WHILE the point against West Bromwich Albion last Saturday was a good one, the game highlighted the deficiencies within our squad, writes GARETH BARKER
We’re still lacking in three or four key areas. With just 10 days to go until the transfer window closes, it’s vitally important that we strengthen sensibly and in the right areas.
In my opinion, it will be the difference between comfort and struggle.
Bring in the right faces and I have no doubt whatsoever that we can build on what Gus Poyet began towards the back end of last season.
The squad is solid at the moment, yet unspectacular.
We don’t have the small clutch of good quality players required to make a dent in the crowded middle section of the Premier League.
We’re lacking at the back. I don’t want to single people out, but Valentin Roberge’s appearance last weekend, with Wes Brown being pushed to full-back, is clear evidence of a major issue in the squad.
The depth in that area just isn’t there. We’re one knock away from Modibo Diakite!
Now, I’m not saying we should panic as there’s still plenty time remaining in the window, and Lee Congerton suggested himself that some of our best work could be done towards the back end of the transfer period.
The pursuit of Fabio Borini continues, and Connor Wickham’s appearance in that role at The Hawthorns once again highlighted just how important it is that we bring in someone who is comfortable out there.
Borini or not, that is a key position in Poyet’s system. It must be addressed.
Looking ahead to Sunday, and our first home game of the season, there are echoes of last year’s tough start, but it may be possible that Manchester United are even weaker than they were the last time they visited the Stadium of Light in a league game.
Another new manager, an unfamiliar system and a lack of quality in their squad means a positive result is not unrealistic.
Hopefully, we’ll have a fit right-back and Brown can revert to the middle of defence. Rodwell, despite his rustiness, must start. The only way he’ll get fit is by playing, and that’s a sacrifice we’ll have to make in the early stages of the season.
The big talking point for Sunday’s selection will come in the forward areas.
Will Buckley will have settled in, and I feel Poyet might fancy chucking him in on the left to offer some balance and defensive strength.
We saw Patrick van Aanholt meandering at The Hawthorns, and I don’t think Wickham should be tasked with responsibility of covering for him. It’s just not his game.
Buckley slotted in to right-back and showed his defensive abilities. That could be incredibly important this weekend, especially if Manchester United go into the game with wing-backs.
There’ll be added responsibility on whoever plays wide left, and Adam Johnson down the right. I feel Wickham needs to revert to his central position, with Fletcher dropping to the bench.
A result on Sunday is definitely possible if we do what we do best, highlighted during the climax of last season.
Hopefully, Gus will use that as a template for success rather than what we saw at West Brom.
* The Wise Men Say podcast is available from every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post match reaction from Gus Poyet.
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