After months of speculation, the defensive midfielder that was supposedly the answer to our problems turned out to be an attacking midfielder. That’s not to say that the acquisition of Pablo Fornals isn’t exciting, but it still doesn’t change the fact we are inundated with midfielders who can play in the middle of the park.
In addition to Fornals, Manuel Pellegrini’s main quintet seems to be Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Manuel Lanzini and Jack Wilshere, with Pedro Obiang, Carlos Sanchez, Robert Snodgrass and returning loanee Josh Cullen providing ample cover in the position.
Unfortunately, quantity doesn’t necessarily mean quality, and this transfer window is an excellent opportunity to trim down the squad while improving the overall balance. Though a lack of funds may be an obstacle, some shrewd scouting and negotiations from Mario Husillos may see us succeed.
Though rumours have been a little quiet of late, Obiang is still expected to return to Italy. To his credit, he has knuckled down and remained quiet, but aside from a few good games at the beginning of the season, he failed to establish himself when a central-midfielder spot was up for grabs.
The same goes for Colombian international Sanchez, who looked shaky in the few games he managed when not sidelined with a knee injury. With a rumoured weekly wage of £70,000, he is someone we should be eager to get off the books, even if it means taking a hit on the small transfer fee we would likely receive.
For Cullen, his focus remains on working a way into the first-team squad, but at 23-years-old, it seems a little too late. Though he has earned rave reviews after stints in League One with Bradford and Charlton, the jump to the top division is huge, and his position in the squad can surely be filled by Conor Coventry. After Cullen’s recent call up to the Republic of Ireland squad, we could obtain a slightly higher fee, with the Championship looking like his natural level.
That leaves Snodgrass, a man who has resuscitated his West Ham career after a solid season. Though he never quite maintained the levels he reached in December, his set-piece expertise, high work-rate and versatility, in which he can play both centrally and out-wide, means he is a bigger asset than the aforementioned trio.
Naturally, acquiring a backup midfielder of good quality with limited resources is easier said than done, but the funds (likely £10m) that selling Obiang, Sanchez and Cullen would cover most of the costs, while lowering the wage bill and freeing up valuable squad space.
Currently, the priority is a striker, but don’t be surprised if we return to addressing the middle of the park.
By George Lewis (@georgelewiss97)
[Featured image from whufc.com]