Thursday, January 04, 2007

Window of opportunity

Shortly before jetting off to the other side of the planet, Paul laid down some thoughts on what we might get up to during the transfer window... - Ben

If the first half of the season has taught us anything, it is that our squad lacks depth in certain positions, both in terms of quality and basic numbers. Consequently, a couple of injuries leads to a crisis, and we're left either playing people out of position (eg Solano at right back, Duff at left back), or looking to the Academy to provide cover.

The transfer window gives us the opportunity to bring in reinforcements up front and correct our summer failure to sign decent defensive reinforcements.

As a minimum, I would suggest we need another defender and a striker, although ideally I'd like to see us pick up two of each.

In defence, I'd really like to see us go for Matthew Upson now that he has recovered from his injury problems at Birmingham, particularly as Titus' contract runs out in the summer and Craig Moore is planning to return to Australia. He would represent a strong addition to the squad now (which in terms of defenders has looked alarmingly thin at times) as an experienced player who still has something to prove and is still young enough to prove it.

On the subject of Titus, it could be that he has done enough to secure a fresh deal, but none has been forthcoming yet. In any event, I suspect any would-be suitor will wait until the summer before making him an offer, in which case it is in his interests to perform to the best of his abilities (when fit) in the meantime.

In an ideal world, we'd also pick up Wayne Bridge, who can now be found kicking his heels on the bench at Chelsea. However, Bridge recently signed a new contract, so I suspect is happy enough to sit back and collect the roubles, and is unlikely to be available on the cheap. Perhaps scorer of wonder goals Matt Taylor at Portsmouth might be a more readily available option, and with Charlton needing the cash, Luke Young might available to replace Stephen Carr (and by the looks of his performances this season, is a player badly in need of a fresh challenge).

As our record shows, this season we've not scored enough goals, and that must be also be a priority (although Martins has done much better of late and is starting to look an excellent purchase). To my mind, we clearly need a big striker to play alongside our number 9 as cover for Ameobi. Sibierski has done really well in this role, but with Shola and Michael Owen on the long road to recovery, we still need cover upfront, and with Rossi returning to Old Trafford on New Years Day, an additional nippier striker would also be an advantage, provided the price were right.

Ideally, I'd love to see us sign Klaus Jan Huntelaar from Ajax, but I suspect they won't be too keen to part with him without a hefty wedge of cash going the other way. I also still have a sneaking suspicion that Robert Earnshaw has the ability to score goals in the Premiership, so I'd be happy for us to go after him as a back-up striker (provided the price was right).

I won't even bother mentioning the Spaniard, except to say I anticipate he'll spend the whole of January camped at Newcastle Airport in the hope of picking up a bargain flight home, and I sincerely hope he finds someone willing to cover his air fare - whether we recoup any money or not. However, his should be the only departure, as the squad simply isn't big enough to cope with any more.

Having said all of that, I thought Tevez and Mascherano were the best two signings on deadline day in August, and was massively underwhelmed by the signing of Sibierski, so what do I know?


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