Sign of the Times
We go into Sunday’s game with just the 3 first-team signings then (barring a bolt from the blue). Everyone seems very enthusiastic about Mitrovic, Wijnaldum and Mbemba but as I’ve not really seen any of them play I can’t comment on their quality. If they’re as good as the fees we paid for them suggest then they’ll do well for us. A new Head Coach and a complete clear-out of the first-team coaching staff over the summer are also positive developments. We have needed fresh thinking for years so hopefully this clean break will mean the tactical, motivational and deficiencies in preparation we’ve suffered for so long can finally be addressed.
We are supposed to still be interested in Charlie Austin, though McClaren said the other night in a local radio phone-in that we hadn’t yet made a bid this summer. Though I’d like us to sign another front-line striker – have we really not played 2 up front since the days of Carroll and Lovenkrands – he seems overpriced. It’s not my money I suppose, I’d love to see it, I think he’d be a success here.
I know it doesn’t work like this but if I had to choose I’d rather we signed another centre-half. I think we need that more than another striker as our defence was uniformly awful last season. It won’t happen without someone leaving though. We already have 4 first-team centre-halves plus Dummett who does well there too and various reserves.
I like a lot of what I’ve heard McClaren say so far, from making us play further up the pitch to wanting a first-team squad of around 20. I don’t see the point in carrying reserves who aren’t good enough to play when all the other specialists in their position are out, so get rid of them.
Adam Armstrong has moved to Coventry on loan which looks a good move for all concerned. It does mean that should Cisse go before September we will look short of strikers again and that may mean signing Austin will become more of an imperative.
It’s interesting that Tony Mowbray, Coventry’s manager, commented after seeing Armstrong play in a friendly that he obviously had quality but that Armstrong “didn’t play as he’d coach a centre-forward to play” and that they needed more players up front.
I find this worrying for several reasons. Firstly, it appears that Mowbray doesn’t have confidence in Armstrong and ideally wouldn’t rely on him, whereas we want him to play as much as possible. Secondly there is a conflict between the coaching he’s received here and what he’ll be getting soon at Coventry. If our coaching has been so manifestly unsuitable it sends a shiver down my spine – the rest of our first team were getting the same attention until very recently. On the other hand, I also worry whether we have confidence in the changes Mowbray wants to make to Armstrong’s playing style. Either way, we want him to get game time, learn how to deal with the physical aspects of the game and gain confidence, not come back the complete League One striker.
Crazy for Trying
Ronald Koeman, the manager of Southampton who we play this weekend, made comments before their Europa League tie this week that teams are crazy to risk going out of the competition by fielding a weakened side. I also think it strange that teams strive so hard to finish as high up the league as they can then when they qualify for the Europa League spend all their time trying to sabotage their own efforts. To borrow a theme from the current political landscape, it’s about having the courage to try to achieve what you want to rather than settling for what received wisdom tells us we have to.
Please Please Don’t Go
The news of Fabricio Coloccini’s confirmation as club captain and announcement of the year’s extension to his contract came as a surprise to many. There were a wide range of reactions, but I can see both sides of this one. His new contract will finish at the end of 2016/17, by which time he’ll be 35. There’s the option of another year after that too. It’s a long time since he’s been at his best, and effectively we’ve given a 33 year old a new two year contract.
Whatever you think of the wisdom of that, even when he hasn’t been great he’s consistently been our best centre-half. We probably could have let his contract run down to next year to see how he was doing then before renewing but I suppose this way settles things and means there are fewer distractions from performing to the top of his ability. He’s never been a speed merchant anyway, so with a bit of luck he’ll turn out like Teddy Sheringham and no-one will notice when his pace goes.