Sunday, 16 March 2014

Where we need to strengthen, why and who with

Grab yourself a brew and a butty, this one is a long one…

With games still to play and another trophy still to be fought for, it might seem slightly premature to start talk of summer transfer dealings. In fact, and quite rightly, eyes often get rolled whenever press speculation circulates in either October/November and from February to April about the next transfer window links to your football club.


…we’re getting so close to being a really, really TOP team it was just too tempting to wait until the transfer window opens on 1st June to lay down a few words. You see…I think we’re a team on a ‘knife edge’ at the moment - packed full of quality players on the one hand and in so many areas of the pitch; flawed and so very shallow in other areas of the squad. And the latter is going to start to hold us back if we don’t get on top of it soon.

Balancing on the ‘sharp piece of kitchenware’ as we are, we can either flap our arms clumsily and fall backwards – allowing the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool to take a leap ahead and get a firmer grip on all things domestic - or we can ‘push on’ and really surge forward to keep ahead of the ever-improving Chelsea & Liverpool; whilst at the same time also take a step closer to the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

And with one eye on the fact that – before we release any of our overseas contingent from our ranks – we are nearing our quota of ‘maximum allowed none-home-grown players’; here are the areas of the pitch and the types of players we need to target in order to ensure that we fall the RIGHT side of the ‘blade’s edge’.


Left back:

It doesn’t take too much thought to see that this is an area that we MUST improve on next season…and it’s a great place for me to start. For all his improvement Kolarov is simply NOT a defender; at best he’s an average, occasionally useful attacking wing-back. ‘Next level’ material? Absolutely not.

As for Clichy; well he certainly has the ability and experience to be able to move forward with us as we, hopefully, progress even further…application of that ability is simply up to him of course. Personally I’d off-load Kolarov or completely retrain him and his mind-set to be a better back-up left-winger and stick with Clichy for the time being.

So we’ll need one...POSSIBLY two left-backs in the summer and here are some realistic and potentially good-enough candidates.

Clearly the next ‘big thing’ in terms of left-backs. Is he destined for Chelsea? I would say so if I’m listening to my head and not my heart; it certainly would be a momentous battle between Ferran Soriano / Txiki Begiristain and their Chelsea counterparts! Although only 19 years of age in July, Luke already has 50+ first-team games to his name; a lot of those in the Premier League and he has also worked his way both through and up the English, international teams.

Luke would, of course, add to the ‘English numbers’ in our squad and so, for many reasons, this one is an absolute ‘no-brainer’ - we really should be going ‘all out’ for this lad!

WHAT?! Have you gone mad? Well…not really. Although, I’m sure, the often-unpopular character wouldn’t want to move from one not-being-played situation to another; if Clichy were to ‘up his game’ wouldn’t you like Mr Cole as ‘back up’? I certainly would.

And with such a (still) top-class left-back in the squad, can you imagine Gael NOT upping his game considerably? Moving for Ashley would, in affect, be like signing 2 left-backs for nothing, as he’s out of contract in the summer!

Having fallen behind in the pecking order to César Azpilicueta - and is just NOT getting a look-in whatsoever for Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea at the moment – I’m sure he’ll be on the move in June/July/August. We gave 33-year old Martin Demichelis a 2-year contract recently; someone with over 100 appearances for his country and almost 400 Premier League games behind him I’d certainly offer the ex-Arsenal defender a 2 to 3 year contract. English too of course…

This one ‘reared his head’ in the January transfer window; came out of the blue really and was someone I’d never heard of at the time. Almost 40 appearances for a Sevilla, a Club we’ve done business with twice recently, and has broken into the very impressive Spanish national side. Can’t be bad, can he?

With us, surely, off-loading 2 or 3 foreigners in the summer; we could certainly afford to bring this lad in from overseas and at just 22-years of age in July; he’s an excellent age to ‘bed-in’ and create a formidable, regular defensive unit.

