After winning the cup last year, the board have set me the task of challenging for the title this season. Seems like that’s a little less pressure than “go and win it” but I suspect, if I don’t come pretty close, I’ll be out this year. Maybe that’s an obvious statement, but we’ll see as the season develops. The reality was, that the cup win saved my bacon last year and forced them into extending my contract.
It was obvious that I needed to get a couple of new players in during the summer. I had a £5m-£6m kitty with a decent wage budget left over. Players were making noises about leaving and I had a number of players returning from loan. I always try and get my business done as early as possible, I seem to remember saying this in one of the first blogs about this save. So I pushed the players out the door who were going to make me the most money and reduce the wage budget significantly.
Belhanda only managed 8 starts and 7 substitute appearances all season last year, he was quite injury hit and I never really had a place in the team for him. He was itching for a move away and with him on a big wage, it made sense to move him on. That deal has an additional £2.4m worth of add-ons.
Veloso played quite a few games for us due to injuries at various stages, but his wages and his performance level put me off him early on. Interest from other clubs turned his head and he joined Deportivo. £4m was decent enough for him.
Marco Ruben was out on loan last year, I thought about keeping him but Zozulya and Kravets are both Ukraine internationals so I’ve chosen them as my two main strike options.
Rybalka was also injured a lot last year, he started 9 games and appeared 12 times as a sub. I never really found his best position and with Bezus and Tariq in central midfield, he was also punted out.
At this moment in time, I’ve done my shopping. Three new players are in the door and at this point, unless there’s a disaster, we’re done until January. I’ve strengthened the areas I thought needed it the most and with players of good quality I think.
Domen Crnigoj is a 19 year old Slovenian International. There’s a chance he might not get a lot of game time, but considering how many injuries we had last year, I’d not hold my breath. Will definitely play in the cups. Has potential to be a very good player for us I think. Mentally he looks pretty good. At 19, there’s still a good bit of development in him and at £1.5m, it seems like good business.
Daniel Amartey was a bit of a surprise signing for me, plenty of teams were interested, but I really wanted him, for reasons I’ll explain later, so I put a few extra thousand into his wages. We have the budget and I think it’ll be worth it long term. He is a player that has the ability to be very good in a number of positions. He’s a good central defender, defensive midfielder and ball winning midfielder. At 20, again he has room to improve. He’s not going to play many defence splitting passes and again, technically he’s not amazing, but those mental stats convinced me he could do well. His versatility is definitely an asset for us.
Andrija Zivkovic is my “marquee” signing I guess. Still young, still developing, but we all know he can be great. Was really happy he joined us and if I’m honest, a bit shocked. He can play on both sides of my midfield and will eventually offer a goal threat with some training/tutoring.
Maxym Koval has come back from his loan spell and gone right into the first team. