Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Taking Stock

With the recruitment of Yassin Moutaouakil and confirmation of the departure of Radostin Kishishev (plus Wolves picking up one of our supposed targets Matt Jarvis) there is the opportunity to take stock on whose in, whose out, where we still need to get rid of deadwood, and where we still need to strengthen. No doubt there will be more surprises along the way (the biggest would be if Darren Bent started next season in a Charlton shirt - we all 'love' and respect him but his rejection of West Ham - presumably in favour of Spurs or Liverpool - has cost us much-needed cash).

The confirmed and assumed 'outs' list currently reads: Carson, Mhyre, Hreidarsson, El Karkouri, Song, Zheng, Kishishev, Rommadahl, Hasselbaink, and Bent(D). With the exception of Mad Rad - who I agree deserves our best wishes and will be remembered with affection - that's at least eight players who would have been in or around the starting XI.

The uncertain list (basically a mix of those that look superfluous, those we would be happy to see the back of if someone else would pick up their contract, and those we would accept going if we get money for - OK this probably encompasses everyone except the new signings) would seem to be: Young (Yassin would seem to be the replacement if we get a half-decent offer), Diawara (hope he stays but what about the wages), Sankofa (had assumed he would fill in for Young but not now), Walton (defence or midfield, starlet or waster?), Faye (the forgotten man), Thomas, Bent(M), Lisbie, plus assorted reserves (Youga, Ashton, Walker).

The new boys are: Yassin, McCarthy, Iwelumo, Varney, the Danish winger whose name I forget, and effectively Dickson (as he was unavailable last season).

So what's the team/squad:

Goalkeeper: Randolph, Elliott. Clearly we need another. I still have no idea whether Pardew thinks Randolph is ready. We will only find out as and when we sign a number one or a seasoned vet to sit on the bench.

Right-back: Young, Sankofa, Yassin - seem well covered, even if Young goes.

Left-back: Thatcher/Gibbs (Youga/Ashton) - well covered if Gibbs is around and can play, otherwise weak.

Central defence: McCarthy, Bougherra, Diawara, Fortune (possible back-ups: Walton, Young, Faye, Gibbs) - two are Pardew signings so I assume he's reasonably content here.

Central midfield: Holland, Hughes, Faye, Reid(?), Walton(?), Ambrose(?). We look short on a creative influence here unless Hughes can find his feet in this division.

Wide midfield: Thomas, Ambrose, Dane, Sam (please don't try him in the middle again), Reid(?). It's not that inspiring but much depends on whether Thomas stays and is up for a season of toil.

Central forwards: Iwelumo, Varney, Dickson, Bent(M), Lisbie, Walker. As AP has signed the first two have to assume he is ready to start with them. Bent and Lisbie are surplus to requirements but may not be offloadable and could do a job. Dickson is an unknown quantity. Looks to me we may be covered, but quite frankly I've never seen Iwelumo/Varney/Dickson play.

My overall impression is that the defence should be reasonably solid by Championship standards, the midfield looks thin on quality but may have enough experience and know-how to outperform most, and the front line may prove inspired but is as yet unproven. As has been pointed out elsewhere Pardew is signing young players, so the energy and commitment levels should be up on last season (which collectively is not saying a lot). But there is an awful lot of change here (for the second season running) and a lot of work to get a team to gel in the early stages of the season. Will we need to be patient?

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