I’m certainly no scouting expert but regular readers will know that I’ve been banging on about this lad for about a year now; certainly every transfer window. The PSV attacking left-back looks to have a big future in the game and if we lose out on him to another Premier League club I will be furious! The vultures are now circling - Chelsea and, apparently, Manyoo are two teams who are, ‘showing some interest’. Damn them!

As I’ve already hinted, the Dutch defender with more than 10, full-international caps to his name can attack as well as defend; something Pellegrini often likes in his full backs. Like Perez, he’s young too; having only just turned 19 (with almost 70 games for PSV).

Central Defence:

Would you – or anyone – be surprised if I was to suggest that we need to bring in TWO, top-quality central defenders in the summer? Really? Well if I have to justify it then so be it.

Although he still has a year to run on his contract and is one of Pellegrini’s ‘favourites’, SURELY we’ll be saying, “Thank you very much and goodbye” to Martin Demichelis in the summer. So often a cause for concern at the back as much as Kolarov…and whenever PLAYED next to Alex; we may-as-well stick a big “Welcome in” sign on that side of the…“defence”.

Too slow and just not strong enough for the Premier League.

Lescott? Well basically he’s going in June isn’t he? And so what does that leave us with? Kompany is world class but, as we’ve seen, can often ‘break down’ and be out of action for weeks not just once but quite-often twice-a-season. And similarly we have the now-often-injured & out-of-form Matija Nastasic to contend with too.

Finally we have Boyata, who is simply not good enough and who often wasted his chances when given them…albeit, and fair enough, often played out of position. And although we might have one or two in the EDS; I’ll come on to them at the end.

And so that’s it; possibly one of the shallowest, central defensive units of any of the top-flight teams in the Premier League. BUY! BUY! BUY!

Top of the ‘wanted’ list! Some recent concern, however, is that he’s now not just coveted by Manchester City; Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain & Manyoo are all trying to ‘get their noses in’ apparently. NO! Here’s ours! Left-footed and class-looking. I don’t like the sounds of the nutter ‘behind the scenes’ at Porto who we’d have to deal but, HOPEFULLY, we can get this guy at the second attempt.

This guy certainly flew under my radar when he signed for Spurs from Ajax in July 2012 and so I suppose I can’t be too mad that, at the time, Roberto Mancini and his scouts didn’t pick up on him either.

What a pairing he would make with Kompany! Yes I’m putting 2+2+2 together here but he’s a left-footed central defender, plays for his national side alongside Vinny and is getting great reviews in the Premier League. In fact, in his relatively short time in England, he’s already amassed over 50 games for Tottenham. Although Daniel Levy is a very tough cookie to deal with and Jan, no doubt, WON’T come cheap; I’d love for us to stick a bid in for him.

Young Colombian centre-half Balanta plies his trade with River Plate in Argentina, who slapped a €15m asking price on his head when Barcelona started sniffing around. Very athletic, the 20-year-old is also astute in possession of the ball and is blessed with mounds of potential, which could very well be showcased at the forthcoming World Cup.

That was something I read somewhere a few months ago (and then copy & pasted before the Plagiarism Police start on me)…and I’ve since done the YouTube thing on him. He looks cool and class.

No Premier League OR European experience of course but he is from the neighbourhood-origins of our manager and so I can well imagine ‘possible interest’ from us for this 21-year old Colombian.

I’ve ‘championed’ this lad before. VERY powerful & determined defender with impressive defensive ‘stats’. However, alongside his often-‘red mist’ tendencies, he’s recently started to show signs of being a little injury prone. Still…he’s highly thought of and at 22-years of age is another one to mould & establish in a long-term defensive unit. Has over 60 games under his belt for Schalke 04 and 16 international caps for Greece.

He certainly has the class and we have been strongly linked with him in the past; apparently having even made an approach for him in January and so, for that reason, I’ve got to include him.

But similar to Kyriakos, he can be a nutter! But rather than naïve & youthful exuberance; Pepe is not just hot-headed…he can be very nasty with it too! I fear that if we went in for him (again) he’d spend more time in the stand watching his defensive colleagues rather than playing alongside them.

