In the final part of his trilogy, Andy looks at the striking department…
Denis Srbeny is improving all the time and is clearly part of the Farke plan for next season.
Nelson Oliviera. Oh Nelson. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but given a chance to go back in time we’d surely bite off the hands of Reading or Swansea to get big money for our Portuguese diva. On a good day he’s a brilliant finisher and menace to defences. On a bad day he struts around like a puffed-up Poundland Cantona, assuming every shot he hits from near the halfway line will fly in because he commands it.
He’s had plenty of chances to prove his worth this season but the fact that a novice from the German third division currently makes us look a better team than the bloke who plays up front with Ronaldo at international level is telling. Oliviera clearly doesn’t fit the system and will not be part of the plans going forward.
To have an ego like that in the building when it’s not being regularly stroked and coddled is like a ticking time bomb, so I fully expect Oliviera to be off to pastures new in the summer. Perhaps his agent will facilitate a move to Wolves.
Carlton Morris’s contract is up I believe and it will be a mark of where we are as a club as to what we do about that. Despite playing up front for a top three team in League One, he’s managed a fairly uninspiring 6 goals from 38 games.
While stats don’t always tell the whole story, you have to question whether, despite all the early promise shown at youth level, he’s good enough to add something at Championship level. Personally, sentimental old fool that I am, I’d give him a year and see if he can finally pull his weight in the first team. My guess is that SW will feel far less of an attachment and wish him Bon Voyage.
We’ve then got Tristan Abrahams, Pierre Xavier Fonkou and Mason Bloomfield in the development squad. Although Cantwell has managed a sub appearance in the cup against Chelsea and appeared to make a breakthrough, there’s still little evidence that our Under-23s are producing first-team ready players.
We tend to bring promising youngsters in and then they never quite develop enough for one of our managers to trust them near the first team. The fact that Farke opted for Harrison Reed on the bench with a fever to make up the numbers at an away game when we could have brought along an Abrahams for the experience is testament to how little we’re valuing the development, which is disappointing.
Clearly, we need more options up front. That we need a striker with pace and movement is so obvious that even the ref from the Cardiff game would be able to see it. They don’t tend to come cheap though so SW needs to pull a rabbit out of a hat here. The best striker in the Westphalian Oompah Band reserves league is unlikely to cut it here.
In terms of fitting the formation, we’ve seen with Srbeny that having a striker that stays central and can hold the ball up is much more useful to us than a roving link player like Oliviera or a hard-working channel-runner like Jerome, so I’d also hope we get another forward to match that description.
So… that would leave us with a squad next season of:
Matthews, McGovern, Oxborough.
Pinto, New RB.
Klose, Hanley, Zimmermann, Leistner, (Martin and Raggett loaned out)
Tettey, Godfrey, Leitner, Vrancic, Trybull, Thompson, Phillips.
McLean, Cantwell, Murphy, Hernandez, Jarvis, Watkins, Naismith, Stiepermann, New Winger.
Srbeny, New striker, New striker, Abrahams, Fonkou, Bloomfield.
The money from Maddison, Oliviera and hopefully Wildschut will easily cover getting new players in but equally important to squad building will be how, with no parachute payments, we continue to fund the contracts of Messrs Naismith, Jarvis, McGovern, Martin, Pinto and Klose.
The latter two are at least contributing to the first team but if SW can find ways to shift the burden of the first four it will make bringing in players so much easier. One year and counting until those contracts expire.