Cabaye’s form this year before his injury ruled him out for 3 months was very poor (probably due to the injury in hindsight) but there’s no doubt he was the engine room of the team last year. When we played our Champagne football aided and abetted by an enforcer in the form of Tiote, giving him the room to go forward and make those defence splitting passes that Cisse and Ba simply gobbled up with consummate ease.
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Somehow, irrespective of the fact we’ve been woeful all year, Ba has managed to turn up in the right place at the right time saving our bacon on numerous occasions and is subsequently right up there amongst the premierships elite goal scorers this year, helping himself to another two yesterday playing on his debut for Chelsea.
All that is history now and we have to move on, so what are our hopes and dreams for the rest of the season?
We have bought Debuchy so we can at last allow Simpson to go shack up with the delightful Tulisa and make beautiful babies that no doubt won’t threaten any Mensa records in the near future…but good luck anyway. Problem here is that Simpson wasn’t actually that bad in a team that was playing well but when all four of the back four are not communicating effectively, or playing as a unit, then replacing one unit out of a unit of four isn’t necessarily going to stop the defence from leaking goals overnight.
We don’t have the firepower upfront, or the form in the team, to score more goals than we’re letting in, so therein lies our biggest problem for the rest of the year.
There’s no doubt we should be looking for two good centre halves because although we’ve got Steve Taylor coming back, there’s definitely an issue with Captain Colo and we’ve all seen this year how Perch and Williamson are simply just not up to the job. We also have to consider the fact we need decent cover for the centre back positions so in my book we need three good centre halves in the squad which means we should be buying two new CBs in this January transfer window but we’re not going to get that are we!
We got 7.5 million for Ba but it will cost us much more than that to replace him with someone who knows the Premiership like Ba does and can come in and score 13 goals in the remaining 17 games to at least give us a chance to stay up. Loic Remy is not the answer to give us that immediate payback in terms of goals scored and there isn’t anyone available in the market place at under 25 million who can, with perhaps the exception of a motivated Bent but no mention of that anywhere as a potential target and cheap at 10 million.
So I can’t see anyone coming in who can make that sort of impact for the money Ashley will want to make available, so that leaves us with Cisse and Shola plus a new striker who probably won’t contribute too much in the way of goals for the rest of the season, so Cisse has a huge responsibility on his shoulders.
Problem here is Cisse is miss-firing and has had little or no service coming from a midfield devoid of any flair or confidence, so supply will probably continue to be poor for the rest of the season unless Cabaye recaptures his form of last year upon his return to first team action.
So in summary we have a defence with hopefully one new player (Debuchy) who will help improve things a little, Taylor hopefully will be back soon, we hope Colo can find some form soon and Pardew needs to coach Santon on how to defend. However, hope is not a strategy and the defence worries me greatly. One thing’s for sure, Debuchy will not magically transform our defence into a good unit on his own overnight, it just won’t happen.
Midfield. Tiote’s gone for a month, Cabaye hopefully coming back soon, Marveaux playing well, HBA to hopefully come back in February, Bigi to replace Tiote, Perch in his best position as a defensive midfielde. Obertan sold back to France with a bit of luck and Jonas in a squad rotation role depending on who we’re playing and what formation Pardew chooses to play against certain teams. The new striker will probably be expected to play wide right or wide left with Cisse playing the striker’s role up on his own down the middle in the 4-5-1 defending formation morphing into 4-3-3 going forward.
Where will we end up at the end of the season?
My Guess is we’ll end up 15th or 16th with 39 points as I don’t believe 40 points will be required this year to stay up, with Reading and QPR so far behind already.
I obviously hope and pray we stay up this year, and my other hope is we sack Pardew as soon as we are safe, and start again next year with a much improved squad and a much better manager – I would be going after Martinez.
Where do you think we’ll finish this year and who should we bring in to replace Pardew?