By all accounts this 20-year old would fit Pellegrini’s bill perfectly. Not only a 6’ 3”, established central defender with SC Freiburg who is also slowly making waves through the German international ranks but he can ‘play a bit’ on the floor too; with reports of excellent passing from the back. Looking for a bonus on top of all that? He can also play as a defensive midfielder! Barca are apparently sniffing…

Right back:

Zabaleta, 30 in January 2015, cannot continue to play in almost every game. Although one of my favourite players of all time and one who often looks like he COULD run & run for ever; we’d be wise to give the guy a break slightly more often than we do. A more-hungry, partially-rested Zaba from next season onwards would be priceless!

So I have to ask, do we have the reliable cover in Micah Richards? I would LOVE to be able to say “Yes” because, when not injured and in form, he’s a very good right back…and being English too is a huge advantage with ‘the rule’. But…I just can’t see it working out; whether that’s because Pellegrini doesn’t actually rate him very much or he continues to be very fragile. And so…

A rising and rising Premier League star who gets rave reviews from ‘those in the know’. Can attack too; once again another quality ‘The Engineer’ likes in his fullbacks. ‘Plied his trade’ in Ireland and had a brief spell with Championship, play-off-final-winning-Blackpool before racking up over 100 games with Premier League Everton; he’s also got 20+ international caps for the ROI.

At 25 – and like Luke Shaw – I’d go ‘all out’ to get this fella! However, he has a whopping 4 years left on his current contract and, I would imagine, is enjoying his football under Roberto Martinez. Bill Kenwright would also put up one HELL of a fight to keep him too. But we have some bargaining tools in our locker. They want Gareth Barry and I’m sure we could offer them Jack Rodwell and possibly A.N. Other too.

Slim chance but if there IS a chance…then go for it City!

I’ll get lynched by a fellow Blue and Blog reader if I don’t mention this Leeds United youngster. He has championed this English-born youngster for some time now.

Has won a whole host of Club awards to his name: Football League Player of the Month for March 2013, Yorkshire Evening Post Young Player of the Year 2012/13, Leeds United Supporters Club Player of the Year 2012/13, Leeds United Players’ Player of the Year 2012/13, Leeds United Young Player of the Year 2012/13 and Leeds United Fans Player of the Year for 2012/13.

I’ve not seen him play and don’t know how he’s progressing in 2013/14. What concerns me a little is that someone who is clearly held in such high regard by his Club & fans hasn’t played at ANY level for England at all…although he could, perhaps, simply be suffering from Leeds United’s position outside of the ‘top flight’.

If we don’t have better in our very own EDS, then at 21-years of age in September he could well be worth a punt. Another right back who is, apparently, equally comfortable at right-wing and, so, can ‘overlap’ as & when required.

The almost ever-present Arsenal right-back with over 200 games for The Gunners is out of contract in the summer and would prove to be an outstanding bargain. Of course his wage demands would be high but, as I say, no signing-on fee for a very, VERY experienced right-sided defender; who specialises as a full-back but has performed in the centre of defence at times.

At just turned 31 he’s slightly ahead of Zabaleta on age but certainly not ‘past it’ and would provide excellent cover/competition for Zaba. The established ‘Zaba factor’ might just put the Frenchman off from joining us but he has told Arsenal that he will leave in the summer if his time-served with The Gunners is not rewarded with a decent contract.

Certainly a possibility and a very good signing this one.

With a Championship player with no international caps at ANY level, a player who has 4 years on his contract to run…and Bacary Sagna; I feel a bit thin on the ground with regards to possible right-back signings.

I’ve done some research and can’t seem to find any more realistic players who would improve this area of the defence (I’m sure there are). But if we DON’T have a ready-made diamond ready to ‘step up’ from the reserves then, although not a priority; it’s certainly an area we need to be considering, especially if Micah is already starting to look at the housing market pages of the national newspapers…

So am I suggesting a complete back-4 rebuild? Well I’m not going to beat around the bush…YES. It’s most definitely the area we need to improve on the most. At the VERY least two central defenders and one left-back should be high in our manager’s thoughts.


