Unfortunately, the biannual trip of half of our squad to Africa is taking place over the next month.
Amid repeated claims by Harry Redknapp that we don’t have much of a squad left – 14 players to be precise – I decided to look at what we actually do have, and how we will manage with only having three subs.
The obvious place to start, is who’s leaving?
Well, of the Africans in our squad, only Muntari, Kanu, Utaka and Diop are leaving (I am unaware of Laurens current international state – but I cant be sure that he is leaving). Traore looked like he might go, but he isn’t, although many people can argue that Traore leaving would not be a major loss, as I cant remember him featuring this season – and he probably wont even though he isn’t leaving, so there is no major loss there. This still leaves us with 4 first team players going on holiday – but this figure can then be reduced by the (possibly controversial) idea that we would rather see Nugent playing over this period than Kanu. So no loss there?
Diop is harder to replace. His tackling in the midfield, his tireless efforts to win every ball, and even his outrageously bad shooting will be missed, but no matter – as we have another tireless performer sitting in the wings to take his place. Richard Hughes can run round the pitch, win balls, tackle hard, and even has quite a nice shot too him, as Fulham nearly discovered last year – so all is not lost!
Still, Utaka is off – but this could do him some good, as his form has been poor recently, and he seemingly needs to learn to run again, maybe an African holiday will do him some good? In terms of replacing him though, it is a more difficult matter. Kranjcar could move across to his more natural right hand side, allowing Taylor to fill in on the left – a move that would be popular with most fans at least!
Still, What about Muntari? How can we replace the performer that we chased for a year, can control a game, score fantastic goals, and tackle hard? Well, we can’t – but with the return of fitness for Sean Davis, and Mvuemba and Mendes waiting in the wings to take his place, I think the transition will go un-noticed!
I would be lying to suggest that these replacements are as good as the first team – they aren’t – but I have every confidence that they can come in and do the job. What is more worrying is the subs bench. Against Ipswich, only Nugent could come on and make a difference to the game for us – which he did extremely well – but Lauren, Traore and Pamarot hardly pose a major attacking threat.
Unfortunately, this is where the problems kick in. Of the 24-man squad we have, there are 3 goalkeepers – meaning we only have 21 outfield players. 4 of them are leaving, leaving just 17, and with Cranie and Primus out with long term injuries, Harry is almost right, but we do have 15 outfield players left! Although this figure does not include Richard Duffy and Franck Songo’o. (Duffy is still listed in the squad – but is surely lacking the experience needed to just “step in” whilst Songo’o is not).
So, how will we line up without our African friends? Well, this is pure guesswork – but there cannot be too many variants on it:
This does not leave too much room to manoeuvre, but the option of 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 is still open.
The back 4 will doubtless remain unchanged, but do we start Lauren in right midfield (or even Johnson?), or move Kranjcar across? Do we play with a 5 man midfield – leaving us with just 1 man available to come on (counting Lauren as the defender he is), with one upfront (Benjani or Nugent?) or do we play 2 upfront, wit just a 4 man midfield, leaving us room to build up at the back, but little extra power up front. Or, do we move Kranjcar into the position behind the striker, where he played for some of last season, with Taylor and Lauren on the wings?
I feel the most likely is 4-4-2, with Kranjcar and Taylor on the wings – although this leaves us with very little to change if we go a goal behind…
The problem for now is not what team we send out to start with, it’s what we do AFTER that that is difficult (until reinforcements arrive)
Written by pompeycarpet.
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