Much noise was made over the summer about our failure to bring in a new striker.
Criticism reigned supreme, and rightly so. From fans to Alan Pardew, each took a turn to swipe at the man in charge of overseeing transfer deals at the club. It’s been eight months since Andy Carroll left for Liverpool and here we are, still, without a replacement for our now departed No9.
However, on reflection, there may well be a new priority that has emerged from the aftermath of our failure to land a striker. I’m not saying that all of a sudden we don’t need one, but I do think that the area where we most need to strengthen has shifted from attack to defence and that the club should now be focussing on strengthening our defence ahead of our attack.
We are wafer thin in defence. That fact can’t be denied. We are especially vulnerable at the moment with the loss of Mike Williamson to injury. There is not a cat in hell’s chance of him getting in the first team at the moment, but his absence does take away the option of some much needed backup in the central area of defence. Still, there is always James Perch…
Then you look at our full-back options. Of course we’ve signed Davide Santon who could prove to be a real coup for us, and of course the added bonus is that he can play on both sides of the defence and is naturally two footed, unlike myself who used to use my left leg for standing only when playing football.
In essence Santon will be able to cover both full-back positions if needed, but it’s almost a certainty that he will be utilised at left-back. After all he was the man brought in to replace Jose Enrique.
Behind that we have the option of playing Ryan Taylor at left-back, which doesn’t fill me with confidence if truth be told. I’m a bit wary of criticising Ryan Taylor as he has been part of a defence that is currently the meanest in the division, but I genuinely don’t believe that he can play a lasting roll at left-back. When Santon returns to fitness Taylor will find himself out of the team.
Then we have right-back with Danny Simpson occupying the shirt at the moment. Beyond that we have James Perch and perhaps an ousted Ryan Taylor. A number of options in fairness although they aren’t the best we can hope for in my opinion.
Compare that to our attack where we have Demba Ba finding his feet and Leon Best who has scored the goals as well as attacking midfielder such as Hatem Ben Arfa yet to come into the fold. Short of options maybe, but certainly not as bad as worrying about the loss of one defender. Remember, whilst they aren’t the best we also have Shola, Lovenkrands and Nile Ranger waiting in the wings. Well, maybe not the last one in that trio…
So where do we go from here? To me this squad is one or two players away from having real depth from front to back and all it would take is a minimum of two players to achieve that. One is still a striker of note, and the other is a defender capable of covering a couple of positions. Which one would place the priority on though?
I really wanted us to get that striker over the summer, but now my opinion has shifted and I would like us to get a defender over the line first and foremost. Someone in the mould of Liam Ridgewell or Erik Pieters would be ideal as both can play left-back and in central defence. Problem solved.
That would allow us to play Davide Santon at right-back, Pieters or Ridgewell or whoever at left-back with the central defenders remaining as they are now. The big plus being that Ridgewell, Pieters or whoever could cover in the middle, and with Santon being able to cover both sides we could bring Danny Simpson back into the line-up. Doesn’t that sound much better?
Of course it’s all speculative as we just don’t know what is going to happen. Rumour has it that the NUFC scouts are out and about already looking at targets for January although I’d hope that they aren’t as bad as some of ours fans and haven’t become fixated on this striker that caused such a hoo-haa over the summer.
The easy answer is to suggest that we go for both a striker and a defender. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t. What I am trying to work out is what the most important position to strengthen at the moment is?
To me the priority should now be the defence, but what do you think it should be?