Lean, Mean and Young

Jay Wood 07/10/2020 15comments  |  Jump to last
When Carlo mentioned last week there could be a surprise on the final day of the transfer window, closely followed by the announcement of Moise Kean’s loan to PSG for the season, I probably wasn’t alone in thinking that he was going to pull another rabbit out of the hat and land us a quality forward.

It didn’t materialise and some concern has been expressed that we have little or no cover in the forward line. Perhaps it’s not as forlorn as some express.

With the transfer window now officially closed (other than signings of free agents or players from the Football League), the official first team squad on the club site currently reads as follows:

4 Goalkeepers: Pickford, Olsen, Lössl, Virginia

9 Defenders: Kenny, Coleman, Digne, Nkounkou, Holgate, Keane, Mina, Godfrey, Branthwaite

9 Midfielders: Allan, Delph, Davies, Gbamin, Doucouré, Gomes, Sigurdsson, Baningime, Besic (yeah right! That one gave me a chuckle),

8 Forwards: Richy, Iwobi, Bernard, Gordon, James, Calvert-Lewin, Tosun, Bolasie

That’s a total of 30 players. Still too many, but easily trimmed to comply with Premier League rules that state teams have to name a squad of 25 players (without going into the intricacies of what constitutes homegrown players and the rules on U-21 players).

Having 4 keepers in the first team roster is too many. The obvious one to lose for me is Lössl. Given he was sent back to Huddersfield last season and that Virginia has featured ahead of him for the first team this season, offloading him to an EFL side seems his most likely fate. I would keep Virginia in the first team squad as 3rd keeper whilst getting game time with the U-23s.

The defence looks well covered, albeit there is a temporary concern at right-back with both Kenny and Coleman currently injured but likely to be back in contention after the international break. A nice mix of experience and diverse styles, with Seamus now the senior statesman and the rest coming into their best years or with time to further improve on their already blossoming potential. Leave as is.

Having 9 midfielders is misleading. Besic is not going to get anywhere near the matchday squad. Either he finds another loan club, or we do a Sandro and let him go for free to an EFL club to get him off our books once and for all. Gbamin, who knows? Carlo named Baningime in many a matchday squad after the restart but declined numerous opportunities to give him a single minute of playing time. I expect a loan, or even a definitive parting of the ways to an EFL club for Beni. That leaves us with just six midfielders. Not a lot, but then 2-3 listed forwards could certainly drop in there, so again, the balance looks ‘okay’.

With the loan departures of Kean and Walcott, on the surface, it leaves us looking a bit thin for forwards. To that you can add that Carlo was very explicit in his presser on Friday that Bolasie has been told he is not a part of the Italian’s plans. That reduces the number of forwards to 7. Tosun is another great unknown. Allowed to leave to Palace on loan under Carlo in January. Still no clear idea when he will be fit to play. Indeed, if fit, the likelihood is that he would have been sold to generate funds for a replacement forward more to Carlo’s liking. As it is, he is here until at least January.

Excluding Tosun leaves us 6 forwards, as listed. I would call it 5 and list Bernard as a midfielder rather than as a forward, those 5 being Richarlison, Iwobi, Gordon, James and Calvert-Lewin. It does look like our most ‘exposed’ area.

I can understand the speculation of adding an out-of-contract forward or one from the EFL, but I wonder if it is really needed, all the more so with the January transfer window already not so far off.

I also wonder if Carlo has played a blinder with regard to Anthony Gordon.

It was Carlo who first promoted him and played him in the Premier League, away at West Ham Utd. It was Carlo who trusted him with a starting berth ahead of more senior players in the first game after lockdown, versus Liverpool. The manager has openly expressed how impressed he is with Anthony.

Now Anthony has had very little game time this season, but has performed very well in the minutes he has played. With the departures of both Kean and Walcott, Carlo has cleared the path to the first team even more for Anthony.

Has Carlo played a canny game in holding him back, even having the youngster knocking on his door asking why he wasn’t included in matchday squads, making him keener to learn what he needs to do when selected and hungrier to impress when he does get on the pitch?
It is noticeable to me this season that Anthony has not 'played safe football', but shown more of his capabilities that he became renowned for in the Academy teams – in particular, his turbo speed of knocking it beyond his defenders and turning on the after-burners.

