|[Blog] Realistically, How Many Players Should ITFC Sign in the Summer?|
Written by itfcjoe on Monday, 26th Mar 2012 15:34
It seems every time ITFC lose a game, there are dozens of threads on the Message Board and tweets stating that we need to sign seven players this summer, usually followed by something like this - 'GK, CBx2, RB, CM, ST'.
After the defeat on Saturday I got fairly sick of reading these as they do not seem to take into account what we currently have in our squad, who can leave and who we are stuck with… and in turn how this affects our wage bill.
It is always seen as ideal to have 'two players for each position' but realistically, a Championship club cannot carry senior players, so we cannot have 22 senior players, you just have to hope that serious injuries aren't picked up and if they are they need to be replaced by loanees.
Here is my analysis of what the squad needs over the summer break, to be able to compete with the play-off chasers in this division - while hoping to follow the more prudent financial plans that Simon Clegg has spoken about at length (ad nauseum?!)
He also doesn't seem the sort to aggravate for a starting position, as to the outside he has been treated fairly shabbily in places but still seems to love the club (Judging by tweets etc).
Cody Cropper seems fairly highly rated so I would offer him another contract with a view to him spending time on loan next year, and depending on how he did having him as the effective number two, ie if Number one gets injured for more than a couple of weeks he could come back in with ALB staying on bench - similar to how Stockdale was for Fulham.
This leads to the obvious conclusion that we need a new goalkeeper, another loanee will not suffice, we need to sign a relatively experienced goalkeeper (around 27-years-old) who can be our number one for the next five years. Continuity is a hugely important part of any defence and we need to look for a signing similar to when Kelvin Davis was signed. I don't have the answer to who this could be but I'd suggest someone who has played at least 100 games at first team level.
Carlos Edwards has done an adequate job at right-back over the season, defensively he is still suspect sometimes but adds a lot going forward. I think he can still do a job next season, but only at a time when we are expected to win a game and aren't expected to be under pressure where his concentration and positioning lets him down.
I would be looking to sign a more defensive right-back, and one that can cover centre-half as well. This would be a player from Leagues One or Two who is looking to step up to the Championship.
At centre-back, I think Tommy Smith and Damien Delaney are both decent defenders at this level. However, they are both left-sided centre-backs and this hugely affects the defensive balance of the team. I think we need to sign an experienced right-sided centre-back to act as a leader defensively to follow in footsteps of Tony Mowbray, Jason De Vos and Gareth McAuley.
I have been hugely impressed with James Chester at Hull but think he may be out of our price range - he would be my number one target. While not a leader in style of three mentioned above, he is a very good defender and would be good paired with Smith or Delaney, who both win their share of headers, with the other as back-up.
The only potential spanner in the works is that I think it may be difficult to pin Smith down to a new contract without guarantee of first team football and I think Delaney slightly edges him at the moment, but I'm sure Smith is the kind of character to relish a battle to win his place.
Aaron Cresswell has had a promising first season at left-back, but errors have crept into his game in recent weeks. I think there are a number of factors for this: a long season in more physically demanding league, no competition for a place and hopefully not but could be fact that he has begun to be found out as weak in a one-on-one defensive situation (he doesn't block the cross enough in my opinion).
I think we'll have to rely on Joe Whight as back-up and hope he pushes on next year. If this doesn't happen then Whight will need to spend time on loan somewhere with a Premiership loanee brought in as competition for Cresswell - Ben Mee has done well at Burnley and may be worth a bid at some point.
This would leave Leadbitter, Andy Drury and Luke Hyam who have been impressive lately and the enigma that is Jimmy Bullard. I don't see how Bullard will fit into this new team and higher tempo game we are now playing, but I don't see how we will be able to get him off the wage bill.
I think Lee Bowyer has played well in recent weeks, but feel that at 35 unless he was to be on very poor wages next year (around £3,000-a-week) then he isn't worth keeping as the central midfield will already account for a large chunk of the wage budget.
It is vitally important that we get Leadbitter to sign and keep him playing how he is at the moment, to buy a 26-year-old player with his experience and quality will be a seven-figure transfer fee and a substantial weekly wage.
If Bullard is going to be as useful next season as he has been this year then we will need to get in a central midfield loanee if we are unable to get Bowyer to take a substantial wage cut.
In the system we have been playing recently we have used three attacking midfielders, usually Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Daryl Murphy and Lee Martin. I think that Josh Carson could deputise for any of these and haven't seen enough of Ryan Stevenson yet to know whether he can, although he does strike me as an attacking midfielder rather than a lone striker in the system we play.
I think it is important that we try to sign Daryl Murphy, he has been a key player in the recent good run and allows flexibility to move between 4-5-1 and 4-4-2. I think it would be useful to try and sign another winger who can play on either side, so on days where things aren't working out for JET or Murphy we have someone with pace who can get behind the full-back.
Andros Townsend seems to flutter from one club to another and may be worth trying to tie down on a permanent deal.
Nathan Ellington has had a poor first season and unfortunately I think we will have to retain him as third choice striker, with competition from Ronan Murray - realistically though if Scotland were to leave neither of those two would be able to step up to the required level. This would mean we need to sign a striker and again we need to look to someone in the Championship or a young striker from League One.
After watching Peterborough I think Tyrone Barnett could have been that player but we've missed the boat here so would look at someone like Marcus Tudgay whose hold-up play has always impressed me, or an out-and-out target man like Chris Iwelumo or even Kayode Odejayi at Colchester as an option to use from the bench to act as a battering ram-style player.
So I think for the squad next year, and trying to use realistic budgeting, we need to to look something like:
GK: New first choice, ALB, Cropper
This means we need to sign a new first choice goalkeeper, right sided centre back and Daryl Murphy. We also need to sign two effective squad players, one who can cover right back/centre back and a winger.
This is assuming that Leadbitter and Scotland sign new contracts, however. If not, they will also need replacing and we risk going down the path of having a squad that struggles to 'gel' again and waste a few months of the season - five senior players is more than enough for one summer.
So in summary - "We need to sign five players - GK, RB/CB, CB, Winger and Daryl Murphy"!
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