Saturday, May 17, 2008

HEC 2007-08 End Of Season - Squad review

In his post match interview on Sunday, Roy mentioned that the following ten days (after which he's off to the Champions League final in a UEFA capacity) were going to be very busy as the club had not made any decisions about changes to the squad before they knew their fate. Knowing Roy I'm sure he got straight to work on Monday morning but I'm only just getting to a point where I can even begin to consider what players we might let go and what positions we need replacements for. I had a quick scan through our current squad and was shocked by the potential size of the task facing our management team. There are so many players in our squad who are likely to be released or keen to move on that it seems inevitable we will see another influx of fresh faces.

Antti Niemi (2009)
Ricardo Batista (2009)
Kasey Keller (2008)
Tony Warner (2008)
Straight off the bat and we've clearly got some problems between the sticks. Keller has impressed over the last few weeks and I wouldn't be surprised to see him gain a one year extension. Niemi is a mystery. It wasn't clear if he'd picked up an injury or fallen out of favour (or maybe both) but it does seem that Roy prefers Keller. Warner, whilst clearly possessing the talent, possibly lacks focus and with his contract at an end may just be released. Batista seems unlikely to make the grade. I suspect only one of Keller or Niemi will remain and either way we may be looking to sign at least one new 'keeper.

Left Backs
Paul Konchesky (2011)
Tony Kallio (2008)
Carlos Bocanegra (2008)
Nathan Ashton (?)
Konch has been reliable all season, at times he has a tendency to get caught for pace but I don't think we could do much better than him right now. Tony Kallio obviously came in on a short term contract and has so far only featured for the reserves. Bocanegra's contract is also up and It's been reported elsewhere that Carlos is likely to leave. I hope retaining our Premier League status might change this. Carlos has been a very useful player to have, and would still be useful cover for both left back and centre back positions. This may be the crux of the problem. Carlos properly feels he needs to be playing first team football and who would blame him. This could mean we'll need capable cover for this position, Nathan Ashton might be up to the task (he did well in his one chance so far) though I think Roy would be looking for someone more experienced.

Right Backs
Paul Stalteri (Loan)
Chris Baird (2011)
Mortiz Volz (2009)
Elliott Omozusi (?)
Stalteri has really impressed since his arrival from Spurs in January. I'd be very happy if we were able to turn his loan into a permanent deal. Volz seems likely to move on in search of first team football. He's been a star on and off the pitch since he joined and will be sorely missed but, like Carlos, I can't see him breaking into the first team and can't blame him for wanting to play. Baird will surely also depart, he's suffered more than anyone from the "Sanchez factor" and having been overlooked by Roy so far must surely be looking for a fresh start. Omozusi is good enough for first choice cover and will hopefully continue to press for a first team slot.

Centre Backs
Brede Hangeland (2011)
Aaron Hughes (2010)
Dejan Stefanovic (2009)
Philippe Christanval (2008)
Ian Pearce (2008)
I expect to see both Pearce and Christanval released, and based on his lack of opportunity and based on his ill timed comments before Sunday, I reckon Stefanovic may join them. That leaves us with just Hughes and Hangeland and the possibility that we'd need to find at least two replacements.

Simon Davies (2011)
Leon Andreasen (2011)
Hameur Bouazza (2011)
Lee Cook (2011)
Jimmy Bullard (2010)
Clint Dempsey (2010)
Seol Ki-Hyeon (2010)
Alexey Smertin (2009)
Danny Murphy (2008)
Simon Elliott (2008)
Wayne Brown (?)
Davies, Andreasen, Bullard and Dempsey at least give us a good foundation and I'm sure Danny Murphy has done enough to earn himself a new contract (to go with his newly acquired cult-hero status). Who knows about Lee Cook, I'd like to at least have the chance of seeing him play in a Fulham shirt, but I've no idea how Roy's going to make an assessment. I liked Bouazza when he was playing but like Baird he's not been given many chances under Roy. Seol was a big disappointment but has a lengthy contract and may be a useful squad member. The rumours are that Smertin will depart and the unfortunate Simon Elliott will surely be released. Until we've had a clear out though, it's difficult to pick out where we will need new personnel.

David Healy (2011)
Diomansy Kamara (2011)
Eddie Johnson (2011)
Eric Nevland (2010)
Brian McBride (2008)
Jari Litmanen (2008)
The big question here is will McBride retire or will he give us one last year. Either way I think we need to find a suitable replacement. Litmanen will probably move on having offered little in his short spell at the club. Before Portsmouth Kamara had also hinted he may be moving on in the summer, it will be interesting to see if staying up changes his mind. I expect Nevland, Healy and Johnson to stay so the key may be finding a striker that can compliment their varying styles.

To summarise, I think at the minimum we'll see a new 'keeper, a centre back, hopefully Stalteri in at right back, a left midfielder and a big man up front. Possibly a couple of squad additions and around ten senior players leaving. If we've learnt anything from this season it's that massive upheaval in playing personnel is unlikely to yield good results. I suspect Roy will be more subtle in his transfer dealings. I think he'll build on the core of players that saw us stay up and we'll see a more balanced and streamlined squad come August.

Right, I'm off to see a bunch of 8 year olds drive Tanks and Quad Bikes round a field in Dorking (my eldest's early Birthday party). If all goes to plan we'll be back in time to watch the Cup Final. Have a marvellous weekend - whatever the weather.


Anonymous said...

You do know we signed David Stockdale from Darlington, right? That's our one GK acquisition. I hope they sell Niemi (he was utter shite), sell Batista or send him on loan, and hang on to Warner and a 2nd/3rd option.

Chopper said...

I did. Figure he won't be ready to take over No. 1 duties for a while though, so still think we need to sort out an interim first choice 'keeper. Would be ideal if Keller or Niemi stayed as back up but agree Warner could be a sensible option too.

Anonymous said...

Keller still has plenty left in the tank, methinks. I'm actually really pleasantly surprised with how well he did this season (Sunderland performance excluded).

Warner could be good, but it's unfortunate that his first few tests had a couple of embarrassing mistakes. I'm sure it's not representative of him as a keeper, but he needs to be better than that if he's to be trusted as starting option.

I don't think Niemi has the will to be as agile as a good keeper needs to be. He got, as they say in baseball, "caught looking" too many times. He wasn't fond of going for the ball near the end of his starts. I wonder if he got shellshocked by any of the injuries he sustained. A head injury could do that. I hope Hodgson sells him while he's still worth something.

Chopper said...

Agree with all of that and think you're probably right about Niemi. He's never seemed to quite recover the standard he set before the neck injury.