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Time for Some Strength in Depth?

By Dan Walshe :  26/03/2009 :  Comments (0) :

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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