Date: 15th May 2006 at 11:15am
Written by:

Where do we go from here, now that the dust has settled and the hangover has worn off from our back-to-back title win?

I’ll post a discussion on each so we dont get a five page essay! Here is part one of a three part review of how I see things squad-wise, for next season.

It looks like Michael Ballack is going to be the midfielder to arrive, and this fits with the midfield five we are persisting with. Essien or Ballack, Lampard, and Makelele or Diarra. I think Ballack’s arrival is to take some of the pressure off Frank, as he looked very jaded towards the end of the season, and Ballack is almost a carbon copy, only better in the air, though probably not as good at timing his runs into the box. Ballack is probably more incisive with short five yard diagonal balls on the edge of the box, whilst Frank’s passing game is more measured and longer. Instead of replacing Lampard, I think Ballack’s arrival will mean Frank will suffer less with the burden of carrying the team by the scruff of the neck when required – Ballack does that too. We look very devoid of ideas when Frankie doesnt play, and this means that it is almost impossible to replace him. I still think Essien has the potential to be better than them both, but he needs to step up and show his early-season form. I think the slaughtering he took for his tackle against Liverpool in the media has affected his confidence. Maniche hasnt looked Premiership class for me, although he played well up at Newcastle. I think he will not be retained.

I think Makelele will have a less pivotal role this season, as he, like Lampard is vital, and we look very dodgy without him. Unlike most of last season, we have an out-of-the-box replacement. Lassana Diarra is a star in the making and has showed he is ready to take the step up. I expect him to challenge Maka directly more this season. The lineup is easy to predict. People say we play 4-3-3, but our wingers dont push up far enough to be called strikers, so i’d say 4-5-1 is a more accurate representation of the way we play. Assume Shaun Wright-Phillips or Joe Cole on one flank, and Duffer or Robben on the other. For me, our strongest midfield would be Makelele in the holding role, Ballack and Lampard ahead of him, with Robben and Joey Cole either side. Essien, Wright-Phillips, Duff, Diarra, Geremi, and Gudjohnsen are serious strength in depth. I can see one of either Duffer or Robben going, and I suspect it will be Robben if we get a big offer for him. If Duff or Robben are allowed to go, I’d look at Aaron Lennon from Sp*rs, or Simao from Porto. Joaquin from Betis would be a good buy too, but we’ve been saying this for years. It should also be noted that an injection of fresh blood is what is required and Nuno Morais, Joe Keenan, Anthony Grant, Jimmy Smith and Danny Hollands will all be looking to make the step up.