Thursday, September 01, 2011

Black window

Oh joy. Another transfer window closes, and we're once again left with an unsatisfactory taste in our mouths.

In January, it was the loss of our number 9, albeit for a staggeringly large amount of cash. Seven months later and it's our continuing failure to reinvest that money to strengthen the squad which leaves a mix of anger, frustration and exasperation in its wake.

Still, it could have been worse (just ask any Evertonians you see today). If rumours are to be believed, we nearly sold Danny Simpson yesterday without a replacement (and no, Ryan Taylor is not a replacement, however good his free kicks might be), but we successfully held on to Sideshow Bob, Mr T and Tim Krul.

However, I'll save the wailing and gnashing of teeth for later, and first look at the players who we have managed to bring in and ship on.

Departures first, then.

Since the end of the season, we've bid farewell to Fat Sol, Shefki Kuqi, Kevin Nolan, ASBO, Wayne Routledge, Jose Enrique, Fraser Forster and Kazenga LuaLua (the latter two on loan, but on deals expected to become permanent in due course). We've also sent out the likes of Michael Richardson, Phil Airey and James Tavernier on loan to gain first-team experience.

In doing so, we've added approximately £12 million to the kitty which already boasted the £35 million received from Liverpool for Rocky back in January.

Of those departing, the only real losses are Nolan, ASBO and Enrique, all of whom played key roles for us last season.

We were reportedly unsuccessful in trying to get rid of Alan Smith, Nile Ranger and Leon Best, and our ongoing retention of Peter Lovenkrands is starting to look a bit mystifying now that his legs are going.

Of those four, attempts to offload Best appeared harsh, but Ranger's ongoing commitment to undermining his own career means his days are surely numbered and Smith and Lovenkrands no longer appear to be good enough.

On the incoming front, Yohan Cabaye has impressed so far, and certainly looks to be a more than adequate replacement for Nolan, albeit in a deeper lying midfield role (which might be one of the reasons behind our improved defensive record thus far). Gabriel Obertan too has shown some flashes of promise, and to my mind represents a decent upgrade on Routledge.

At the back Davide Santon has obviously yet to kick a ball in anger for the club, so the jury is still out on that, albeit he looks on paper to be a solid replacement for Enrique (even though he may take a little time to settle).

Hopefully now that Ramadan has finished, we'll see an improvement in Demba Ba's performances - however we're going to have to wait until May to assess whether he alone represents an adequate replacement for Rocky.

Rob Elliot for Forster looks an odd move, but the proof of that deal will be in the pudding. As Ben mentioned last night, I have a suspicion that we may not be able to retain Krul post 2014, so a longer-term deal for the player may make sense (given Steve Harper will be closing in on 40 by that stage).

Whether Marveaux is a replacement for ASBO looks questionable, with the Frenchman looking a bit lightweight in his one outing so far. He doesn't strike me as a player capable of grabbing a game by the scruff of its neck the way ASBO did during his one decent season for us.

The only other recruit of note is Mehdi Abeid, who was signed with a view to developing in the reserves, but already appears to be knocking on the first-team door. Whether that's simply because he's the only one available is open to debate.

What this does mean is that there should be further opportunities for Little Big Lad, Haris Vuckic and Shane Ferguson (which is no bad thing).

However, to my mind, the squad still looks paper-thin, with little back-up across the team (and particularly at the back) and also worryingly short of goals. Maybe this will be the season when Best finally gets a good run of games and proves to everyone that he is a Premier League striker. However, that's a big gamble to take on a player we appeared to consider surplus to requirements a couple of months ago.

With Alan Pardew repeatedly banging on about our need to add a new striker, and our reported attempts to sign anyone who'd scored more than about five goals in Ligue 1 last year, not to mention our bizarre attempt to gazump Fulham for Bryan Ruiz last night, we've still not signed the proven goalscorer which we lost in January and which we are still crying out for. We didn't even manage Federico Macheda on loan, let alone Modibo Maiga or one of the other strikers we were supposedly actively pursuing for much of the summer.

(We were even gazumped by Swansea in our bid to sign defender Darnel Situ from Lens, despite the player scoring twice in a practice match for us earlier in the week.)

Even if you assume Hatem Ben Arfa is going to be fit and in the side at some point this year, and that Dan Gosling might settle down and establish himself as a first-team player for us, we still look low on numbers. However, undoubtedly the most frustrating thing is that we've known since January that we needed a goalscorer, and we've not managed to find one, despite having cash in the bank.

That represents a shocking approach to club management, with Jabba and Llambiarse demonstrating a staggering lack of ambition for the club, and undermining Pardew's attempts to produce a successful (and therefore more marketable) team. I'm not advocating a return to the spend-and-be-damned approach of the Fat Fred years, but some sensible investment in quality players to boost the squad shouldn't be beyond our wit and capability.

Frankly, our approach to recruiting a new striker has been a joke, and it's one which has now worn very thin.




Anonymous Anonymous said...

what happens when we lose Tiote, Shola, Ba to Africa Cup of Nations duty????????

4:46 p.m.  
Blogger Ben said...

Good question - one for Jabba and Llambiarse to answer.

Our inability to recruit a replacement for Rocky is a complete joke. As for those players we did get over the line, Cabaye already looks very good but the others all have a lot to prove.

I must add that, unlike .com, I'm not inclined to be too critical of Alan Pardew. He clearly has no control over transfers and purse-strings, and is instead just the stooge/patsy left to face the media with egg on his face for the umpteenth time. I don't think he's lying to us - I think he genuinely believes that moves are going on behind the scenes. It's just that Jabba and Llambiarse's failings keep hanging him out to dry.

1:33 a.m.  

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