By Tony Attwood
In every transfer window various newspapers do their own survey of what each of the PL clubs need. Some papers (such as the Observer – a UK Sunday paper) also do a review submitted by fans (what the Observer rather pompously calls its “Fans Network” – which is seemingly one blog or reader selected at random from each club) and ask each to say what he/she (actually I think they are all “he”) wants.
My guess is that the vast majority of readers tend to read about their own club and leave it at that. But this year, for reasons that will not become clear at this point, I decided to start flipping through the desires of supporters of other clubs. At first I just went through the Observer list, and then, in case it was rather biased I compared it with the Telegraph’s list (written by one correspondent, rather than the supporters of individual clubs).
The result was rather remarkable. Whereas I started out by thinking that Arsenal fans have identified the left back position as our particularly weak spot that needs sorting, now I realise that loads of clubs need a left back. Whereas I thought that newspaper columnists and bloggers just thought that the Arsenal 25 was particularly feeble, I see that most people think that most of the squads have gaping holes.
The results are below but before I let you loose on them allow me to point out one of the more hilarious suggestions which comes up repeatedly: buy a player as cover for the Africa Cup of Nations period – as if a quality player would transfer knowing he was just there to cover for three weeks and then be dropped because someone who is obviously the first team choice is going to return. Besides which the clubs with non-African Cup playing players have them, because they are not vanishing this month.
What’s clear is that to most people who commented are simply lumps of meat to be bought and sold. Make a bid and the player will come. That’s it. Players don’t think, players don’t have wants.
In what follows the positional columns (goal, defender, midfield, attack) come from the “Observer Network”, the last is the key point from the Telegraph’s “analysis”. The latter generally includes a comment on who the club is “desperate” to get.
One point made by many fans is the need to hold on to a particular player or two – expressing the fear that if the right offer comes in for their top star player, he will be let go. To keep the format manageable I’ve left such columns out, but beyond the top six clubs they are commonplace.
And may I point out the lovely demand in the Leicester section for a “new head of recruitment”.
|Arsenal||Replace Xhaka||A poacher||Left back|
|Bournemouth||Needed||Attacking||With energy||Keeper (Ospina?); holding midfield|
|Burnley||Central||Wide player with pace||No money, so no deals.|
|Chelsea||New right wing back||Must extend Fabregas contract||New man needed as backup||Nothing desperate – central defender, midfielder helpful|
|Crystal Palace||Needs overhaul; left back needed||Enforcer needed||Attacker is most urgent need||Left back, striker, centre half|
|Everton||Obvious||Yes||Yes||Yes||Every department desperately needs fixing|
|Hull City||Right back; centre back||Crouch?||Short in every dept|
|Leicester||Centre back||Ball winner||Winger and new head of recruitment||Centre half, centre midfielder, striker|
|Liverpool||Yes unless Karius improves||Centre back and left back||Striker||Striker. The Ox?|
|Man City||Defence is a mess||Another midfielder||Central defender|
|Man Utd||Centre back||Not scoring enough – another striker||Centre back to cover for Africa Cup|
|Middlesbrough||Backup attacking midfielder||Winger, Striker||Striker, attacking midfield|
|Southampton||Striker who can score||Centre back, striker|
|Stoke City||Another keeper||Left back||Striker||Striker, defensive midfielder|
|Sunderland||Full back (Jenkinson?), centre back||Peter Crouch?||Robbie Brady? Free transfers; anyone|
|Swansea City||Centre back, full back||Winger||Central defender, right back, midfielder, striker|
|Tottenham*||Player with creativity||Pace and goal threat||New striker**|
|Watford||Attack ;midfield to cover Africa||Winger (Ashley Young)|
|West Brom||Striker||Defensive midfield, striker, left back, centre half|
|West Ham||Right back||Creative midfield||Striker who can stay fit||Right back, striker, midfielder|
Two notes about Tottenham.
The comments from the Observer Network for Tottenham, and from the Telegraph, are worth spelling out in full. First from the fan, because it is one of the very rare instances of someone admitting that they are going to do an Arsenal – that is have restrictions on spending because of the new stadium.
*Pochettino talks about how we need “more quality” even though our squad is very strong, with a tight wage structure… but to improve what we already have is a tall ask with a new stadium to finance.”
Meanwhile, the Telegraph don’t expand on their Tottenham comment, but I still rather like it.
** There is no plan B because there is not as such a Plan A.”
I wonder if that comment means, there is no Plan A because there is now no more money, because of the stadium. Could it be that the Untold prediction about Tottenham’s finances, so vigorously denied from so many quarters, could be true?
So what have we learned? That very few people are satisfied, except it seems Watford, of whom the Telegraph says they don’t want to do much business, and the fan who says “Our squad is as strong as it’s ever been, and the signings of Okaka, Success and Pereyra giving us an attacking armoury we didn’t have last term.”
Also five clubs specifically want a left back while another five seemed to indicate this is the wider discussions. In a sense that is not surprising since 50% of a team’s full backs are left back but only 10% of the population is left footed.
But overall, few people seem satisfied and the Telegraph sees mileage in pointing out the cracks in every squad. It is in fact all part of the endless fantasy of suggesting that transfers work (except those secured by Arsene Wenger because he is a dolt who won’t spend money and even the £91m spent last summer is not enough.)
What is missing here of course (because it is always missed) is any mention of promotions from within the club’s ranks of juniors. Which means that in the fanatical rush to spend, Iwobi, Bellerin, and Coquelin, all present yesterday, (although the Mirror said on 13 October 2016 that Bellerin was certain to leave and just “waiting for the call” from Barcelona) are not counted or recognised. “Bringing up a kid from the youth team” just isn’t part of the deal any more.
I don’t know if other clubs have gems waiting to take their place this year, but if I had to put money on it, I would say that both Ainsley Maitland Niles, and Jeff Reine-Adélaïde (who were both subs yesterday) will be in the first team squad on a more regular basis this time next year.
Still, it is interesting to know that…
a) Most clubs have desperate needs for players (according to fans and journalists) not just Arsenal.
b) Hardly anyone expected the Africa Cup of Nations to happen and so desperate short terms buys are the order of the day now someone has read a newspaper and realised that the players are about to leave.