Over the next three days, Andy will be looking ahead to next season and the possible shape of the squad. Part one (of three) looks at the goalkeeping and defensive options.
As our season of discovery draws to a close it’s time to look forward and have a guess as to what the squad of 2018-19 will look like.
Despite being very good (and very patient) boys and girls this year, I’m afraid Santa won’t be delivering you that Gunn you’ve been hankering after. Pep will no doubt be looking to loan him out again, but the next stage for Angus will be to play in a top-level league, so expect him to be having a year at a Huddersfield or a Real Subbuteo-type outfit on the continent.
Michael McGovern will no doubt still be here, with a year of his expensive contract to go, nobody will be silly enough to take that on so at Colney he’ll remain. Remi Matthews, confidence bolstered by a year starring for Plymouth, is the heir apparent in many eyes, but what about Farke and Webber’s?
My guess is that whilst there’s probably a bloke currently patrolling the penalty area of a Bavarian backwater named Hans Likedustbinlids that DF would love to add to his gruppen, SW will put his Brexit boot down and stick with Matthews, McGovern and Oxborough to maintain the “home-grown” percentages.
Right Back / Wing Back
Ivo’s season started so positively with his elevation to captain but persistent minor injuries have seen him struggle to make an impact or produce any level of consistency. Farke clearly rates him and he’s obviously a good character on and off the pitch. Whether Webber is as enamoured when he examines the salary list is another matter.
Unless a really good, unexpected offer comes in I’d be surprised to see Ivo depart. He’s the only RB we have and to have to replace him and bring in a second player to compete would take money we can ill afford, even if it comes at the cost of maintaining his contract. Look for Ivo to start next season with a budget addition as back up.
Left Back / Wing Back
Jamal Lewis has been the find of the season for City, and ticks every box for both Farke and Webber being capable, young, cheap, British and homegrown. Husband will again be Plan B for when “the load” rears its ugly head. I would expect a refreshed Stiepermann to be an option in various different positions next year, including LB, so we’re more than covered in this area.
From being our biggest weakness a year ago the centre of our defence now looks the best it has for many a year.
Zimmermann is the only one I’m 100 percent confident will be here next season, however.
Like Pinto, Klose is still sporting a Premier League pay packet, so offers may well be entertained. However, the popular Swiss eccentric clearly enjoys Norfolk life and you don’t get the sense that he’s in any hurry to leave. His wages may also prove unattractive to potential suitors too.
The future of Grant Hanley is likely to be decided by what SW and DF had in mind when they acquired him. If he was a long-term investment as the stalwart leader and potential future captain to take over from Russell Martin then his wages will have been factored into the ongoing budget. If however he was a last flourish of the parachute payment chequebook, and a desperate bid to take one last swing at being “all-in” for this season, he’ll be moved on as the loss of those payments strikes hard at the balance sheet.
Sean Raggett appears to be in limbo. DF brought him to Norfolk for the second half of the season to play fourth wheel to three very good centre-backs all in top form, which I didn’t quite understand at the time and I’m even less convinced of now that the former Lincoln stopper has done little more than pop up on the bench occasionally.
Does DF rate him? Or did SW just see a promising young player with a reasonably low release clause in his contract that with a bit of luck he may be able to “flip” like a semi-detached in Chepstow for a profit?
Whilst DF will clearly take a look at Marcel Franke in pre-season the speed of his repatriation to German football last year suggests that the British game came as a shock to the system for both parties. Vrancic is the perfect example of how time and commitment can overcome the cultural and technical divide. Will Franke be able to get the minutes on the pitch behind the established three CBs to develop though? My guess is he’ll go back to Germany with a pragmatic cutting of losses on both sides. But I’d be more than happy to be wrong.
Russell Martin is the X-factor in all of this. The skipper undoubtedly has one of the highest wages at the club, and while Webber will be dying to get it off the books, finding a taker may prove tricky given the high cost of the contract and Martin’s age.
My feeling is that Klose, Zimmermann and Hanley will remain to continue their good work for another year. Martin won’t find a permanent new home but we will once again find a club willing to cover at least part of his wages for the season. Whether it’s the notoriously financially-perilous Rangers is a different kettle of fish altogether. I think Raggett will be loaned out to a League One club on a season-long loan, to be replaced by the much-linked Toni Leistner whose contract is up in Germany.
Tomorrow… the midfield.