Last year, based on numerous polls, votes were cast for the team that forum members wanted to see for the 2012/13 season.This was a team based on a 4-4-2 at the time (due to Harry still being in charge) and included players such as Modric and van der Vaart in it. As it turned out those two left but we got a new central defender (Vertonghen) and a new keeper (Lloris) as was wanted however we missed out on getting a new striker (Damião) and we also failed in our bid to get Moutinho. Regardless of this our incomings of Dempsey, Sigurðsson and Dembélé with AVB as our new manager shifted us to a 4-2-3-1 which we expected to look a little something like this throughout the season:
As the season progressed Bale moved to a role behind the striker with Dempsey and Sigurðsson sharing duties on the left. Our left back position was shared even more with Naughton, Vertonghen and BAE all having a go and with Kaboul getting injured in the first game of the season Caulker, Gallas and the eventually Dawson stepped in to cover. Defoe and Adebayor shared striker duties with Sandro and Parker having half a season each due to their respective injuries and Lloris finally becoming first choice some time in November. Essentially we looked a little something like this:
Kaboul aside we got to see most of the first XI we expected.
Back in May, I again made a number of polls to determine how we saw our squad and how we wanted to improve on it for the 2013/14 season. The results were based on a 4-2-3-1 formation and were as follows:
Subs: Archer (U-21), Caulker (HG), Dawson (HG), Holtby, Sigurðsson (HG), Townsend (HG), New Striker.
Squad: Friedel, Smith (HG), Rose (HG), Naughton (HG), Assou-Ekotto, Carroll (U-21), New Ball Winning/Deep-Lying Midfielder, Dempsey, Adebayor, Kane (U-21).
Sell: Gomes, Gallas, Livermore (HG), Parker (HG), Huddlestone (HG), Falqué, Defoe (HG), Obika (HG).
Now with the transfer window over let’s go over what we got.
Lloris proved last season that he was the keeper we have been crying out for and as a result the votes for first choice keeper were pretty clear. Less clear was who we wanted on the bench as 25% of voters wanted Friedel gone and replaced with someone else. This resulted with young Jordan Archer finding himself as our second choice keeper and Friedel as third choice, a highly unlikely scenario for the season. Gomes, as with the previous year(s), failed to be sold and so remains with us to run down the last year of his contract. At least we now only have 3 senior keepers instead of the 4 we had at the start of last season when Cudicini was still around.
1. Hugo Lloris
2. Brad Friedel
3. Heurelho Gomes
+ Jordan Archer (U-21)
As with last year Kyle Walker remains our first choice right-back, Benoît Assou-Ekotto however no longer remains our first choice left-back with over 40% of voters wanting to see him sold and just under 60% wanting a new first choice left-back. As it turned out he was frozen out of the first team and is now out on loan at QPR. The new fullback we wanted however never materialised and Danny Rose, back after a successful loan spell with Sunderland, gets to be first choice, something less than 20% of voters wanted. This leaves Kyle Naughton as backup fullback once again for both positions as Adam Smith, who was the backup option to Kyle Walker in the voting, is now out on loan at Derby County. We are a quite thin in the fullback department with Vertonghen, Kaboul and perhaps Chiricheș likely to have to provide backup throughout the season. Fryers was not included in the polls but I have added him to the list below as he now seems to be an option.
4. Kyle Walker (HG)
5. Danny Rose (HG)
6. Kyle Naughton (HG)
+ Zeki Fryers (U-21) (not included in polls)
William Gallas was released as expected following the end of his contract however what was surprising was the departure of Steven Caulker to Cardiff City having been expected to provide at least cover from the bench. As 25% of voters wanted us to have a fifth central defender for the season having only three seemed unlikely and the club addressed this with the signing of Vlad Chiricheș as well as defensive midfielder Étienne Capoue who can play in defence as well. With Younes Kaboul now back from injury our central defence has more squad depth than last year and with Jan Vertonghen performing so well in his first season with us it seems unlikely we will need to strengthen in this area for the forseeable future.
