Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Have we made the right signings?

The summer started with the pleasant surprise that we'd signed Gareth Bale. After we'd missed out on him in January I was resigned to the fact that he'd be heading north to join ManUre, especially after they wrapped up the title. But it's a strong testament to the Jol revolution that he's chosen to ply his trade for Spurs. He's a youngster with bags of potential, a free-kick specialist and the answer to one of our 'problem positions' of recent years. I think the acquisition of Bale will lead to the exit of Young-Pyo Lee which is a shame as I think Lee is a more capable and versatile defender than Benoit Assou-Ekotto. Still, the signing of Bale is a definitely a good thing.

What was far less surprising was the signing of Darren Bent - an Englishman who also boasts a lot of potential and who will provide real strength-in-depth up front. He'd been rumoured to be heading our way since late last season, so the only surprise was the price. Contrary to the initial rumours, it now looks like Defoe will stay and fight for his place (despite yesterday's rumours in the Daily Star). Although with just a couple of years remaining on his present deal I can't help but think Defoe will leave for a modest fee in the not too distant future. I guess the first few weeks of the season will be particularly interesting as none of us yet know BMJ's preferred pairings - my guess is Berbatov will start more often than not, with Keane and Bent rotating regularly. The verdict on Bent though: a decent player who we've probably overpaid for (although time will tell).

The signing of Younes Kaboul suggests that not only are Gardner's days numbered, but Jol wasn't very impressed with Rocha last season. I'm a little bemused as to why the Curtis Davies rumours are continuing, unless BMJ is also planning on dumping Rocha. I don't know much about Kaboul, but at 21 he's the right age to play understudy to Ledders and Daws, and he seemed pretty sought after so I'm glad we concluded the deal.

In midfield it's obviously pleasing to see we've turned Taarabt's loan deal into a permanent move. He looked great in the few minutes he played last season (especially against the Spammers) and I gather he did a decent job on the left against Stevenage last Saturday. The next Zidane? I'm not sure about that yet but I do hope we'll see a lot more of him this season.

So far the only departure has been Ziegler who, despite being a much needed left midfielder, just didn't figure in Jol's plans. And before the transfer window closes I'd expect we'll see Mido and Routledge and maybe even Murphy exiting (along with Lee and Gardner). Personally I'd also wish Ghaly bon voyage, but alas, Jol rates him much more than I do (although today's Mirror is suggesting he might be heading to Birmingham… fingers crossed).

It obviously goes without saying that we need to hold onto Chimbonda. No club who are seriously pushing for Champions League qualification should even contemplate selling one of their best players. And to Chelski of all clubs! I know Carrick went last year but I hope, prey and beg that we'll show more ambition in future. Pascal is key and if we were to be bribed by Russian money all the other hard work this summer will be undone.

So all in all does our wheeling and dealing represent a decent summer of transfer activity? Yes definitely. Does it represent the right activity for us to improve on last season? Probably not. The fact remains that yet another transfer window has (almost) passed us by without the Club bringing in a proven left midfielder. If we're to break into the top four we need two quality players for every position.

When it comes to left midfield we just don't have that. We either play Lennon out of position (what a waste), Malbranque out of position (believe me I can't face shouting "Steed come wide" every couple of minutes for another season), one of the central midfielders out of position, or give Adel Taarabt a go (but I think he needs blooding slowly before he becomes a regular). In my mind we need Levy to delve into his pocket just once more. I'm not sure who he needs to sign - it seems like we've been linked with every left-sided player in Europe over the last two years - but as long as they're under 30 and left footed, I'll happily leave the rest up to Jol and his scouts!

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