Back in May, when Harry was still manager and the season was coming to a close, I made some polls on The Fighting Cock forum, based on a 4-4-2 formation as to who we wanted to keep and who we wanted to sell.
After the votes were counted, our desired first XI looked a little something like this...
Squad: Button, Naughton, Dawson, Gallas, King, New Winger, Livermore, New Central Midfielder, Falque
*U-21 so do not count towards 25-man squad
We had essentially decided that the following should go:
Gomes, Cudicini, Alnwick, Corluka, Nelsen, Bassong, Bentley, Jenas, Kranjcar, Pienaar, Dos Santos, Saha, Adebayor and Defoe
Now in September, with the transfer window over, let’s analyse our wish list and 25-man squad list.
We got our wish for a new keeper in Hugo Lloris albeit on the final day of the window. Ben Alnwick went but surprisingly David Button who we wanted to be third choice was sold to Charlton with Heurelho Gomes and Carlo Cudicini still around, leaving us essentially with four first team keepers. Brad Friedel has already said he is happy to be second choice and likely to be so, which leaves Cudicini or Gomes fighting for 3rd choice. I suspect Gomes will leave in the loan window or Cudicini released from his contract (which Spurs have still not announced the extension of).
1. Hugo Lloris
2. Brad Friedel
3. Heurelho Gomes
4. Carlo Cudicini
Kyle Walker and Benoit Assou-Ekotto remain our first choice full-backs as expected. With Danny Rose out on loan to Sunderland for the season it means Kyle Naughton makes the subs bench in his place, allowing for a squad place to free up for another position. Naughton is expected to cover both right-back (his preferred position) and left-back with young Adam Smith available to cover the right-back position as well if required without taking a squad place. Vedran Corluka as we wanted, was sold to Lokomotiv Moscow.
5. Kyle Walker
6. Benoit Assou-Ekotto
7. Kyle Naughton
+ Adam Smith
Ryan Nelsen (QPR) and Sebastien Bassong (Norwich) were released/sold as expected, however Ledley King has also sadly retired. Having voted to have 6 central defenders around it was a surprise then that AVB was willing to let Michael Dawson also leave the club but it seems since first choice Younes Kaboul is now injured until January that perhaps it would be wise to keep 5 central defenders around as a minimum. With Steven Caulker returning from his loan (and not taking up a squad place) and William Gallas sticking around in his last year for much needed squad backup the only thing we wanted was a new first choice central defender, which we duly got early in the window in Jan Vertonghen who can also cover the left-back position.
8. Jan Vertonghen
9. Younes Kaboul
10. William Gallas
11. Michael Dawson
+ Steven Caulker
Defensive/Central Midfielders/Deep Lying Playmakers
With our formation essentially now being 4-2-3-1 one could argue that not much has changed in what we want in the middle of the park. With Luka Modric finally leaving us that left a position in the first team that we required to fill. Debates will carry on but seeing as Mousa Dembele essentially played the deep lying playmaker role for Fulham in my view we are replacing that first team position with him.
A lot has been said about getting Joao Moutinho in, and hopefully it will happen in the future, however our midfield options are many, including Tom Huddlestone who surprisingly was to be loaned to Stoke City only for that to seemingly fall through. One would think he would cover well for Dembele but judging by the first 2 games of the season it seems that Jake Livermore and Jermaine Jenas (who we were unable to sell once again following a collapsed transfer to Sunderland) are ahead of Thudd.
Our defensive midfielders remain the same with Sandro likely to get more game time than Scott Parker this season. Our seventh midfielder is young Tom Carroll who will likely need to be loaned out once more once the Championship loan window re-opens in a week’s time.
12. Mousa Dembele
13. Tom Huddlestone
14. Sandro Ranieri
15. Scott Parker
16. Jake Livermore
17. Jermaine Jenas
+ Tom Carroll
With the move to 4-2-3-1, essentially one of our forward positions becomes the attacking midfielder position. Two of the forwards we wanted to keep fall nicely into this position, one unfortunately was Rafael van der Vaart who has returned to Germany seemingly for family reasons. The other was young Yago Falque who will require a squad number but has not featured heavily under AVB. Another player who would have fit in this position is Giovani Dos Santos but with his contract expiring next year, and him likely not to want to sign a new one, the club wisely decided to cash in on him just as we had wanted and sold him to Mallorca. Coming into the first team is likely to be Gylfi Sigurdsson but with no backup player for this position (and we did want to bring in one more central midfielder) I expect players in the wing/attacking positions to drop into this position. Moutinho would have been perfect!
18. Gylfi Sigurdsson
19. Yago Falque
Whereas in a 4-4-2 we had players like Steven Pienaar who has re-joined Everton and Niko Kranjcar who has left for Dynamo Kyiv filling in as wide midfielders we now are likely to play the 4-2-3-1 formation with proper wingers. Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon fit in perfectly for this formation with young Andros Townsend, who doesn’t need a squad number, and newly signed Clint Dempsey competing for a place in the first eleven in their favoured wing positions. Dempsey could also cover for Sigurdsson as well as up front and I for one am glad he was brought in. Incredibly David Bentley is still kicking around but is unlikely to feature in an AVB team.
20. Gareth Bale
21. Aaron Lennon
22. Clint Dempsey
23. David Bentley
+ Andros Townsend
When we were playing 4-4-2 we wanted to bring in two new first choice forwards to replace a departing Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor. As it turned out we were happy to bring in only one forward as we changed to a 4-2-3-1 and even one which not everyone wanted to keep on in Adebayor. With Defoe also signing a new contract it seems Fernando Llorente and Leandro Damiao were no longer options however it remains to be seen whether things change in January. Louis Saha was released, subsequently joining Sunderland and Harry Kane was loaned out to Norwich meaning Clint Dempsey will likely cover in attack should it be required. The worry here is that if Adebayor gets injured can Dempsey or Defoe lead the line? We shall see. Jonathan Obika will also require a squad number but is unlikely to get one.
24. Emmanuel Adebayor
25. Jermain Defoe
26. Jonathan Obika
I genuinely believe we are a Moutinho and a Llorente away from having a complete squad now and that we got most of what we asked for, in which case well done Daniel Levy!
Subs: Friedel, Naughton, Caulker*, Dempsey, Huddlestone, Parker, Defoe
Squad: Cudicini, Gomes, Smith*, Dawson, Gallas, Livermore, Carroll*, Jenas, Bentley, Townsend*, Falque
*U-21 so do not count towards 25-man squad