Defensive midfielder:

Is Garcia good enough? No, certainly not. If there is a Club award for ‘most improved player of the season’ then certainly he & Kolarov would be vying for it. But when your starting position was no better than 3.5/10, then improvement would have to be considerably more than we’ve seen. On his VERY best day he gives us a 6.5/10 performance. I say again…just not good enough for us.

Rodwell? How ironic is part of his name? It would be very cruel on the lad who, by all accounts, tries EVERYTHING to improve his own health record…but there’s a good argument for the ex-Evertonian & England Under 21 player to be referred to as Jack Notwell.

So…it’s no WONDER Pellegrini was in the market for a back-up to 29-year old (in May) Fernandinho. And, having gone for Fernando of Porto so enthusiastically in January, I would imagine that Garcia, at least, is most certainly leaving us in the summer.


Well the Brazilian, defensive midfielder with a similar name to the Brazilian defensive midfielder we already have makes the list simply because we DID go in for him so keenly 2 months ago. However, Porto have since cheekily got the 27-year old (in July) to sign a new contract until 2017. Rather than being just a few million quid in January (on a free in the summer) the player nicknamed ‘The Octopus’ would now, surely, cost us in the region of £18M. However, it doesn’t seem to have put us off; we continue to be linked with him.

Seems decent and is certainly attracting interest from other top clubs. It’s just a shame we couldn’t strike up a deal with the hard-to-deal-with Portuguese side.

In many ways this one is a ‘no brainer’ for me. Knows the club, he LOVES the club, knows the Premier League and has only one year remaining on his AC Milan deal.

Same age as our current ‘number-one’ defensive midfielder; my only doubt would be his tendency to get niggley injuries. Perhaps not well know for his injury record; I can just recall several occasions where he was out for the Blues before his departure. He’s had his fair share of time on the treatment table in Italy too - competition for places taken into account; he’s only managed 35 appearances in almost 2 full seasons…

Don’t fancy de Jong? Then why not go for his older teammate? Okay so the Argentinean will be 34 in August but, looking at his record, he doesn’t seem to break down much.

Combative, but certainly not dirty – having only ever received 1 red card in his long career – the guy has BAGS of experience at the very top level. ‘Pitches in’ with the goals too! On a free? I’d snap this solid midfielder up…

Yaya’s international teammate seems almost tailor-made for City. The 100%-committed, engine-room tackler has proven to be a Premier League hit since his move from FC Twente in 2010; he’s already amassed almost 100 games for The Magpies.

Certainly won’t come cheap; having signed a whopping 6-½ year deal when he joined the Geordies, he till has 3 years left to run. And they’ll be stiff competition for his signature too; providing we could convince Newcastle to let him go that is.

The fact that we can offer him European competition AND, of course, a far better chance of a winner’s medal or three; we’ll sure be a lure for the Ivorian…as will the influencing factor of Yaya I’m sure.

Attacking / creative midfielder / winger

Now this might seem greedy of me but I make no excuses for wanting an addition to our creative ranks. I’m also aware that, by bringing-in another top-quality attacking midfielder; it’s yet another barrier to a potential EDS player breaking into the first team on a regular basis. But they have time on their hands and with our future-focus on youth development, their time will come soon enough.

Whenever Samir Nasri is out and whenever David Silva & Yaya Toure look in need of a rest and are playing at 70%; the heart is often ripped out of our [attacking] style of play. Look at the REALLY top teams in Europe – in fact just look ‘down South’ to Chelseaand see how many truly class midfielders they have in their ranks. It’s clear to me, at least, that we need just one more and so here’s my three most likely / available targets.

Another one in the ‘no brainer’ category. Has worked under ‘The Engineer’ before at Malaga and (almost?) followed Pellegrini to Manchester City last summer. Just 21 games for Real Madrid – some of those from the subs bench – is, apparently, leaving the Spaniard a little frustrated; apparently they’ve change formation / systems and he just doesn’t quite ‘fit in’ most of the time.

