon realized it would not happen at EFC so he bent to peer pressure to jump ship. Many of us do the same if better job offers come along. The Everton he left was struggling and lets face it, he bailed us out of lots of debt... I just hope that we develop a few more good players from our present batch of youngsters and coach some ball-playing and passing ability into the senior players we have.

The defence has basically carried the team through most of the season and without Arteta we have no real playmaker. Pienaar has good dribbling skills and he works extremely hard but his passing and crossing is woeful. Osman lacks strength and Fellaini is still clumsy in the tackle and has stamina problems too. Jo is not worth buying and Saha is fragile and needs to be nursed, he is a luxury player with good ball control but very injury-prone.

I agree with Alan about Wigan, they have unearthed a whole conveyor belt of decent players and kept afloat by selling them on at good profits. Our scouting staff have unearthed very little by comparison.

I think DM has gone as far as he can and unless decent money is made available then I cannot forsee a lot of improvement.

Brian Baker
17   Posted 27/03/2009 at 09:29:35

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I don?t think Moyes will be looking at changing too much in the summer. He will look to be adding some more quality in midfield, if the price is right, like Joao Moutinho or Sean Davis.

Jacobsen and Valente will get another year or two ,as they are good solid squad players, who can be effective stand-ins. The only way we can keep Jo is if we get him at a knock-down price, £6million max, but we would need to sell on one of the other strikers, like Vaughan or Anichebe, to raise the cash.

Castillo is only on loan, but he may be kept on, if we can?t buy another quality midfielder, to compliment Arteta. If Hull go down, we should make a bid for Giovani, he is their only class player and would make an ideal wide man.

Ciarán MacGiolla Eoin
18   Posted 27/03/2009 at 10:45:32

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My Kingdom for a Manny.
Tommy Gourlay
19   Posted 27/03/2009 at 10:58:48

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@ Alan Kirwin

Agreed, Jason Scotland is a fantastic player and one of those bargain players that has always been good but just never given the chance. By the way, was Palacios not shown the door at Birmingham when Bruce left? Had he not shown what he could do by then only for Birmingham to stupidly let him go? I’m surprised no one else picked him up at that point.

Anyway, I’m an Everton fan but live 5 minutes from Dundee United’s ground so know a bit about Jason (the rest of this post is a background of Jason’s bizzare histoy so just ignore the rest of this post if you aren’t interested).

United fans chanted Jason’s name when they were in trouble in matches to hint to the dumb manager to get Jason off the bench and onto the pitch where they felt he should of been from the start of the game.

When Jason needed a new work permit he wasn’t given it, partly because he hadn’t played enough internationals. The reason he hadn’t played enough was that his Trinidad international coach wouldn’t pick him because he wanted all his players to have short hair and Jason refused to cut his. (the irony of it was that Jason didn’t appear at his work permit hearing....because Trinidad had changed their coach and so Jason was off on international duty!!!)

The Scottish Premier League had a panel of (I think) 6 men that heard special cases like Jason’s, 5 of the men (I think) had played for Hibs in their playing days and United had co-incidentally just put Hibs out the Scottish Cup a few weeks previous thanks to Jason, who came off the bench when United were 1-0 down to turn the game around by setting up 1 goal and scoring a cracker himself. (Conspiracy theories ahoy!)

The Scottish Football League (which covers the 3 divisions below the SPL) also had a special cases panel and they didn’t hesitate to give Jason a contract for St Johnstone (despite St Johnstone using the same evidence as United had). So although Jason was easily an SPL quality player, that is why Swansea unearthed him in the lower division at St Johnstone.

Jason-worshipping rant over!
Dan Walshe
20   Posted 27/03/2009 at 12:15:30

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Thanks for the comments, thought this might stimulate some debate! The fact that my suggestion would only increase the squad by one player as pointed out by Ray Walker I think shows how badly we need to do this.

The difference I would hope would be that we would actually own the replacements for Jo, Castillo, Valente, Van der Meyde and Jacobsen and I find it hard to imagine the replacements would not be better. The wages of the players leaving would then be paid to the players coming in which would offset the cost as pointed out by Kevin Tully.

As for Ciaran Mac Giolla Eoin?s comments about depth but not strength in depth we got Pienaar, Arteta and Cahill for £2 million each so why not get out there and find a few more? If we can assemble our first choice midfield for those prices why would the new signings automatically be written off for being £2 million pound signings?

Ciarán MacGiolla Eoin
21   Posted 27/03/2009 at 14:45:21

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The only way you get players of that quality for that price these days is with a top notch foreign scouting system, a la Arsenal... and by also being an attractive proposition for these players..

It would appear that we have neither of these.

