I’m going to start by looking at the last 6 games of the season, where we played a fairly settled side, won 3, drew 3, picked up 12 points and scored 12 goals conceding 5. That’s a good base and had we kept that up
all season we would have finished 2nd on 76 points. Fair to say I’m quietly confident in the Championship.
In all six games Darlow started in Goal, not that there was much choice with Krul and Elliott injured. Krul has one year left on his contract so if we are going to sell him now would be good. We have also signed Matz
Sels about whom I know nothing. He will bring competition for places with Elliott, Darlow and Woodman all trying to be our number one keeper.
The defence has been almost as solid. Anita, Mbemba, Lascelles and Dummett started 5 of the 6 with Janmaat and Taylor replacing Anita and Lascelles for the Spurs match. Taylor has gone, the question here is
regarding Janmaat’s future. He is a more natural fullback than Anita, and he is on a long term contract, whilst Anita only has one year left on his, but should he be our starting full back or should we buy in? The
other worry is that Dummett also seems to be in the last year of his contract, but I imagine he would sign an extension.
There are two other defenders in the last year of their contracts Coloccini and Satka. That only leaves Mbabu, Haidara and Sterry as defenders who have any game time, Sterry subbing Sissoko in the Spurs game. Whilst I have no
problems with Anita or Janmaat, playing alongside Mbemba, Lascelles, Dummett as our starting defence next season, we need more strength in depth, especially with Colocccini joining San Lorenzo, at last, hopefully. Apparently we are in for two more defenders with Steven Caulker, Grant Hanley and Arsenal youngster Isaac Hayden all cited.
The midfield of Tiote, Colback, Sissoko and Townsend also started every game – while Shelvey, Wijnaldum, Perez and even SDJ got minutes as substitutes. Whilst keeping the bulk of that starting midfield together would be
wonderful, is it likely? Personally I would try to keep it together as Rafa does not seem to fancy Shelvey, and so I imagine he, Wijnaldum and SDJ might all be following Townsend out of the door. I can’t see Thauvin, Cabella, Saivat or Vuckic contributing so all that leaves is Aarons as recognised back-up. To make matters worse, Tiote is in the last year of his contract, and there will be suitors for Sissoko. Replacing Townsend with Matt Ritchie is questionable, but makes sense. Ritchie is not as good, but probably good enough. We need to clear out the backups and buy in competition for places.
Up front is less conclusive or convincing, even with the arrival of Dwight Gayle. Rafa preferred Cisse’s experience to Mitrovic’s presence last season, not that either scored enough. The second striker seemed to be between Wijnaldum and Perez – with Wijnaldum getting the nod four games to two. Cisse and Gouffran are in the last year of their contracts and I can’t see Riviere contributing much, which only leaves Armstrong and Toney as back up to the three of Mitrovic, Perez and Gayle. Dwight Gayle has a decent record and proven experience – but is he good enough to fire in a high number of goals? Wijnaldum as second striker still needs replacing, assuming he goes.
As well as those players mentioned in this article we are paying the wages of 11 further outfield players who have never kicked a ball in anger for the first team. I wonder if any of them ever will.