Yeah of course he might not get a start every game for us…but I’d sure do everything I could to convince him for a second time to make the switch to sky blue. Simply put, he’s another, slightly taller, David Silva-type player but younger (just 22 in April). Who WOULDN’T want anther one of those in your team?! Go-get him City!

Another class player who doesn’t always get selected for ‘The Whites’, particularly since the signing of Gareth Bale from Tottenham in 2013. 115 games for Real gives the Argentinean player an average of 28 games per season in all competitions.

He’s a quality left-winger / midfielder who can score as well as create. Used as a left-winger at City he’d give us all sort of options; not least allowing Nasri to work as a more central-forward midfielder; in order to ‘do his thing’ to, perhaps, even great affect.

Another big plus? Angel only has 1-year left on his current deal and so not only could they be tempted to sell the 26-year old; he shouldn’t cost a great deal at all considering he huge talent!

Givanildo Vieira de Souza is his real name and he gets a mention because he KEEPS getting linked with us. Whether under Mancini or Pellegrini; the ‘no smoke without fire’ theory keeps grabbing my attention.

COMPLETELY different (certainly in stature) to what Di Maria offers; he is strong, powerful and direct. Predominantly a right-winger but equally comfortable as a right-sided forward / striker and, therefore, could solve more than one issue.

The only thing that would put me off a little bit is that he’s moved a lot for a 28-year old (in July) and contract-ownership issues tend to follow him around…ala-Tevez / West Ham. Although I’m a bit nervous of going for Brazilian players for their often less-than-committed attitude (unlike their Argentinean cousins); I think this guy is different. He’d be exciting and would certainly add even more attacking thrust to our attack. Certainly worth consideration.


Here’s that phrase again – do City want to move to ‘the next level’? Well of course they do…and so get rid of Edin and go-get a top, TOP quality ‘hit man’ to compliment Aguero & Negredo. I’ve certainly not forgotten (often injured) Stevan Jovetic and if we could get another quality forward then the 4 of them – with the addition of Isco / Di Maria or Hulk behind them - would terrorise both the English and European scenes.

So who is that man then?

What a waste of a talent his transfer from Atletico Madrid to AS Monaco was – definitely a ‘for the money’ move. And, by all accounts, it’s not really working out for him – he certainly can’t be too happy that his side currently sit almost 20 points behind league leaders PSG.

Okay, so he’s also had cruciate knee ligament damage and has been out since January. But this HUGE talent has played only 17 times since his move in the summer of 2013.


  1. Well, of course, our Doctors & other medical staff would have to pay close attention to that knee of his.
  2. Having only signed for the rich French side less than a year ago the Colombian sill has 4 years of his 5-year deal remaining – they’d certainly be wanting to recoup most of their reported 60-million Euros they paid for him.
  3. Chelsea. Jose will be desperate to recruit some strikers in the summer and I get the feeling Radamel is high on his target list. I’m not sure, therefore, I’d want us to be locked into a summer-long battle for him – we need to do our business early like we did last season.
Romelu Lukaku

COMPLETELY different to Falcao of course. But if we ARE to offload Dzeko in the summer then this guy is ‘ready made’. More powerful than Edin he also has, of course, plenty of Premier League experience; ironically hardly any with Chelsea but lots with WBA & Everton on loan.
Would Mourinho be willing to part with him? Well, I just don’t think he likes him for whatever reason. Why, for example, when he often clearly struggles ‘up front’ does he allow the powerhouse to play for other Premier League clubs? Vital experience is one thing but at the detriment of your own campaigns? It’s a strange one…

With just 2 years remaining on his current Chelsea deal it is definitely approaching ‘decision time’ and if Mourinho DOES ‘go in for’ and get Falcao and A.N. Other then that could be the final straw for the 6’ 3” man.