I was simply suggesting that while there are obvious holes in our first XI, then it would surely be prudent to address this first.
Billy Dean
22   Posted 27/03/2009 at 17:25:42

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"The only way you get players of that quality for that price these days is with a top notch foreign scouting system, a la Arsenal... and by also being an attractive proposition for these players. It would appear that we have neither of these."

Why would we not be an attractive proposition? We?re in the top 6 in one of the best leagues in Europe, great team spirit, excellent facilities and history, and a proven track record of giving chances to " unfashionable" players.
Alan Armstrong
23   Posted 27/03/2009 at 19:34:05

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Brian, £6 mill for Jo, are you serious?

I would?nt have him for free because it would be a waste of wages. Seriously mate, he is shit.
Gerard Harkin
24   Posted 27/03/2009 at 23:54:21

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I?ll buy Anichebe for whatever change I get from a fiver after my first pint tomorrow evening! Oh and by the way, Vaughan will have to be thrown into the deal also, that way it's a win-win situation all round... a nice cool pint of ale and Everton get rid of those two mid-table Championship players and all done and dusted for a fiver!!!
Eric Myles
25   Posted 28/03/2009 at 00:56:02

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Dan, good idea but you don’t seem to realise that we have 5 players out of contract come the end of this season so your 5 only replace them.
Alasdair Mackay
26   Posted 28/03/2009 at 10:36:21

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Some Evertonians have terrible memories!

Gerard Harkin suggesting that Anichebe and Vaughan are Championship standard players is ridiculous. Whenever Vaughan has played he has impressed me. I know he is injury prone, but he is quality. If we can get him fit and keep him fit he is definitely a keeper.

Anichebe has had a poor season due to injury and has clearly been listening to the wrong people, but last season he gave us so much at key times of games and won Young Player of the Season. He at least deserves a chance to prove that the last 5 months or so have been a blip.

I agree that we will be 5 men down in the summer - Jo, Castillo, Jacobsen, VDM and Valente. I don?t see VDM as a great loss and Jo was a stop-gap solution that we won?t miss once we have the Yak back. Castillo has been rubbish since he lost his place early on.

The loss we suffer will be at cover for the full-back positions. Hopefully John Irving can step up. Everyone is mentioning Wallace and Agard as possibles, but we shouldn?t forget a young right back who has won Reserve Player of the Season for the last two years! We also should expect more of a contribution from Baxter and even more from Rodwell and Gosling so it is not all doom and gloom.

I think we need a left back as cover, but we needn?t spend any money on him as we have Baines as first choice and Lescott as cover in that role.

The pressing concerns for me are a top quality winger with pace, a striker with pace and a top central midfielder who can show for the short pass from the back four more than our current crop. If we can get Owen for nothing and perhaps get Moutinho on a season long loan with a view to a permanent transfer the following summer, that will mean we can spend our budget this year on a winger.

Gerard Harkin
27   Posted 28/03/2009 at 19:42:15

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So how many Premier League goals does Anichebe have or has my memory slipped me there too? I'm sorry to say it but Victor is not up to it! Injuries aside, Vaughan may be Premier League quality but he is fast running out of time to prove it! My final offer is a tenner...
JL Slap
28   Posted 29/03/2009 at 03:58:21

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I know we have a history of offering these ?structured? deals, it's a practice I am all for, especially in today's climate, but this Chinese whisper about Fellaini?s fee is popping up all over the place and it's bollocks. It was revealed at the time of the deal by Liege themselves that it was a cash offer of over £10million due to the timing of the deal.

Now we know that with the Johnson & McFadden deals that we still should've been in profit for major transfers last summer but that is a separate argument for another time. I am more concerned with putting these Felliani rumuors to bed... they?re shite.
Fran Mitchell
29   Posted 03/04/2009 at 15:43:25

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The big problem is wages, you need money for big squads, thats why we never have them.

However, hypothetically.

We sign de Guzman on a free (25-40k) - Thats a quality defensive mid.
We sign Fred on a free (40-60k) -
Thats a quality striker
We sign Gio dos Santos for 2-3mil (20-30k) -
Thats the young quick midfielder/striker with potential

We sign Adam Johnson for 2-4mil (15-20k)
Thats the young, quick winger

Then we sign some unknown for 4-6mil (30-40k)
Thats the token unknown signing.

Thats alot of money spent, but alot of improvemnt to the squad. Losing ADvM 25-30k, Castillo’s god knows what wage, Jacobsons god knows what wage, Jos god knows what wage, Anichebes 10-15k, Valentes god knows what wage we might be able to afford it.

Add to that the progression of Coleman, Rodwell and Gosling into more serious 1st team players, and the progression of Lucas, Baxter, Irving, Kissock (if hes alive) and Agard into occasional youth bench warmers, we would have a better squad.

Still only good enough 5 again probably mind.

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