Today, Andy looks at the midfield options…
I’ve never been an Alex Tettey fan. His muscular performances have always been undermined for me by a level of comfort in possession akin to a drug mule passing through customs in a Thai airport.
However, this season, in a congested slow-moving midfield where nobody has to pass more than ten yards at any one time, Tettey has had his best season for Norwich by quite some margin. And when he’s been missing the difference has been palpable. The four-goal tonkings at Millwall and QPR both occurred when little Harrison Reed was left alone in a 4-1-4-1 formation to try and play Big Al’s role of midfield enforcer-come-bouncer.
Even Trybull has struggled to cover when on his own in that formation. Ben Godfrey, currently pulling up trees for Shrewsbury in the same role is the consensus replacement for Tettey next year but talks are apparently ongoing about extending Tettey’s contract for another year or two. How keen the spaghetti-kneed 32-year-old is to test his value on the open market and uproot his home of several years for a new start just as his career is winding down is the question.
SW has, no doubt, done the maths as to how much we should be offering to keep him on. Despite the good season and all his outstanding personal qualities, the club hold all the cards here. They’re not going to pay anything like what he’s earning in his current contract (and neither will any other club). And they have Godfrey ready to go.
It’s now down to whether there’s a sweet spot in the negotiation where it’s still worth Tettey’s while in playing for reduced money. I think this one could get messy. Gut feeling is that he’ll stay another year but play only when “the load” on Godfrey gets too much.
Vrancic has come on leaps and bounds and will be heavily involved next year.
Moritz Leitner has shown enough already to suggest that when he’s on form he can run games in this league. Whether SW can manage to find a way for the finances to add up to make his loan move permanent is the million dollar question. I like to think that if it were totally impossible we wouldn’t have bothered with the loan in the first place.
Harrison Reed is another loanee that many people are hoping we find a way to bring in permanently. Whilst my heart agrees my head does not. He’s been excellent for us, fully committed, works his socks off, does whatever you ask of him. Lovely lad.
But when I consider the options in defensive midfield I see Tettey and Godfrey, both of whom are big lads who would shield the defence. I see Leitner and Vrancic, passers who can take the ball off the defence and start attacks, setting the tempo and quarter-backing the game. And Trybull does the fetching and carrying. Where does Reed fit in?
A terrier that gets up and down and is neat and tidy, but he’s not a huge defensive presence, illustrated by the fact that we leak goals when he’s the furthest man back in midfield. And he doesn’t offer a huge amount in the final third either. I have nothing against having someone with Reed’s skill set in the squad, but if, as seems likely, he’d be used only as a rotational starter to let the others have a rest, the figures don’t add up with the likely costs of trying to sign him.
With a new multi-year contract at Southampton signed only last summer he’s undoubtedly on a decent wedge and the transfer fee for a young, British player of his calibre would presumably be high too. I don’t know if we can afford that for a rotational midfield player that isn’t a major force at either end of the pitch.
I believe next season’s defensive midfield options will be Tettey, Godfrey, Vrancic, Leitner, and Trybull. Add in the potential for Louis Thompson to return from injury, Adam Phillips (who hasn’t exactly pulled up any trees on loan at Cambridge by all accounts) and Stiepermann as an option if we need him, and I think we’ll be fine.
Stuart Webber will have to perform a delicate balancing act over the summer to play the perfect hand regarding James Maddison.
When you have one of the hottest young playmakers in British football attracting national attention it’s obvious that bids will come in. We want this to happen as quickly as possible after the season ends to maximise our window of opportunity to reinvest that fee wisely in the squad in time for August.
Equally, Premier League clubs tend to want to wait to do their business, particularly in a World Cup year, when they need to know which of their international players may come home with a long-term injury from their Russian exploits.
Webber’s best bet may be to set a time-limit for bids after which it’s a guaranteed no and he stays until January. Luckily Maddison appears to be every bit as sensible off the field as he is dynamic on it, and appears to be in no mood to depart just for the sake of it.
My gut says he’ll depart with our best wishes and a mahoosive cheque to the Colney coffers sometime between the end of the World Cup and the start of the season.
Departing with him will surely be Wes. Gutted as we all are to say goodbye, if Farke had any intention of giving him another contract he would have used him more this season.
The holes they leave in the “number ten” role will surely be filled by Kenny McLean, currently free-scoring for Aberdeen and Todd Cantwell, the boy who is currently becoming a man and earning rave reviews as he helps Fortuna Sittard to promotion in Holland. Vrancic will, of course, be another option.
In the wide areas, while Josh Murphy earned a little paper talk about potential interest from Premier League strugglers of various ilk, I can’t see any of them giving us a similar amount to that which we received for his brother, after such an up and down season for Josh.
While he has his bad points, he is one of only two players we have that are blessed with genuine pace to frighten defences, and will surely be key to Farke’s plans. From a purely commercial point-of-view, he’s also likely to have a better season next year based on how he’s finishing this one, at which point he’ll add value to any transfer fee.
The other speedster is Onel Hernandez. Only just arrived and surely key to the Farke plan.
Matt Jarvis has another year of his contract to go. He won’t find better money anywhere else in a million years, and nobody would touch him with a bargepole given the combination of high wages and a prodigious injury record, so he’ll be around. Fortunately for him, Farke seems to see him as a good fit in his system so he has a chance.
Marley Watkins, he of the no-fixed-position is still knocking about doing whatever it is he does. I still have no idea why we turned down a bid from Bristol City for him in January. I understand that when Webber took over he had to identify free-agent targets to bring in prior to appointing Daniel Farke.
On paper, a Championship quality forward (with that all-important British passport) made sense. But Watkins clearly doesn’t have a natural fit in Farke’s system and a million pound profit in less than six months on a player that hasn’t worked out seemed like a gift horse in the circumstances. It would be interesting to see what would happen if another bid came in around August time.
Our defeat to Cardiff, annoying as it was to see Colin get closer to promotion, may prove to be a blessing in disguise, as it could trigger the departure of Yanic Wildschut on a permanent transfer, taking another high-earner off the books and bringing in valuable transfer funds. Fingers crossed we see that miserable old Mrs Doubtfire impersonator crack a smile in May then.
For all the hot air in the press that Naismith blows about wanting a permanent move, he won’t willing kill the contract goose that lays a golden egg in his bank account each month, and nobody else will take it on. He’ll be back unless SW can find another club to take him on loan to give us a few pennies from the pound of his bloated salary.
Stiepermann again is another option in this area, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we added one more wide man to the mix.
Tomorrow… the strikers…