Tuesday, 13 May 2014


Tuesday 13th May is the beginning of preparations for next season, according to our boss. Rumours will be rife, of course; it’ll be hard to keep up at times I’m sure. Over the coming weeks and months though I’m going to try to sift through it all; separating ‘sensible possibilities’ from ‘utter tosh’.

It’s already begun elsewhere...

The Manyoo ‘clear out’ has begun, starting with Vidic and Camel Gob and Chelsea have agreed a fee for Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa for £31.8M. Neither the exodus from Manyoo nor Jose’s signing of a striker are any surprise and it won’t be the last at both clubs before 30th August I’m certain.

Errrrrrrr...where next?
W.B.A. & Tottenham Hotspur have already parted with their Managers [both after a very short time in charge] and rumours are that West Ham United are about to do likewise…perhaps even as early as today!

It’s ‘all go’ already!

What about us?

Well a couple of months before the season finished I’d already issued a rather lengthy list of areas for improvement and possible / realistic targets. Some of these had received rumour-links with us; some of those have continued while others have gone quiet. Others were my own, personal preference-targets.

There have since been a few others associated with a possible move to the Etihad but before I list those, here’s a summary of the positions that Manuel will, I’m sure, have been looking at whilst sat at his office desk this morning onwards…before his well-earned summer holiday.


Completely unnecessary if Costel is to stay in my opinion. But if he does decide that he’s had enough of being Number 2 to Joe, then of course we need another one.

Does Pellegrini go for a more-than-competent ‘back-up’ to Joe - either in the form of a talented youngster OR a 32+ and vastly experienced one – or does he go with a keeper who can SERIOUSLY both challenge and even, dare I say, keep Joe on the bench?

Well the former could come in the form of Wilfredo (Willy) Caballero and the latter, perhaps, is Stoke City’s Asmir Begovic. I’ve mentioned two keeper names already because, in the last piece from 16th March, I didn’t focus too much on this area; offering up no names back then.


An absolute must in the summer!

Clichy: Decent most of the time but worryingly inconsistent since his first season in a blue shirt.

Kolarov: Decent going forward, not so good at defending most of the time. That’s just not a good enough situation whatsoever - and there’s even an argument for a complete clear-out of that area and a couple coming in…


Zabaleta, for all his Player Of The Season (from me) efforts this season, just cannot continue to perform like that without a break, I’m sure of it. He somehow got his second wind in the last few games – when it looked like he was finally fading – but we just can’t risk that for another (long) season.

Micah Richards - Uncertain future...
It looks like Micah is going and so this position goes down as another priority area for me.

Central defence:

It’s absolutely vital that we get a top-quality centre half in soon to build a formidable partnership with Vincent Kompany. But the question for me is, will one addition in this area be enough. Well there are many factors to consider before we can answer this.

  1. Will Matija Nastasic be fit next season?
  2. Can Demichelis perform to the same, latter-season-form when, most likely, asked to just cover for the new, in-coming-star, central defender? Martin got better and better with games under his belt; both fitness and confidence-wise. Will he be as effective providing respite-cover for a much younger set of central defenders ahead of him?
  3. Will we be bringing back – and usingKarim Rekik?
If the answer to two of those questions is “Yes”, then 1 new central defender will be enough. However, I would say that if the answer to two of those questions is “No” – and baring in mind how often Vincent can break down throughout a season - then I see the acquisition of a second, quality central defender as ‘a must‘ for another tough, long season ahead.

Defensive midfield:

With the departing Gareth Barry and the highly-likelihood of Jack Rodwell heading for the exit door also, we’re left with Fernandinho and Javi Garcia to fill that ‘holding’ role in the middle. Enough quality? I would say not.

Before he’d even kicked a ball I, perhaps unkindly, just wasn’t too convinced about our new Brazilian. And in his first few weeks he did little to convince me that I was wrong.

However, almost under the radar he turned himself into a vital component; similar to Nigel de Jong in that his reliability in front of the back 4 allowed Yaya to be confident enough to maraud forward for large spells of most games.

So why, towards the end of the season, did Pellegrini drop him for Javi Garcia?

As for Javi himself, he’s just not good enough. Often producing a 5/10 performance with the occasional 4 or even 3 chucked in for not-so good measure; he rarely peaks above a 6. When not faced with a strong, opposing midfield he can often cope and look cool enough at times…but surely he’ll be moved on in the summer.

That’s why I’m so concerned and puzzled about the number of games he got ahead of ‘Ferdi’ towards the end – are we not now going for Porto’s Fernando ‘The Octopus’? Despite signing a new contract for the Portuguese side in January this one is SUPPOSED to be a 'done deal’…

In my opinion, we need one. Could I suggest for a moment, though, that James Milner would be perfect for this role and we would, therefore, not need to splash any cash in this area?