7. Jan Vertonghen
8. Younes Kaboul
9. Michael Dawson (HG)
10. Vlad Chiricheș
Defensive/Ball Winning Midfielders/Deep Lying Playmakers
Another area where we have strengthened, having not expected to, with Paulinho and Étienne Capoue coming in to provide more muscle and height in the middle of the park. Most voters were happy with Dembélé, Sandro, Holtby and Carroll as four players for two positions but with Carroll now out on loan at QPR there are five players vying for two spots in a 4-2-3-1 formation, however with AVB utilising a 4-3-3 formation as well all players should see plenty of game time. Huddlestone and Parker had over 55% of voters wanting them sold and so they were, to Hull City and Fulham respectively, and with Livermore also receiving a low number of votes to be kept on he has also been loaned out to Hull City for the season.
11. Mousa Dembélé
12. Sandro Ranieri
14. Lewis Holtby
15. Étienne Capoue
Attacking Midfielders / Wingers
A number of voters wanted at least one more player in one of the 3 positions of a 4-2-3-1. With over 60% of voters preferring Holtby in the more withdrawn role this became more of a requirement even with Andros Townsend back from a successful loan spell with QPR. Gylfi Sigurðsson’s and Holtby’s first seasons at the club meant that although nobody wanted them sold only about 25-30% of voters wanted them in the first team. Dempsey’s season saw just over 55% of voters wanting him to be kept on and he ended up being sold to the Seattle Sounders in the MLS. Falqué received just over 50% of the votes to be sold and has gone out on a season-long loan to Rayo Vallecano in La Liga.
This essentially left us with a strong bench of Holtby, Sigurðsson and Townsend but with only Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon as first choice and with Real Madrid managing to take our best player for the second season running (this time for a world record transfer) we were left with another gap that needed to be filled. Thankfully the club managed to bring in Erik Lamela from Roma, Nacer Chadli from Twente and Christian Eriksen from Ajax, so not only did we cover the loss of Bale we also added two more players when we only expected one allowing us to have two players for each position and again great strength in depth. As both Eriksen and Lamela are under the age of 21 they do not require to be registered as part of the squad of 25.
16. Nacer Chadli
17. Aaron Lennon (HG)
18. Gylfi Sigurðsson (HG)
19. Andros Towsend (HG)
+ Erik Lamela (U-21)
+ Christian Eriksen (U-21)
Having managed to finally make Adebayor’s loan spell permanent last season we still only ended up with two recognised senior strikers, both of whom did not perform well at all. As a result, over 50% of voters wanted Defoe out and over a third wanted Adebayor, Kane and Obika out. A new striker was demanded, if not two, and Roberto Soldado came in for a club record fee. None were sold or loaned out so we have essentially strengthened in this area as well however it is unlikely Adebayor or Defoe will like being third choice (or even second choice) seeing as we now tend to play with only one striker. They will both need to adapt to the team to get some game time and so far it seems like Defoe is AVB’s preferred choice although with Adebayor not getting an expected move away things may change. Dawkins has been included in this list as he will need to be registered in the 25 man squad to play games for us.
20. Roberto Soldado
21. Jermain Defoe (HG)
22. Emmanuel Adebayor
23. Jonathan Obika (HG)
24. Simon Dawkins (HG) (not included in polls)
+ Harry Kane (U-21)
An incredible transfer window. Although we have lost Gareth Bale we have built up our team with a stronger first eleven and most importantly with an excellent squad. The only name in the list of 25 that probably doesn’t belong is Obika (and I suppose Gomes) but when you look at last year’s squad list which included Falqué, Livermore, Bentley, Gallas and Jenas all who barely got any game time, if any at all, you can see how much more strength we have in the squad now. We are also a much more versatile team with only a handful of players unable to play in different positions and we are also a much more powerful team with the additions of Paulinho, Chiricheș, Capoue and Chadli.
We will likely concede less goals this season whilst having more possession and if Lamela and Eriksen can provide the assists we should start scoring more as well. It should be noted that Lamela mostly played on the right for Roma however as he is left-footed and Lennon was voted as first choice at the time I have placed him on the left, as he is probably the most versatile of the 3. Chances are Lennon may lose his place with it being unclear just yet who will be playing on the left.
We are almost the complete package now with perhaps the left-back position needing to be addressed only, whether that’s in terms of first choice or squad depth however remains to be seen. Even the disappointments of losing Gareth Bale and missing out on Willian can not hide how much we have owned the transfer window this summer!