A Monday squint at the spiffle
I know who I think will be lifting that league title (again) come May , but the up and downs of those who joust for positions in and around us at the moment has turned out more interesting than I expected .
If viewed from a neutral perspective then I could see the case being made that its the best its been for years as far as a title challenge or challengers are concerned .
When viewed from an informed fans perspective then one team thats close has a great manager that is over achieving probably , and the other team has been put together with money the rules should prohibit spending and have a rookie manager learning on the job .
Regardless of what happened at Celtic Park on Saturday , Killies gaffer deserves credit for having his team in and around top spot at the moment .
He is surely putting “ Stevie “ under pressure , rather than the other way around , and I for one would not bet against his charges finishing above the Ibrox team , long shot though it may be , even with the refs on their side . After playing Celtic they have four easy enough league games to help their task and should still be in the top 3 come next year . Their first match back after the winter break see them host the Ibrox men and that will go a long way to showing us who will finish where between the two . A few new signings for either and it could be a thigh rubber for the neutral ! Both sides rested , would love the win , throw in a plastic pitch , anything can happen .
The table can be deceptive if viewed from a certain angle also .
For instance the Dons might seem as if they have had a bad start to the campaign and should be doing better , but they are only 7 points off Killmarnock with 2 games in hand , not a very poor position and one Derek himself may well be pretty relaxed about . They just faced the top three teams in recent weeks and won 2 lost 1 which I imagine would give heart . They will fancy Killie slipping out out the top 3 and will no doubt have ambitions to claim the empty slot . 4 relatively easy games in a row next may well help that cause .
Hibs have been disappointing though and it looks increasingly like Lennys last season at Easter Road.
Having failed to register a win in their last 7 outings before facing Hamilton , Neil’s men face a very tough run of fixtures with Celtic , Rangers twice , and an Edinburgh derby thrown in for good measure all before the end of the month . If they are going to finish top 6 its months like this youve gotta stand up and be counted . Just like he always did .
Stevie Gee’s men failed to take their big chance at claiming the summit but were missing their main striker at the weekend . Its true they have scored the most goals in the league but December is not an easy month for them by any stretch with a double header against Hibs and the Celts to visit their stadium , with a much reduced support ( or possibly none ) . They have already tasted defeat in December via Hearts and chances are will taste it again . Im expecting a bad month to be followed by many calls for a “ Warfund “ to help put them where they belong etc
They probably will buy someone , or loan anyway , despite Ffp rules . I find their strikers amazingy poor and they seem to score by default almost . Morelos is soo strange ,, misses more than he scores and can be volatile ,, yet walks around with Im the man syndrome .
He reminds me of Diouf , the sewer rat . If he finishes top scorer in the league everyone should have a good look at themselves .
As for our team of choice , just when we needed a resounding performance they delivered and chances are we are not leaving that summit again this campaign . Although we are in a strong position to clinch another title , the team is in a state of flux and should be addressed .
The gaffer was clearly frustrated with the man above him but I am glad to say remained professional and has put the task ahead first and foremost . That is commendable and I am sure we all agree that each side bitching about the other via their journo of choice is the very last thing we would have wanted . Whether he will stay for another 2 years after this is a guess and I doubt many know that answer .
The team though needs surgery . Funds must be spent and the Ceo is surely aware of this yet the will he stay or will he go question comes into the equation again , as a new manager would need backed and on the flip side why back a manager thats leaving .
Also there is the wage bill , its high and many are not in or near the first team , which is said to have been in the mix when it came time to flash the cash .
Rock and hard place it seems and its a mess of our own making thats for sure.
However assuming the gaffer is going to get backed what might we see in terms of ins and outs in a couple weeks time ?
Heres my take for what its worth on those around the first team picture ,,, who stays , and who should be going .
Between the sticks,,,, Craig isnt getting better with age which ususally oocurs with keepers although we have had more than enough service already to be able to state he’s been value and was a good idea moving for him those years ago . His distribution is lacking though .
Being a domestic member , if he were to lose his spot he would have to chose between backup and playing for a lesser side , a question most pros will no doubt face at some choice .
An offer of a coachng position may well come into play for Craig though to consider .
Bain is younger and gets the Cup games which amount to roughly 8 or 9 usually .
He must fancy his chances of becoming first choice at some stage surely ?
I would start him next season , switch roles essentially with Craig the new cup keeper .
See how he pans out and make a call to keep or cut one of them and invest in a newbie .
Central Defence is paramount though and simply must be addressed in the next 2 windows .
The current central defensive pairing look likely not to be here next season . Thats rare and naive , to lose both starters at once is not what a well run organisation should be looking at .
Jozo has been one great mystery and after 4 years or so the fact hes not first choice when fit should tell us everything . I actually realised I had forgot about him the other day , thats how important he seems to me . The big Croat should be the first name out the door imo .
