Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Only 29 shopping days left this season...

With the transfer window now open, and the African Cup of Nations looming, it seems inevitable that we'll be linked with every Tom, Dick and Harry over the next few weeks. As such, it seemed an opportune time to consider where I think any money should be spent and which players have played their last for the club.

Goalkeepers - Shay and Steve remain, in my view, the best goalkeeping pair in the country, and we certainly shouldn't be contemplating selling or replacing either of them. With Tim Krul currently getting plenty of practice on loan, there seems no need to worry about the our last line of defence and nothing to be gained by even contemplating bringing in a new keeper and unsettling the current crop.

Defence - The perennial problem. Habib Beye appears to have established himself at right back, and although he'll be off to Ghana for the ACN for a few weeks, his loss should be adequately covered by Messrs Carr and Taylor. In the centre of defence, Abdoulaye Faye will be absent, leaving Taylor, Cacapa and Rozehnal. Of them, the Czech in particular has struggled to impress and I wouldn't say that any of them were having decent seasons, so it may be that we spend some cash on an additional centre half. Of course, there's no point if they aren't going to be better than that which we already have, so the focus needs to be on quality rather than quantity. At left back the Zog is doing a sterling job - but in reality needs to be pushed further forward. Unfortunately Jose Enrique has yet to settle sufficiently to displace him. However, given time I suspect the Spaniard will manage that, and given the impending arrival of the youthful Ben Tozer we look reasonably well stocked at left back.

On the departure front, it looks unlikely that David Edgar will ever get a chance to shine under Allardyce, so it wouldn't be a huge shock to see him turning out for someone else, probably in the Championship, come the start of February. Similarly, a decent offer for Carr would be difficult to turn down.

Midfield - With Joey Barton looking more likely to be appearing in a remake of Porridge than our midfield any time soon (and lest we forget with further appearances before the judiciary on the horizon) it wouldn't be a massive surprise to see us look to add to the ranks in midfield. Geremi's departure to the ACN is no loss, but unless Allardyce starts entrusting Emre with some more responsibility, our midfield remains short of creativity for all Smith and Butt's best efforts. So it's a plea for a quality midfielder that is top of my wish list this January. Out wide Milner and Duff seem pretty safe - although some right wing cover for Milner wouldn't go amiss.

Attack - With Martins also heading off to Ghana we're left hoping that Owen and Viduka remain fit, that Smith gets some games up front and finds his goal scoring touch, or that Shola comes in from the cold. Of those options, I think Shola is probably the player who looks closest to the exit this January, and we've just got to hope that Owen stays fit. Of course, if Allardyce persists in playing only one up front, I suspect Owen won't be keen to hang around and turn out in a formation that doesn't suit him, and our strike force could well see some changes. If Shola is to go, I'd hope we'd have the wherewithal to try and pick up Dean Ashton from West Ham as a replacement.

So that's my thoughts - Edgar, Ameobi and probably Carr to be off, and ideally Ashton plus a centre half and creative midfielder to come in. However, it may be that everything waits until the summer, by which time we'll know how sincere Chris Mort is in his support for Allardyce.


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