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The Current Crop: Part 2

By Graham Holliday :  02/09/2008 :  Comments (10) :
So? silly season is over.

Some months ago, at the end of last season, I compiled an assessment of our ?current crop? and identified areas that needed strengthening: http://www.toffeeweb.com/season/07-08/comment/fan/article.asp?submissionID=7473

Now that the transfer window has been and gone, it seems pertinent to ask whether these concerns have been looked at by the club, and whether sufficient quality ? and quantity ? has been brought in over the summer.

Clearly, as has been well documented, the club has missed a trick by waiting so until so late to bring in ANY new faces. Picking up a meagre 3 points out of the first 9, and having lost home games against Blackburn and Portsmouth, could have a serious effect on our league placing at the end of the season.

But that has been and gone, so what is the current state of our playing squad ? and what levels of optimism / pessimism should we have for this season?

GOALKEEPERS:

Howard, NASH, Turner, Ruddy

Summary ? In my end of season assessment, I claimed we may see a reserve brought in for Howard and (however late it came) this proved to be the case. Hopefully Nash won?t be needed to play very often, but his signing surely casts doubts over just how reliable Moyes sees Turner and Ruddy to be. Still, I think we have plenty of depth in this area.

DEFENDERS:

Hibbert, JACOBSEN, Baines, Valente, Lescott, Yobo, Jagielka, Irving

Summary ? Seeing Jacobsen as the sole defensive acquisition indicates that Moyes is reasonably happy with the defenders at the club. However a shaky start to the season, having conceded 6 goals in our first 2 home games, may be evidence that the loss of Lee Carsley has had a serious affect on the side?s ability to nullify opponents? attacking threats. One name has dropped off this list (that of our ?enigmatic? captain) as he has been moved to the ?midfielders? section on the club?s Official Site, but I still expect he will play a significant number of games at right full-back. Remains a strong defence ? at least in terms of personnel.

MIDFIELDERS:

Arteta, Pienaar, Van der Meyde, Neville , FELLAINI, CASTILLO, Cahill, Osman, Rodwell, Gosling, Kissock, Wallace

Summary - This was the area of the squad that was causing us all great distress, and this was not rectified until yesterday and some may claim that it still has not been sufficiently addressed. Fellaini will provide much needed physical presence and Castillo remains something of an unknown quantity but between these two, club captain Phil Neville and the youngster Jack Rodwell,l it seems our need for a defensive midfielder to replace Lee Carsley has finally been addressed. However, unless Van der Meyde can step up to the plate once he returns from injury ? our midfield still seems to lack enough players with the creativity to unlock opposition defences. The much discussed Joao Moutinho transfer never materialised and, as a result, too much pressure may still rest on Arteta and Pienaar in providing ammunition to the front line.

FORWARDS:

Yakubu, SAHA, Vaughan, Anichebe, Jutkiewicz, Baxter, Agard

Summary - With Johnson moving on, it was clear we needed a proven goalscorer to replace him. In Louis Saha, we have certainly got that? but the questions around his fitness remain. If he plays enough games, he is potentially a 20 goal a season striker, and between him, the Yak and young James Vaughan there is real firepower in the side. The kid Jose Baxter has played a couple of games at the start of this season, but is probably too young to be expected to have any real impact this time around. This is a strong strikeforce ? when all of them are fit!

OVERALL:

If this was the squad we had started the season with, I for one would not be too disappointed. It is the fact that as a direct result of our (manager / chairman)?s dithering, we have lost out on very valuable points, that grates so much.

But in terms of the squad, I think we are only really missing one additional ?creative midfielder?. The real bone of contention though is that as we were told the club had money before the Johnson sale, why has this player still not arrived? The answer to this question ? I am sure will be something that is much discussed from now until January?

Reader Comments

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Dave Edwards
1   Posted 02/09/2008 at 14:48:38

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Graham - Good, considered post. I’ve submitted a similar one attempting to judge where we stand after all the recent activity (didn’t realise Nash was quite so old, though!)

Like you I don’t necessarily think the current crop (when fully-fit) is too bad compared to last season, but we still desperately needed that creative attacking midfield playmaker and sadly (given the no-go with Moutinho) we still are in the same position. That’s where we needed money spending, and it’s obvious that after the AJ/Faddy money was used for last night’s signing, there was nothing in the coffers.

