Monday, 29 December 2014

So, how much are we going to bet?

That's the question occupying the thoughts of all Addicks as the January transfer window prepares to open on Thursday. Who will we bring in and how quickly? I see several possible options:

Let's save our money and hold for next season

If you take Roland Duchatelet at face value and his previous stated intention to get us breaking even, then January transfer activity may be minimal as he opts for a season of learning and squad consolidation before preparing for a stronger push next year. 

If this is the route we take I am still expecting to see us bring in one or two players with an eye on strengthening what we have and settling them in ahead of next season. As a minimum we have to get a another striker and I would plump for strengthening our attacking options in midfield, be that a left sided winger who would allow Cousins to compete in centre-mid or a faster ball-playing central operator. To meet the requirement of this option we need look no further than the network. Tony Watt is in the house and I am sure there are other midfield options if there was anyone who would clearly improve what we have and who would be keen to move to the Championship. I also wouldn't rule out Watt being flogged on if they could recover most of his £1.3m Summer fee although that looks unlikely and Charlton may be used as his Last Chance Saloon. If he did go it might increase the prospects of Reza Goochanijhad returning although I can't see two small men hitting it off up front. Either way I would expect this to happen quickly given our overdue need for reinforcements.

Take the opportunity to invest conservatively and aim to finish top ten

This is the most likely route in my view. There should be some acknowledgement that we have been running with too small a squad for this division and given the injuries we have carried. That should mean we address the requirements of the first option but may be more assured in whom we bring in and perhaps there could be more activity. There is talk of Igor being sold to fund broader changes but I can't see that. He is clearly capable at this level but we haven't yet played to his strengths by finding him an equally dangerous partner (think Vokes and Ings) and Roland has no need to sell at a loss. Tony Watt should be a nailed on starter in this scenario and we might see a more exciting and assured recruit in midfield. No reason why both of those shouldn't happen sooner rather than later.

Go for it chaps - there's not a lot much better than us

In spite of the style of football we have been playing, the large number of draws has shown that there have been few sides who have managed to beat us. If you work on the basis that our defence is functioning superbly given the amount of work we settle for in most games, it's not a huge leap of imagination to see them becoming even tighter if we spent more time in possession in our midfield and attack. I believe there is a strong case for taking a calculated risk on bringing in two high class midfield operators and a couple of strikers. We could even allow a couple of the lesser players to go to help manage the wage bill. If that worked we might reasonably expect to close in on the play-off positions although that sparks the debate whether or not we would be ready for possible back-door promotion? The history of the PL tells us we might expect an instant return and a season of hardship in spite of the cash injection. Frankly, it's something I would take now but I suspect Roland is content to play the long game and would prefer to enter the top flight with a squad capable of holding it's own outside the top six.

Before all that we face a very tough looking task at Portman Road. Mick McCarthy's side has the bit between their teeth and may be focusing on a promotion battle with Bournemouth, Derby and co. Ordinarily I am writing this off as a defeat and possibly one of only a couple of double-defeats this season. However, I didn't see a side much better than us when they snatched the points a few weeks ago in south-east London. If we can start with more ambition than we managed against Blackburn or Cardiff, then we could frustrate the Tractor Boys. 

Looking around us, we shouldn't be too despondent. Palace have sacked Warnock and now face near-certain relegation in my opinion and Millwall must be contemplating ditching Holloway who appears to have lost the dressing room in much the same way he did at Palace. It's hard to see too many managers suffering 6-1 reverses home and away in only a handful of matches. Another tonking might just be enough. If Brighton manage to win at Fulham this evening or Wigan beat Sheffield Wednesday in Lancashire tomorrow night, Millwall will take their place in the bottom three. Their next league match is an awkward looking trip to Blackpool when defeat might seal Hollway's fate without taking another pasting.


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