This guy’s work-rate is excellent and he has plenty of goals in him; 27 in 35 games in fact…some of them after coming off the bench! And at just 21 in May, Vincent Kompany’s international teammate has a long & bright future ahead of him I’m sure. What better place to fulfil your dreams than at a club with a bright future also.

Want a 'wild card'…and a surprise? This guy scores wherever he goes and so just imagine, if you will, the 6’ 2’’ powerful striker being ‘supplied’ by the likes of Nasri, Navas, Silva & Toure and working alongside Aguero?

Want a couple of bonuses thrown in? He’s English (that’s that box ticked) and he’s a penalty-taking expert. He might be (just-turned) 32 but he’d make an excellent replacement for the possibly-departing Dzeko. Shouldn’t cost too much either - although recently an England international with 2 goals from 4; a 32-year old with just 2 years left on his Southampton contract shouldn’t prove too expensive.

A Scouse lad who has played for Blackpool, Macclesfield Town, Stockport County and Rochdale; he hails from the North West and might fancy a move ‘back up North’ IF he’s not put off by the competition for places up front. Surely though…SURELY he’d relish a shot at silverware and a few ‘winners medals’.

As I say, perhaps a surprise inclusion but certainly not an outlandish thought…

I’m not gonna go into the possibility of us signing a certain Mr Messi. Why? Well it’s nothing to do with the brilliant, BRILLIANT striker being unlikely to ever leave his beloved Barcelona; it’s simply the transfer fee. It would, reportedly, take a staggering £180M to £200M to prise him from the Spanish giants and that, quite frankly, is putting your prize egg in one very, VERY expensive basket. Financial ‘fair play’ aside; as dazzling as the guy is we’d be (very) wise to spread that sort cash around the pitch a little more…

So what ABOUT the Financial ‘Fair Play’ rule?

Well, simply put, I can see the following players leaving the wage bill in the summer either with or without transfer fee-funds coming our way:

-          Richard Wright

-          Dedryck Boyata

-          Martin Demichelis?

-          Aleksandar Kolarov?

-          Joleon Lescott

-          Micah Richards

-          Gareth Barry

-          Javi Garcia

-          Jack Rodwell?

-          Scott Sinclair

-          Edin Dzeko  Update (06.04.2014): More unlikely now...

-     Alvaro Negredo? Rumours are that if we are to get another foreign striker in the summer then it will be 'The Beast' who might make way, as unbelievable as that sounds [with regards to our early season, goal-scoring hero]

-          John Guidetti?

-          Alex Nimely

-          Luca Scapuzzi

 ...and perhaps a few EDS who are might be deemed not quite good enough.

That should help balance the books!

What about players 'breaking through' from the EDS?

Well the ones with a greater chance of making it to the first team during the 2014/2015 season (even if it’s only in the early rounds of domestic cup competitions) are…

* Karim Rekik             -           Central Defender

* Emyr Huws              -           Central Midfielder

* Marco Lopes            -           Attacking midfielder / winger – Left / right / centre

* Jose Angel Pozo      -           Attacking forward / striker - left / right / centre

* John Guidetti            -           Striker (providing he’s not sold or loaned-out again…)

* Devante Cole           -           Striker (a lesser chance, perhaps, but you never know…)

* Jordy Hiwula            -           Striker (similarly, a lesser chance but…)

I’ve not mentioned keepers. Quite frankly, providing he’s happy enough, we’ve got a perfectly good ‘back up’ to Joe Hart in the form of Costel Pantilimon. And, by all accounts, the likes of Angus Gunn & Eirik Johansen aren’t too bad either. But if Costel is to leave then, fair enough; perhaps go in for a suitable replacement. But that’s another Blog posting for another time…

As an absolute minimum? I’d say we need 5 players: A left-back, 2 central defenders, a defensive midfielder and a striker. Bonus signings would include an additional 2 players: A right-back and an attacking / creative midfielder-come-winger.

So, there you have it folks; all that is needed to keep us ahead of the game domestically and striving to join ‘the elite’ of Europe.

Thanks for taking the (long) time to read!

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