If Arteta, Cahill and Piennar can get things going in the near future, we might just be able to live without our missing midfield purchase of the summer - but knowing our injury record I fear that omission might ultimately cost us dear.
Dan Mckie
2   Posted 02/09/2008 at 15:03:26

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If we have Pienaar and Arteta on the pitch then im happy with the amount of creativity we have, you only need a couple on the pitch at a time (ask spurs fans), the others should be thinking a little more simple and hopefully in Fellaini and Castillo we will have that. We need a little more luck with injuries this season and if we get that, then we will be in the mix with the other europe hopefuls come the end of the season.
Nick Entwistle
3   Posted 02/09/2008 at 15:21:45

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Taking out the kids and VDM, that’s only 20 players when fit. If we started with that at the start of the window then added I’d feel better... but hey there’s another one in January!

There was one postee who said it would have been better if we kept our original players such as Johnson, Carsley and Fad and had gone for Fernandez in the window plus one other. Maybe maybe not... but we’ve hardly progressed with our new bunch from the end of last season.
ottar gadid
4   Posted 02/09/2008 at 16:07:10

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If one is to be a bit conservative about our new signings, I’d still say we’re better off than a year ago:

Jacobsen vs. noone: Right back hasn’t been our strongest position in the past years. Even if he’s an unknown quantity (though my "brother in law" who supports Nuremberg says he’s quite good. "Brother in law" means the brother of my girlfriend, by the way). No good, no play. Thus it cannot be a very bad thing...

Castillo vs. Gravesen: An unknown quantity again against a great evertonian, albeit one with psychological problems, no will to perform and with his best days faaaar back. Definite improvement.

Saha vs. AJ: I liked AJ, just as I like Phil Neville: Honest, hard-working pros giving their all for the team every match. However, after that famous autumn two years ago, AJs strengths were literally kicked out of him by the bone-breakers of the prem, and Clattenbought and his ilk didn’t lift a finger to protect him. Saha is class, methinks, and less of a one-trick pony than AJ was. As long as he’s healthy for some ten games, he’ll score more than AJ did, and thus it’s an improvement as well.

No one vs. Jimmy McFadden: Hm. I liked Jimmy Mac too. But not being allowed to play striker left him sort of useless for us. Some great goals and nothing more. Considering that our kids (Kissock, Baxter) can play that bit-part role adequately, it’s not too big a loss, as far as I am concerned.

Fellaini vs. Carsley: Tough call. If MF plays something like he apparently did against the RS (and ideally also does so AGAINST the RS), that would be great. He will have less experience, and we must hope that he has positional sense or learns quickly. Physically and technically he should be at least as good as good ole Lee. So at least there’s hope. Dunno if M’Bia would’ve been better, haven’t seen much of him.

As to Moutinho, I would’ve loved to see him. One point though: The prem this year has showed that a good DM is essential. We played better than Pompey most of the time, but slept in defence, and Diarra broke up just about everything. Spurs and Arse both struggle without a proper DM, when Fabregas came back and Zokora went to DM it worked much better. Other teams are good examples as well.

My point? With Moutinho and without MF we’d be like an amateur version of Snow white (that’d be Hibbert) and the 7 or so Dwarfs. We’d be kicked and beaten into oblivion, and Lescott and the boys at the back have showed that they cannot perform without cover. If, as it might seem, the money was short, then MF was a better proposal than JM, although the latter is arguably the better footballer.

Sorry about the length, chaps.

O
Lee Aitch
5   Posted 02/09/2008 at 16:53:21

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At the moment we have so much resting on Arteta’s shoulders and that worries me. He is currently the only creative player on the side. He is something of a big fish in small pond as a result and while he likes being the hero, it doesn’t take too many poor corner kicks for the sighs from the crowd to kick in and he feels the pressure.
Ajay Gopal
6   Posted 02/09/2008 at 17:34:30

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I think that the one that really got away was the Obinna kid (from the reports of him, though I havn’t seen him play). We could have done with the pace and width of the Nigerian.

But, I agree, not a bad transfer window overall. Except, I wish the season were starting from next week.
Santosh Benjamin
7   Posted 02/09/2008 at 19:00:11

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I agree,Ajay...Obinna woulda been a great addition to what we have now...pity it didnt work out.
nick heady
8   Posted 02/09/2008 at 19:31:43

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Ottar , thanks for clarifying the brother in law thing
ottar gadid
9   Posted 02/09/2008 at 19:58:59

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No Worries, Nick,

One shouldn’t marry if a football club is more important you know...
Trevor Lynes
10   Posted 02/09/2008 at 19:59:23

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I reckon Baines was by far our best player against pompey and put over lots of good crosses.I think he should be tried in front of Lescott until Pienar is fit. How about..Howard, Neville,Jagielka,Yobo and Lescott with Fellaini,Arteta,Osman and Baines in midfield with Yak and Vaughn up front...Baines should be given a run as he has earned his place.


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