Lee Bowyer and his team have more than enough credit in the bank for nobody to really carp about the sale of Bonne to QPR, assuming the price was indeed ‘right’. He may go on to do great things, he may not, just too early to tell. Another club likes what they see and has paid for it, for us he is far from irreplaceable, unlike a certain Taylor at the end of last season. But he does of course need to be replaced. As things stand we have Washington, with Aneke awaiting a return to action (we hope and assume) after his testing positive for Covid-19 and Davison not in favour at the moment at least (to the extent of having been on the bench for Lincoln but not featuring in the club website first team squad – which is up to date with the new signings and Bonne already taken out).
At least the Bonne situation is resolved. Hopefully before long so too will be the picture for Phillips and Doughty. I’m sympathetic to Bowyer not selecting Phillips, despite his heroics last season, as long as the expectation is he will be leaving. No point in a defence getting used to one keeper if he’s going to be off. If instead he stays until January at least there is a decision to be made between him and Amos and selection goes back to being on merit. If Celtic do up the offer for Doughty and he goes, again at least there will be clarity and we can focus on the replacement options; if not, the stage is set for him to play a key role this season.
So as things stand we have one listed forward available for tomorrow’s game, unless Davison gets the nod. So be it, no doubt that will change soon. But it does underline the contrast between the defence and attack and midfield, where we are suddenly blessed with options but where Bowyer will have to find his best combinations and alternatives. In defence, aside from the goalkeeper situation, with Pearce sidelined we currently have Barker, Purrington, Oshilaja, Famewo plus Pratley to select any four from.
Set that against Pratley, Watson, Forster-Caskey, Gilbey, Levitt, Williams, Oztumer, Maddison, Doughty, Morgan, and Lapslie (plus Vennings perhaps coming through). I think the options can be narrowed a little in that either Pratley or Watson provide the defensive cover, never both in the same midfield, while it’s hard to see Oztumer and Williams together in the same line-up (unless we’re in desperation mode chasing a game in the final minutes). I don’t get paid to make the selections, but with four of the midfielders being recent signings I’m assuming Bowyer has a better idea than me just what mix is going to work. We were told Gilbey is box-to-box while Maddison is expected to score and create goals for us.
Simple mathematics suggest that given our current imbalances a five-man midfield has to be an option (or four with one in the hole, a diamond, or some other combination), perhaps with Pratley in a defensive three. We might as well flood the centre and look to midfielders to get into the box as on numbers alone it would look like playing to our (current) strengths.