Ajer has talent and has done what has been asked of him , and I didnt see any bitching when he was dropped so credit there son . Hes a keeper and could well captain the side one day .
Hendry ,,, no big deal to keep but is ideal to cut if you profess to the small squad of high quality mantra.
Verdict,,, 3 of our central 4 we must / should be aiming to replace ,,, not a good start .
Left Back,,,KT is a nailed on starter and as long as he’s at the club will be . I dont even wanna think of him going anywhere for a while . Izzy doesnt play much and is convenient so the left back slot could be considered covered . Johnny Hayes is filler and could easily be cut. Left back is fine.
Right back however could be looked at . Mik seems to divide the support a little and I personally think he’s had his day and should either be back up next season or allowed to move on . He has been a fantastic servant and I am fond of him , dodgy moustache and all , yet time waits for no man and wing back is one of the most important positions on the pitch these days demanding energy sapping outlet runs and overlaps . Its a young mans game these days and while he has great positioning I could only see that flank being targeted more and more should he remain in situ . Gamboa is clearly not Brendans type of player and seems a PL mystery bargain bucket special that has not paid off .
Being in the year of his contract does give big Mik a pretty good hand to play though , and with it being his last big contract ( one would imagine ) I doubt he will agree to be back up or anything less than a two year extension . As a pure free agent he would command a fair whack in wages on the open market and an experienced international on a free would suit many clubs .
Those in his homeland must surely fancy bringing him home should he let this contract run down .
Mikey Johnson will return from loan at seasons end and will need accesssed as to whether he could fill one of those slots , that would be ideal actually on all fronts .
So my verdict , one possibly two new faces needed.
Midfield ,,, the big one is the Captain isnt it ? I recall Paul Lambert not playing but being the skipper ,,, it kinda depends on how old fashioned you are and whether you put much stock in the armband . I dont . His contract runs out at seasons end and I expect him to sign an extension with a possible coaching role at the end of it . I think Scott will gracefully accept hes not going to play every game and when we do see him it will become a bit of an event . Should he lead the club to 10 still as Captain he should retire the next week .
The center of the park is our strongest area and needs the least tinkering . Biton is still around and it seems like forever since he last graced the Hoops . Theres a decent mix of years and experience , and we finally seem to have found a system that works of Calmac , Tam , Ryan who has taught more than a few a lesson about grabbing chances . Tam has actually played more than his standard 70 recently , and does look trim , perhaps his fitness regime has been tweaked ? If Olivier is not first choice would he agitate for a move ? Hes still young and does need games to improve . If a Ligue 1 side came calling with an increase on what we paid you would imagine thats him gone . Sinky would be the obvious example to move on and get some return . We probably wouldnt be hard to deal with as hes in the top tier of earners I believe and if hes not playing or producing then really should be moved on . He will listen to Brendan no doubt and if he hears you may leave Im sure he will . That would leave us without a natural left winger who are a hard specimen to find . And begins my theory that Sinky will go and Odsonne will be delegated to the left side of an attacking trident with James on the right .
Verdict , midfield could easily be left alone but one or two out is 50 / 50 .
Up Front ,, we are in desperate need of a quality put the ball in the net striker . And the bad news is its probably the hardest position to fill . We could well get a loan or 10 in but that wont help us next year and I doubt Brendan would hang his hat on someone whose club are happy to let go . I could easily be wrong on this one and a striker may arrive on loan that tears it up ala Bellamy .
I dont want a short term loan though , but I would accept that to get us over the line if thats what we can get we must take it .
We need a striker from somewhere that much is clear ,,, we simply must add firepower and try to arrest lagging behind in the goalscoring charts . A 1m signing from Helsinki is leading the way right now .
Griff,,, who knows what the heck has happened but a behind the scenes fall out looks increasingly likely but yet he signed a new deal to see him stay for a further 4 years . That suggests this might have been out of the gaffers hands ? Tie down one of the best domestic strikers to what should be the prime of his career is good business on paper I will admit so I wont be slamming that decision or saying hes a waste of money .
Lets just take it at face value and say hes not first choice , thats clear .
Odsonne doesnt score enough though he has bags of talent . Nope , let him roam left and stick a new central striker up front , in my dreams anyway and hopefully Brendans also .
Who to buy ? I could waste all day hitting you with names but whats the point , those that are employed to do that particular job should be allowed to do it , and thrive or fail on the fruit of their results. Its a notoriously tough window is January but hey , theres a decent wedge in the slush fund and I have no doubt whatsoever Brendan will already have spent some in his mind on certain positions with lifting the title in mind.
Its in his best business interests to do so , and as pointed out above he has been professional lately . I hope others match him.
Anyway thats just me playing Football manager . Please let me know if you agree , Im curious to gauge how much change is universally desired .
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