I was looking through the squad stats I have on record the other day, and something leapt out at me. Just how young our squad is. If we ignore all those who are in the last year of their contract then we have Cisse at 30, Tiote & Gouffran aged 29, Tim Krul only 27 and everybody else 26 and below. That is young. It clearly means that we have decided that the trophy we are going to win is that for having the youngest squad in the league.
But with youth comes inexperience. Our apparent policy of buying youth is obviously admirable but with it comes the inherent risks and problems of progression. As we have seen the EPL is different and not all players adapt. Also surely with a policy of youth comes a responsibility to encourage the progression of that youth. Not that all youngsters are going to progress to full team status, but it would be wrong to buy them and then slam the door in their faces by buying experienced places and blocking that progression.
There has always been a dilemma, do you buy a finished product for this season, or potential. Getting the balance right is a problem. One way is to have plenty of choice and competition. As we do in midfield. Assuming that we play 4-2-3-1 as has been indicated by the match at Gateshead, then when we look at the two midfielders we have 4 to choose from. Gini, Anita, Sissoko & Colback. That’s excluding Tiote & Abeid. And actually in this area all our choices have experience most of them in the Prem. The only youth player is Bigirimana. He even got a run out a Right Back the other day. Here the problem is finding the right combination of players.
In other areas we do not have that problem. With Strikers we only have Perez & Armstrong coming through and out wide only Aarons. In these areas we have some experience, but bringing in a new signing would not hamper the development of youth, for there is insufficient depth. These players will get game time simply because of minor cups and injuries.
For me the real dilemma is in defense. Janmaat is our only rightback, whilst we have 3 left backs none of them fully fledged. So I would expect to see someone come in at least at RB to give competition.
The Centreback pairing is even more problematic. We have three CBs in the last year of their contracts that as far as I can see no fans want them renewing. However we only have 3 kids waiting to move up. None of them with EPL experience. Dummett a full back played there last season so he could be counted as a fourth. But where do we go from here. Does Steve believe that any are ready to be a first choice centreback this season. If so does he play them alongside one of the old stagers. I’m sure Steve would love to have 2 top flight experienced CBs to draw on. But our policy of buying Foreign does not mean they will hit the ground running. In my opinion the purchase of an experienced EPL CB such as Steven Caulker would help resolve the problem. But we find ourselves with 6 CBs already. No club is going to pay 7 or 8. One scenario is that if Steve thinks that there are two ready he may decide to start with them and keep say Colo on the bench. He would be a brave man to take that option, but he is the man on the spot assessing the players he has and trying to decide their future and what is best for the Team in both the short and long term. Whatever his decision I think I will back him to see what happens.
So the good news is that we have a very young squad certainly as contracts run down on the older players. But as this article tries to point out it is inexperienced in EPL terms and has problems in the progression of the academy players coming through. Exciting times.