So to summarize, I foresee, in a week’s time with no further incomings, a first team squad of 3 keepers (minus Lössl), the 9 listed defenders, 6 of the listed midfielders (minus Besic and Baningime with Gbamin an ‘unknown’), and 6 of the listed forwards (albeit with Bernard reclassified as a midfielder, Bolasie gone and Tosun, like Gbamin, an ‘unknown).

That gives us a mean and lean (and younger) squad of 24 with no wastage in which players know they have to train well to impress to get selected and play well to retain their place.

A pretty impressive transformation in a very short time.

Looks good to me.

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Reader Comments (15)

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James Flynn
1 Posted 07/10/2020 at 15:30:30
Yes, I'd add that Moshiri has taken some hard-schooling in pro sports club ownership and made some good and necessary adjustments.
Santa Krsh
2 Posted 07/10/2020 at 15:38:17
Nice One Jay.
Couple of thoughts to add
You rightly mention right back as a area we are thin on. But if u look closer, both Holgate & Godfrey can fill up there, so too Davies in case of emergency.
All the three mentioned can play Def Mid too which covers Allan also which is actually more critical in our attempt to breakup play.
And we also need to take care of the fact that all of them ( or Holgate & Godfrey especially) will not be happy sitting on the bench & they would be happy to fill wherever required if in case Keane & Mina continue this form & not get injured.

Next point is regarding our Center Forward Options.. Tosun is back to light training & hopefully will be fully fit by Nov 2nd as per Transfr Market.
If u again look back to his performances, he is actually very good inside the penalty box & we actually will be playing to his strengths. So we have a pretty descent backup along with Ellis Simms who Carlo seems to have an opinion on. This kid also could potentially develop with the service he would be getting and we could potentially have a surprise in our hands.

And finally, a note on The Guardian article about the Young stars in each club to watch out for. They cover 17 year old center back Reece Welch for Everton. He is 6'4" and is key part of U-18's. Can any ToffeeWebber throw more info about this player and his potential. I am asking this because, at 17 both Branthwaite & Gibson are training with the first team and I have a doubt as to why is still with the U-18's?

Mark Taylor
3 Posted 07/10/2020 at 19:34:31
Carlo currently plays with a narrow striker – Dom. If he gets injured, prime back up is Richarlison, who we know wants to play there, but who is his back up if he did so? Iwobi? I don't think so.

Bolasie even less so, he is as busted a flush as Theo. I like Bernard more than some but him and James on the flanks creates imbalance, mainly a lack of pace. If Bernard were to back anyone up, it would be James himself – albeit not at the same level – or more feasibly, Gomes.

It means that Gordon needs to be the real deal. Then we could perm 2 from 3. If not, then we need a Dom back up.

Tosun is not it, in my view. Not with the new standards we set ourselves. It's not that Iwobi and especially Bernard are terrible, or that we can't look to them for game time this season. Neither is the case.

But I think we want quality options that can cover isolated injuries. 2 from 3, all quality, is okay. A run of injuries forces our hand and sees the second string play more, but no club can plan for that, especially in specific positions – like the right-back shortage we currently face. But we can plan for basic quality cover otherwise.

In essence we and Carlo need to work out if Gordon can be the real deal. If not, we are one quality player light up front.

Mark Andersson
4 Posted 07/10/2020 at 20:13:41
Very good article. Carlo has bought well. He has a plan that is working.

Most teams have key players that their team is built around.

Or great start to the new season has surprised a lot of people. The wheels could fall off any time or we could get lucky and limp into a Champions League spot.

I feel Carlo knows what he is doing and not only does he have a plan but also a backup plan...

Small steps but in the right direction... Enjoy the moment of now in everything, not just football.

Barry Rathbone
5 Posted 07/10/2020 at 20:48:02
It feels like the off-pitch management team is turning into the top quality set up we hoped. Moshiri is doing his bit funding Carlo and Marcel and their combined judgement is beginning to look top drawer.

Desperation buys have given way to carefully considered acquisition and the longed-for revolution has hit the ground running. For the first time in decades it feels like those in charge are ahead of the game.

There has been no shouting from the rooftops no panicking over knee jerk fan pressure just a quiet determination to get it right

Last time it felt like this was in the days of Sir John Moores and Harry Catterick.

Tony Everan
6 Posted 07/10/2020 at 21:04:40
Yes, things are looking much healthier, a squad of players who want to be here. There is a good, quality long term core to the side, excellent squad players and some of the league's best youngsters.

