BWFC Guest Article: What To Do About The Squad?
Thanks for the article, Rob Moss and thanks for the work put into devising it. These are worrying times for Whites' supporters but with fans like ours, who care as much as they obviously do, it gives us hope. Enjoy...
Following the total failure to move on our dead-wood on transfer deadline day and with the loan window opening in 7 days` time, I was having a look through our squad list. Which got me thinking...
What on earth can we actually do about the squad?
We have three goalkeepers. Ádám Bogdán, Andy Lonergan and Jay Lynch. Jay Lynch is only 20 years old and it's important to have a young goalkeeper if only to ensure that the reserves can continue to play football. We know that Bogdán has his faults, but he's probably all we can afford. And we know that Lonergan has stepped in and performed admirably when called upon, but also that he's not quite up to Bogdán's quite variable standard. And we still need a substitute in case Bogdán gets injured. Can we do anything about the goalkeeping position? Probably not. Other areas are more desperate.
Okay. So what about left back? Well, we have one. Marc Tierney. And I think he's done pretty well so far this season, it would be difficult and perhaps unfair to blame our defensive failings upon him. We don't really have the funds to go and get a better one even if we loan him out. Other areas are more desperate.
So how about right back? Well, it's not much better - we have two, and one of them is injured and the other one is rubbish. Joe Riley would no doubt be getting a look in right now, but there's no point worrying about that because we're unlikely to see him play this season. And Tyrone Mears... well, the less said the better. So we've ended up with a centre back, Alex Baptiste, filling in. Could we do something about this in the loan market, get ourselves a half-decent recognised right back? Probably... but we won't. Other areas are more desperate.
Let's stick to the sides of the pitch for now. The left side of midfield. We have surprisingly few left-footed players in the squad. Moritz, Ream, Lonergan and Tierney are left-footed and Holden and Odelusi are ambidextrous. Only one of these is an out-and-out left winger - obviously Odelusi. His youth and inexperience mean that he gets overlooked for the spot on the left wing by many a right-footed player. Ordinarily the spot is taken by Lee or Eagles, with the opposing winger position going to the other player, and Pratley appearing somewhere when one of them is out. Should we sign a winger? Well, if we do, he should at least be left-footed. But we won't. Other areas are more desperate.
Okay, so we hop on over to the right side of midfield. Here is where Chris Eagles normally plies his trade, with Pratley or Lee sometimes filling in, and Hayden White and Chris Lester waiting in the reserves for a chance to shine which will probably never come, and possibly Robert Hall if it turns out right wing is his best position. Should we sign a right winger? No. Other areas are more desperate.
Let's look up front for a moment. We have a surprisingly massive number of strikers on the books. David N'Gog, Marvin Sordell, Jermaine Beckford, Craig Davies, Robert Hall, Michael O'Halloran, Tom Eaves, Zach Clough and Conor Wilkinson are all contracted to the club, with only Sordell out on loan. One could argue that Hall is really a winger, but to be honest we've not really seen enough of him yet to pass judgement. Still - 7 or 8 strikers who could all pull on the shirt, in theory, next Saturday afternoon and go to try to stick the ball in the back of the net. Should we sign another striker? We've got enough really. It would be great to get rid of maybe five of them and replace them with one good one, but I don't think we will because nobody seems to want them. Other areas are more desperate.
How about central midfield? Well, we have André Moritz, Mark Davies, Stuart Holden, Darren Pratley, Josh Vela, Ján Gregu, Jay Spearing, Medo Kamara, Keith Andrews and Luke Woodland on the books. Of those, Moritz and Davies fulfil the same role - creative midfield play, crafting something for the strikers to latch onto with something other than their head. Davies is, of course, out until December, and Holden won't be back until next season. Keith Andrews is fortunately out on loan, and Luke Woodland isn't ready yet. But that still leaves us, realistically, with Moritz taking one central midfield spot when he's fit until December when Davies should replace him leaving Moritz as cover, and Pratley, Vela, Gregu, Spearing and Medo fighting it out for the remaining spot. Okay, so that little list has three of our "best" players so far this season in there all after a single shirt. An embarrassment of riches, perhaps?
And now we find ourselves in the area of the pitch where we are at our most vulnerable. In front of our own goalmouth. The centre of defence. The rock on which great teams of years gone by have been built. The players who have the opposition front line in their back pocket. The guys who give you confidence to charge up the field in search of a second or third goal, because you know the two lads at the back have got you covered. Or... not. Ah, yes. Matt Mills, Alex Baptiste, David Wheater, Tim Ream, Zat Knight, Cian Bolger and Oscar Threlkeld are the central defenders at the club at the present time. Of those, Baptiste finds himself having to cover for Mears' inadequacies, Bolger and Threlkeld aren't ready yet, and Mills, Wheater, Ream and especially Knight have been the subject of so much discussion these past few days in the wake of the 4-1 disaster at Ewood Park. Are any of the four senior central defenders at our football club capable of instilling the same confidence Bruno N'Gotty, Gerry Taggart, Florent Laville or pretty much any regular central defender from the pre-OC era did into our forward players? I'm afraid not. All four have proven themselves unable to do what needs to be done, which is keep clean sheets, or at least look like they might do every now and then. We've seen Dawson do the job on his own, on our own turf at least, for the latter part of last season. But he isn't here, and he won`t be coming any time soon if the rumours about Gabriel Tamaș are correct. So what can we do? Nobody wants these central defenders, right? They're all so bad they're going to either play or sit in the reserves for the rest of their contracts, right? Mills 2015, Wheater 2016, Ream 2015 and Captain Zat 2014?
That's absolutely fine. It's not Dougie Freedman's fault that some idiot signed Mills, Ream and Knight and gave them inexcusably long and incredibly high-wage contracts. It's not his fault either that Wheater's return to the first team has been so disappointing - his total absence of pace since his return suggests there's probably some permanent damage there and he'll probably never be the same again. But we don't need these players taking off our hands. It would be lovely if we could, but the will just isn't there from any manager who could afford to do it. So how do we plug the gap at the back when we have no money?
Simple. We loan out Pratley or Medo. Possibly even both. We have so many central midfielders it's getting to the point of being ridiculous. We don't need them all. Four is plenty; perhaps five when you have two long-term absentees amongst their number. It's all well and good saying that we can't loan out Pratley or Medo, or both, because we need the cover - but do we? Do we really need a saleable asset sat on the bench when we can't afford to fill the gaping chasm in the heart of our defence? Have they really brought so much solidity that you could argue they're worth more than a central defender, or brought such creative genius that it could only be the strikers' fault that the goals aren't flying in? And would you be that upset to see Vela on the bench and getting the occasional run out?
No. They've sat in the middle of the park, run around a bit, not stopped that much getting past them and so put the defence under more pressure, created hardly any chances and so put the strikers under more pressure, and yet people will probably even pay a loan fee for them because they`ve looked a bit impressive on the ball and their agents could make a good video.
Cash in and go defender shopping, Dougie. Please.