At the start of the transfer window, there where many stating the necessity of a new striker, yet, perhaps many of us didn’t realise quite the underestimated talent we had in this department.
Players like Demba Ba and Leon Best who can partner each other, or play alone up front as target men have both impressed, while we have the experienced Shola Ameobi as backup for this type of role if needed.
Then we have our link up players, taking up the traditional, no 10 role.
Hatem Ben Arfa has only just recently managed to break into the starting line-up, and has shown glimpses of what he is capable of, without quite getting into his full stride yet.
We also have the likes of 18-year-old, Haris Vuckic, who after an extremely exciting pre-season picked up an unfortunate hand injury, but he too should be returning soon, and with the supposed signing of Modibo Maiga being called a “done deal” by the local press, I doubt any supporters could accuse the squad of being short of numbers and quality up front.
Then we look at our midfield. Many fans were saying that if there were injuries to Yohan Cabaye and Cheik Tiote we would be in trouble, yet both players have had their spells on the sideline so far this season, and we haven’t suffered too noticeably with the absence of either.
Danny Guthrie, and to a smaller degree Dan Gosling have been their to fill the void. Specifically Guthrie, whose performances will no doubt have caused a major selection headache for Alan Pardew, when Cheik Tiote returns from his groin injury.
Even James Perch has done a decent enough job of protecting the back four in his cameo appearances.
On the wings, we have the workmanlike Gabby Obertan and Jonas Guiterez, who have both shown tremendous workrate and stamina, and have both offered a lot in terms of being a pacey counter attacking threat, or outlets when moving the ball out from defence into attack. Meaning we can finally look dangerous on both flanks.
There may be the odd criticism of both players when it comes to their final delivery, but I think on the whole, both have contributed greatly to our great start this season.
In the event of their injury, or fatigue, we have been able to call upon Sylvain Marvaeux (who unfortunately just sustained a long term injury himself) and the exciting young Sammy Ameobi, who has impressed with his skill and confidence to run at the opposition defences.
We also have young Shane Ferguson back in the fold, who raised a few eyebrows with his energetic displays down the left flank toward the end of last season.
Again, with the supposed signing of Maiga, who himself can play on either flank or up front, we seem pretty much covered in the wide areas.
Which brings us to look at our threadbare defence, where there perhaps is a concern, but certainly not with regard to quality as we currently boast the best defensive record in the league, along with Liverpool and Manchester City, but what if we lost Steven Taylor to injury, or even worse, what if we lost Coloccini?
Well, Mike Williamson is back in training, or will be shortly, and he has proved a more than capable deputy to Steven Taylor. I would not, however, want to lose the seemingly indestructible Captain Colo, as I don’t see James Perch or Tomas Kadar stepping in to fill that void.
So, a quality centre back needed then!
As for our fullbacks, with Davide Santon, being dubbed as one of the most exciting signings of the summer, the form of Ryan Taylor has seen him kept on the bench, having to wait for his chance. This surely indicates, at the very least, that we have some depth in the left back position. With both Raylor and Santon being able to play naturally as right full backs, either one could fill in for Danny Simpson, if he were to slip in form or get injured.
We also know Dan Gosling is capable of filling in as a full back if needed.
Having said all that, I think ideally, a quality defender who can fill in both the fullback and centre-back roles would be more than adequate. Dutchman Erik Pieters would be the obvious choice for many, but Liam Ridgewell wouldn’t be a bad shout for a January transfer purchase either.
As for goalkeepers, Tim Krul has been simply outstanding, and with the reliable Steve Harper, back at the club, we have some real quality between the posts.
All in all, I’d say the squad is looking stronger in quality and depth than it has for a long time.
Pardew has stated he is looking to bring in a striker and a defender this January. Whether he gets them or not, we’ll only know in January.
My question to you however, is…
Is the squad quality stronger that you thought at the start of the season? Or do you believe we will be found out because of lack of depth as the season goes on and inevitable injuries are picked up?