All that leaves me very optimistic for the future. We will build on it too.

Jay, I was with you expecting a loan deal for a forward on Monday. I wonder how Cenk's recovery is going and whether he is ahead of schedule. He is contracted until June 2022 so maybe they want him fit and playing as part of the squad.

Andy Crooks
7 Posted 07/10/2020 at 22:23:35
This is the sort of stuff I like, Jay. Good article. I think the Anthony Gordon bit is spot on. The ability to shine in a cameo role is, to me, the sign of real talent. He is confident enough to know that he does not need to over do it. His time will come.

You know I am a natural pessimist, but, last weekend will keep my spirits up for many a long day. Whatever transpires that was a great time. I believe there are more on the way.

Steve Ferns
8 Posted 07/10/2020 at 22:31:24
Nice article, Jay. I'd agree with Santa that Holgate and Godfrey are able to deputise at right-back in an emergency.

As for the registered 25, we don't need to register the U21s, so that's
- Gordon
- Noukounko
- Virginia<>If Godfrey (22) was actually 21 when the season kicked off, he's exempt too, as is Davies if he's classed as 21 (he's still playing for England U21s).

So a bit more room in our 25 than you might think.

Don Alexander
9 Posted 07/10/2020 at 22:40:26
As ever Jay, and just like our Dazza, when you write about our club rather than trying to demean fellow TW'ers on account of their opinion/s, you've hit the nail on the head for the many grizzled optimists still among us.

Kenwright out though!

Mark Andersson
10 Posted 07/10/2020 at 23:50:33
Nice one Don...
Derek Thomas
11 Posted 08/10/2020 at 02:15:23
Take out Steve Fern's U21s, that's 3 possibly 5. Total = 25 or 27.

Take out 2 long term injuries, Gbamin, Tosun, Total = 23 or 25.

Take out 3 of the B's...as in lucky to still 'Be' here, Besic, Bolasie and Baningime, Total = 20 or 22.

Take out 1 Keeper, Total = 19 or 21

Of those 19 or 21, Holgate and Branthwaite are 6(?) weeks at least away from being fit, Total = 17 or 19.

Gomes, Allan?? how are they doing? Total = 15 or 17.

Players returning from International duty infection free or what 7(?)

30 may not be enough.

Ernie Baywood
12 Posted 08/10/2020 at 03:10:03
All good if we break it into 3 lines, but the reality is that we play something closer to 6.

Keepers - okay
CBs and LB/RB - okay
Defensive Mid - Allan with limited backup - it's either Delph or a slight change of formation to two more defensive midfielders
Midfield - okay with Doucouré, Gomes, Sigurdsson, Davies and even Delph fighting for two spots at most
Wide attackers - kind of ok with Iwobi, Gordon, Bernard backing up the obvious two starters.
Centre Forward - it's Dom and nothing else.

I know people see Richarlison as a centre-forward option but I think it wastes him.

It's an area that I think we need an experienced head to come in from the EFL. The alternative would be to turn to youth, but if that was the plan then we missed the boat in the early Carabao rounds.

One player away from a balanced squad and it won't cost much to fix. Over to you Marcel and Carlo!

Karl Graham
13 Posted 09/10/2020 at 14:43:51
Lössl, Besic, Baningime and Bolasie out hopefully in this window; Tosun to join them in the next.

I would ideally like a defender comfortable at both right-back and left-back and a left-footed Richarlison type player who can play right-wing or as a striker.

Then I would reassess in the summer depending on where we finish.

Jerome Shields
14 Posted 09/10/2020 at 22:42:12
I think your conclusions are right and Gordon will be the preferred additional attacker in the squad. I don't think anyone will be brought in.
Jay Harris
15 Posted 09/10/2020 at 00:03:52
Very good article Jay which highlights the fact that Carlo has thought this one through and with the help of Brands phase 1 looks fairly good.

I don't think any of us expected the windfall of having all our MF problems sorted in that window but hey what a transformation.

I think all of us in an ideal world would have liked a good backup forward and a top class GK but we have to realise there is not a bottomless pit and Rome wasnt built in a day.

One other thing to bear in mind is that the quality backup is difficult to achieve if players arent getting any game time so it needs a certain type of character who is prepared to wait for his opprtunity and then seize it with both hands.

That is where I believe our stars are aligning because we have some really special youngsters pushing for a place in the first team now.

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