The coming together
We have come together as a team in the last couple of weeks, no doubt. We look more like a unit, working towards the same goals, and it is helping. We play more dynamic football, show more ability to be precise in passing, and players that people had given up on are starting to prove their worth again. Young, Welbeck and Cleverley have been very promising in the past couple of games, and Smalling has impressed me a lot – playing RB or CB, he delivers. Evans is the teams’ leader together with Evra and Rooney, and our young players seem to improve from game to game. And most importantly, we have started to win games.
We have been quite unlucky with injuries so far. Van Persie has been out a bit, Fellaini has pretty much not had time to settle in between knocks and the red card, Rafael started the season with an injury, Kagawa has been unlucky with illness and long travels for games. And we looked extremely poor at the start of all this. Now we are looking better. Granted, the opposition is now Aston Villa, West-Ham, Stoke and Shakhtar Donetsk, we’ve still been looking better for every game.
Our squad has what probably is the most experience per player – in the whole league, and that is not because we are loaded with oldies. We have young players starting their 3rd season for the club. We know how to do this, and will when some of our old players retire too. The question is whether the lack of depth in some positions is going to cost us a good placement in the league / be the decider if we win a cup or not.
A crazy, crazy market
With imaginary oilpipes stretching from Russia and the Middle-East to some of the clubs in the country that weren’t big challengers for anything before, the Premier League is all shaken up. Some say it is good for the general quality of the league, and some argue it to be a “cheating way” to win. The clubs owners act like the rich parents of a kid that they never have time for, in a way. It is not a perfect anology, but the point is, they buy and buy and buy and buy and buy. No second thoughts, no evaluation (it seems). Just buy these 5 strikers this summer, and we’ll be good for the season. Similar to how rich kids in my area were treated by rich parents. They just pumped money into the kid to compensate for never being around.
Where am I going with this? The transfer market is completely fucked. Just a few years ago, signings at 15 mill were crazy high! Massive expectations. Now you rarely see big clubs spending less than 20-25 for a good player. This happens in two ways. First, the oil clubs tend to jump in whenever a team like United or Arsenal initiate talks with a player. “We’ll double your wages!”. Hello, Arjen Robben, Essien and many others. It also works in the favor of sellings clubs around. You can fake the interest of a big club to increase the price of your players. Another common tactic seems to be to point at other transfers and say “Look, if player X was worth 30 mill, our player is certainly worth at least the same!”. It’s created a crazy market, and we have in many ways refused to be part of it unless we needed to.
We are looking good at times. The young core at the club, including De Gea, Rafael, Evans and Smalling at CB, Jones, Januzaj, Welbeck and Cleverley. And to add to that, Powell, Lingard, Henriquez and Vermilj are rocking it out on loan. We almost have what we need to just rebuild a new top team when our veterans retire. And our academy seems to be producing gold at will at the moment.
This does not solve our short term problems. We often get exposed on the left side in defense. Be that with Evra too far up the pitch, or being out of position when we are defending. It happens a lot. The left back issue isn’t as pressing as one would think, but it is growing in importance with every month Patrice adds to his age tally.
Our main problems, which many argue that Ferguson managed to work around, have been depth in midfield. And it is a quite obvious problem too. Whenever we’ve gotten an injured midfielder, we’ve had to fill in with old wingers, young defenders or even a right back at CM. It is not ideal, and it is a miracle that we’ve managed to keep for example Carrick without injuries for so long. Now that he’s out, our team fell apart for the first few games. Maybe we needed that? I’d argue that both Jones and Cleverley have stepped up big-time. But is that enough? What if one of them get injured? Is Fletcher healthy enough to fill in for 2 months? I would not bet on it. It is risky.
Now, we took the first step towards building new and adding to depth. Fellaini. As mentioned above, he has been injured quite a bit, and despite of that – was our best player against Real Sociedad and Everton. He did his job. What he doesn’t do is to create. And he’s never been a creator. I don’t know why people bash him for not doing it. It’s not what he was bought for. We wanted more than one new midfielder in the summer, and we most likely will go for it in January or in the summer window. A creative player.
Can we afford to be frugal?
Can we afford to play it cool and wait out for the good deals? Maybe. That depends. In January though, probably not. If the manager and the fans want a star player, we will have to pay up. I refer to the “crazy market” section. We could probably manage to place all right with Giggs playing as much as he has done, with Jones playing amazing at CDM, and if Fletcher really is back for good this time. With Cleverley stepping up, with Rooney dropping down. We can manage. But if we want to kill the risk that has been evident for years, we’ll have to buy. One or two good players. Anderson does not even count for me anymore. He does not take his chances, and when he does, he always gets injured. It is hard to put faith in a player like that to deliver when we need it the most.
Now this is a paraphrased quote from reddit user Calimariae, that I’ve had regular discussions with. “This is not the time for frugality. We either pay up or put ourselves in the position where we could fall off completely”. And whether it is right or wrong is hard to tell, but it makes an important point. This is kind of like reaching the end of a road, leaving you with two options. Make a left, or make a right. The left looks similar to what you’ve got, which in my mind is illustrates the continuous faith in our youngsters to play us into a top 4 position and a cup win. The right is reinforcing, giving more depth and more quality to the midfield in particular.
As for specific names
Some of them have been mentioned on the blog before. Ivan Rakitic, Miralem Pjanic, Granit Xhaka, Sebastian Rode. Do we want class players like this? Rakitic and Pjanic are proven players. In this market, 20+ million pounds – maybe more if their clubs are doing well, which they are. Xhaka one could strike a good deal for. He is young, very good, but hasn’t been mentioned by other clubs as far as I know. Rode has 6 months left on his contract, and Bayern are interested. Can we afford to play hard ball? Do we even have the best hand of cards in this market? No, we don’t. If we want someone, we will have to pay up. But there is an easy way to justify this. What is more expensive? Not making top 4 or paying 5-10 million pounds extra for a player? If you can allow yourself to emphasize like that. If a new player is what makes us really tick, it would be worth it for me. And for the club. We’re past the point of frugality, at least for now, and especially if we want to take major action in January.