A lot has been made about our quality (or lack of it) in depth. Whilst our mighty club has made some quality additions over the summer, it was pretty much a one in, one out scenario that did not actually leave us any better off in terms of numbers.
The question is: are those players flirting around the periphery of the first team actually good enough to hold on to the shirt when they get a look in? Do they provide strong enough competition to keep the fist team lads suitably motivated? Have they got enough about them to ensure the club form does not suffer when we have to turn to them to do a job?
I will be having a look at these players in a bit of detail and leaving the floor open to you guys to discuss their long term value to our cause. You can also have your say in a vote on the subject.
The first player I’d like to look at is Danny Guthrie. A lad with a great pedigree, he is a product initially of Manchester United before deciding his development would be better served at Liverpool. He moved there as a keen, ambitious 16 year old and did very well. He captained the reserves side, earned call ups to the England youth sides up to the U-20’s and had very successful loans at Southampton and then Bolton, where he played European football.
He is predominantly a central midfielder, although he can ply his trade fairly well on both the right and left sides. We know he can score the odd goal; his winner against Leicester in our Championship winning season was typical of his potential and striking prowess. The boy can distribute the ball well too. In fact, I’d say he is a very good passer and that quality means he could fit this team’s new style of play with ease if this were the only factor required.
When he signed for us, King Kev suggested the lad was the next Rob Lee (no pressure mate!). I see the similar attributes – the long range strikes, the great work ethic and engine – but I don’t see the cutting edge, the ruthlessness required to take a game by the neck and strangle the life out of the opposition.
His tackling is so-so. At 5’9’’ and 11.5 stone he is not the most imposing of central midfielders. That can easily be overcome by a steely attitude (take David Batty for example). He generally suffers more fouls than he gives away, which suggests the opposition find him a threat, but I feel if he had more confidence he could really dictate games when he comes on instead of simply blending in.
From his early years, it was obvious he had a decent left peg on him, but for some reason he seems very reliant on his right these days. I think this holds him back. The lad is a great pro, not an attention seeker, no trouble with drink or attitude etc. He is the kind of lad that makes a group of individuals a pleasant one.
I’m not convinced that Alan Pardew rates him that highly. In the Championship he was instrumental for us. 40 starts, 12 assists and 5 goals. However back in the Premier League with Ben Arfa, Kevin Nolan and Cheik Tiote dominating the middle he had to settle for scraps – 12 starts, 1 assist and no goals. This pre-season he looked sharp and ready. Then he got a bad knee injury and has so far managed an average performance at Nottingham Forset before coming on as a very late sub versus Wolves.
At 24 years of age, the lad still has some learning to do which will depend on how much game time he gets. That could be difficult with Yohan Cabaye and Cheik Tiote storming the Premier League at the moment. However, I for one feel the Shrewsbury born player could prove to be an excellent long term squad player for us. All he has to do is believe in himself a bit more and express himself when he gets the opportunity, the question is has he got another gear in him to make that step up? If so, will he be happy sitting on the edge of the 1st team over the next 3 or 4 years?
So, vote is on lads and ladies
Thanks to Shamrock for sending this in for debate. He has a series of these lined up so I’m sure you’ll see more of him on the NUFC Blog writing scene.