I’ve missed a lot of games live this season due to some ongoing health issues, but somehow have managed, by hook or by crook, to catch the majority of games.
I think not going to the games as often has enabled me to take a step back and think properly about what’s happening at the football club.
I’ve never known a season with so much disruption on and off the pitch in terms of players and staff. With that in mind, I think Daniel Farke has done a pretty remarkable job and I’m looking forward to seeing how that develops.
The way James Maddison has been allowed to flourish has been the real highlight. Having him next season, even on loan, would be an unexpected bonus. It’s not impossible but is improbable. It will really come down to who is interested, if they match the valuation and if he believes he will play regularly, as it seems to me he has a very sensible head on those young shoulders.
I wouldn’t like to see him held back, however, as he’s Premier League quality. I’d just like it to be with us, at least to begin with.
Which brings me nicely on to next season. While I’d love to believe that the remodelling is done and things will be more settled, that’s simply not going to be the case.
This won’t go down well with many of my fellow fans but I’m expecting more of the same next season and am not expecting to hit the playoffs. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aim for them, I just don’t think it’s very likely. Weirdly, I’m OK with that too.
When Stuart Webber came on board he told us it would not be quick to fix, there was no quick solution and that it may take a few seasons. Note, he didn’t say one season, or indeed two, he said a few – so we all know it’s considered a long-term project.
It’s easy to see why too. Clearly, we still have players on the books on big salaries who do not seem to fit for one reason or another. Russell Martin, Yanic Wildschutt, Steven Naismith and Matt Jarvis to name four. We then have Angus Gunn and Harrison Reed heading back to their clubs and unlikely to return.
We also have some players who’s form has been intermittent – Nelson Oliveira, Timm Klose and Josh Murphy for example – and some who haven’t worked out – James Husband, Marcel Franke and Marley Watkins – and some who are likely leaving due to being out of contract and wanting larger wages: Wes Hoolahan and Alex Tettey.
What does that all add up to? Another very busy summer with lots of changes in playing staff. Webber will have to be creative too. Some of those players will not want to give up those contracts. We saw Naismith make a plea for the club to sort out his future.
Well, I have one too Stephen: agree to terminate your contract by mutual consent and move on. I think that’s best for all involved.
Among those there have been some roaring successes, none more so that Christoph Zimmermann. I’ve rarely seen a guy so humbled and honoured to play for us, and it’s great to see. Onel Hernandez looks a great acquisition and I still think Dennis Srneby could be, although I suspect with Farke pinpointing the need for a smart, pacey forward he may be used as backup next season.
In midfield, Tom Trybull has looked excellent and Marco Stiepermann has been a little mixed, but offered some positives there for sure.
Mario Vrancic is an interesting one too. He’s grown into life in the Championship and is a great asset on the ball but not so great off it. Hopefully, he can learn. Moritz Leitner looks the real deal to me; he’s one of those players that makes the game look effortless. I’d love to see him back here next season, but fear that’s unlikely.
We may well see the return of Ben Godfrey from loan, as all reports suggest he’s had a great season and the games I’ve watched he’s looked great. I feel Carlton Morris may head out on loan again, but he may figure. We also have Kenny McLean to come into the mix and I’m hopeful Louis Thompson can finally put his injuries behind him too.
I’m expecting the following to move on in some capacity:
But we could see the following take some of those roles:
That feels like another large shift for the squad and it’s likely that will mean that the redevelopment will continue next season, with results and performances being mixed as a result.
As for the style of play, I’m actually a fan of possession football, but where we’ve fallen down this season is the speed of movement and passing. When it’s slow and laboured it’s easy to defend against. I have seen enough this season to suggest it’s worth persevering with, however, and am looking forward to seeing how things transition further.
I think Farke knows his stuff and have faith he’ll move us forward. The cold hard reality though is without new owners/investment we have little choice but to embed the model we have and give it the time it needs to bed in.
To set expectations, I think that it will be the season after next when I’ll really start to judge the Webber era. It would, however, be nice to see progression next season.
So let’s all get behind the club, the players, the manager and enjoy next season.