Attacking / creative midfield / winger:

This is where I get greedy. Samir Nasri, Yaya Toure, David Silva, Jesus Navas (and the versatile James Milner) would be mouth-watering for most Premier League AND European sides. And when you look to the likes of Emyr Huws and Marcos Lopes from the EDS, we have talent coming through in that area of the field too.

I know you can’t just buy and stockpile players for every position BUT…assuming that the EDS lads aren’t quite ready to step up just yet, if David gets injured while another one is suspended for example, then all of a sudden that “wealth” of attacking midfielders looks a little thin to me.

And, yes, I’m SURE Stevan Jovetic could ‘do a job’ – and a bloody good one – in the middle or down the left of midfield. But just look at the quality of Chelsea and some of the top, TOP teams in Europe; at what they have at their disposal in the middle and on the wings. Is THAT not where we want to be?

So I say again; it might seem greedy of me but to ‘move up the levels’ I would be looking for us to bring in another, quality attacking / creative midfielder-winger in the summer.


If they could all stay fit for the most part then, no; we simply don’t need one. Even after me being picky about our attacking midfield options we should…SHOULD have enough in our forward locker in Alvaro Negredo, Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero and Stevan Jovetic. I’m not sure what on earth is happening with John Guidetti; towards the end of the season he couldn’t even get on Stoke Citys bench (unless he was injured…again)!

And we have exciting prospects from the EDS in the form of Devante Cole, Jordy Hiwula and Jose Angel Pozo.

HOWEVER…if we are to move Alvaro Negredo on after just one season at the club – a rumour that wasn’t going away for a while – then we would most DEFINITELY need an addition ‘up top’.

And there’s the ‘progression’ argument again too. You don’t stand still and do well in this league; most of the chasing pack are going to be in for top strikers in the summer believe me.

There’s a bloody good argument that we should get a striker REGARDLESS of whether we ‘off load’ a front man in the summer.

Personally I think that would be TOO reckless and greedy…but equally I could understand it.


Absolutely minimum requirements in the summer:

1 left-back
1 right-back
1 central defender
1 defensive midfielder

Not unreasonable spending:

1 keeper
1 left-back
1 right-back
2 central defenders
1 defensive midfielder

Splurge time!

1 keeper
2 left-backs
1 right-back
2 central defenders
1 defensive midfielder
1 attacking / creative midfielder / winger
1 striker

Which is it to be I wonder…

(Sensible) rumours since my blog-posting on 16th March…

Stephan Lichtsteiner - Right back/wing-back - Juventus

Andre Gomes - Defensive midfielder - Benfica

Ross Barkley - Central midfielder - Everton

Ignacio Camacho - Defensive midfielder - Malaga
Andreas Christensen - Central Defender - Chelsea

Good chance of ‘leaving the wage bill’ in the summer:

(* = Almost certainties / ** = Certainty)

Costel Pantilimon
Richard Wright *
Dedryck Boyata
Aleksandar Kolarov
Joleon Lescott **
Micah Richards *
Gareth Barry **
Javi Garcia
Alex Henshall
Jack Rodwell *
Scott Sinclair **
John Guidetti *
Alex Nimely *
Luca Scapuzzi **

For us it has to be another TWO levels…

The chasing pack are already ruffled and are plotting against us for next season. And, I’m sure, our owners will not only want us to carry on performing well on a domestic level but will also want to see even FURTHER improvement in Europe. That’s why not only is standing still not an option; but neither is moving ourselves up just 1 notch.

Although I’m sure he’ll tweak his defence a bit too; most pundits have been quite-rightly stating for ages now that Chelsea are only short of a couple of top-quality strikers. They’ve already got one…and he’s not even finished his title-chasing season in his own country yet!

Manager of the Year...but not a happy chappy.
Liverpool are hurting badly and probably can’t wait to have another crack at us / the title. Quite the opposite to Jose but similar to us; Brendan Rodgers will be looking to sure-up his defence. But don’t be surprised to see him add some attacking / creative power too.

Arsenal will always be there or there abouts and in the summer, no doubt under the radar, they’ll pick up a diamond or two as well.

Under-performing – albeit finishing 6th - Tottenham Hotspur will be a bigger threat this season coming too, I think. I had them down as a dangerous force at the start of last season but it just wasn’t to be. They’ve already off-loaded their “temporary manager”. Watch out for these…

I can’t see Everton having the same season next time round; I think they’ll struggle in the league at least…

And then there’s dear ol’ Manyoo. I hate to say this but if they HAVE got this Louis Van Gaal fella and they go on to spend big on decent players in the summer and it DOES ‘click’; then without ANY European football to “distract them” - a la Liverpool last season - I can see them being very strong contenders for the league title.

That’s why we need to notch ourselves up TWO levels in the summer to stay way ahead of the game; with the kind of signings that can propel us close to the real cream of European sides.

No nervously looking over our shoulder now; no half-hearted follow-up attempts. We need to forge ahead and shout from a good distance in front of the rest...

“Catch us if you can!”

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