Well as we approach June, the disappointing feelings from this season are still fresh on my mind and the feelings of excitement for next season haven’t quite reached me, but after the tragedies of the Manchester attack, it’s perhaps put things back into perspective for myself and made me think that life could be so much worse couldn’t it!?!?
The board look as though they are supporting Mark Hughes and giving him some time to get us back on track and to be fair, perhaps we should do the same? When you see available names like David Moyes, Big Sam and even a certain Steve Cotterill out of work and being linked with jobs, should we perhaps be grateful for what we have? Maybe now isn’t the right time for changes? Maybe next season, we’ll meet our expectations, do a Leicester and win the league? Okay, I’m getting carried away, but we can do better, and surely will!
So, what do we need to change? Where do we go from here? Well, I’m not going to say who we should sign, and who we should sell, I’ll let others do that, but let’s have a quick look at the squad…
Goalkeepers: This is our strongest area is it not? Jack Butland and Lee Grant are both quality goalkeepers and unless either are sold, we don’t need to change much, here do we? We perhaps need a new no 3, unless Hughes considers the youngsters?
Full backs: Well, we have Johnson and Bardsley on the right, and both on new contracts although whether this is so we don’t lose them for nothing, or because Hughes is happy with them, time will tell? Geoff Cameron and Mama Diouf have both played on the right although that isn’t their preferred roles is it! Young Tom Edwards has done well in the youth sides and is someone that has made our subs bench this season so it would be nice to see him given a chance? As for the left it’s always a choice between Pieters and Muniesa isn’t it? So, to conclude, we perhaps need alternative options on both sides unless Hughes considers any of the youngsters? We perhaps just need to freshen up a bit, although an interesting stat I read was that the 4th best tackler in the Premiership was……. Erik Pieters, so perhaps he’d be more suited to playing centre back?
Central defence: Well I think Ryan has done ok this season and Bruno has played well so I’d love to sign him permanently although that is looking less and less likely, isn’t it? Porto are being awkward but he’s their player and conceding they’ve just changed their Manager, they will perhaps want to assess him before deciding whether to sell? Harry Souttar and Ryan Sweeney were both signed from Dundee Utd and AFC Wimbledon last pre-season and Souttar has won recognition with Scotland already and Ryan Sweeney has been with Republic of Ireland under-21s so they could be involved more, but I’d expect at least 1 signing if Bruno goes? Especially so, if we want to play 3 at the back? We are today being linked with Nancy centre-back Modou Diagne who is apparently available for £3.5m, is 6ft 3in and very fast so he sounds interesting?
When looking at centre midfield, I think it’s pretty obvious we need someone else? Adam and Whelan aren’t getting any younger and with Ireland & Afellay often injured and record signing Imbula seemingly not an option, I’d expect the latter to be sold and someone with fresh legs to come in, wouldn’t you? Allen & Cameron have done well generally, but again maybe we can look at the youth for new ideas i.e. Jake Dunwoody who yesterday has won his first call up for a Northern Ireland under-21s training camp or Ollie Shenton who was around the 1st team in previous seasons but he’s disappeared from the 1st team setup quicker than Rolf Harris did from his exit from Stafford Prison last week which is frustrating?
On the wing, it’s generally Arnie and Shaqiri who are great players for us, but maybe lack the consistency that extra competition in such roles could help to improve?
Ramadan surely is due an extended run in the team so let’s hope next season is his year! Others such as Diouf &Walters do what they can in such positions but it’s not their preferred roles is it? Thibaud Verlinden and Julien Ngoy have done well with the young ones and have been regulars in the Belgium junior set up so could 2017 / 18 season be the season for them? Or what about youngster Moha who was pinched (nicely) from Barcelona and has done with the kids, so perhaps he could be given a chance in the 1st team?
As for attack, well Crouch isn’t getting any younger but still scores when the service is provided. Bony seemingly joined us to have a 6-month holiday at Trentham Gardens included as part of the deal, so he’s not an option now. As for Bojan, well I’d love to see him given another chance!! But, without bossing our Manager about, if we play him, let’s play him in the no 10 role, with the right service either side and not sub him every game, because this lad has the ability in my view! Saido to me needs to be given a decent pre-season, but again I think he could be a success? But, I’d still want 1 more option? There is some decent talent playing with the kids such as Jordan Greenidge and Kevin Campbell’s son Tyrese who both fired Stoke into the FA Youth Cup Semi-finals, but perhaps need a little more time?
So where do we go from here? Well that’s down to our gaffe, but I’d expect us to sign 4 or 5 players to improve the squad and consider some of the youth options to freshen things up a little? I’m sure Mark Hughes has gone to bed and evaluated our options in his mind numerous times, because when I knew I was writing this article, I did the same and I’m not the one paid millions to do so, but it’s not easy is it? There’s always players who don’t look good enough yet come good, look at Mark Stein? There’s always players we sign and you wander why, yet turn out brilliantly, look at Lee Grant? There’s always players we sign and you expect them to be the answer, look at Bony? It just doesn’t always happen as we expect! To conclude, we all need to except that Hughes is staying and look forward. Next season should be interesting, but will be better for us all if we support our Manager and get behind the team. Here’s to an exciting 2017/18!!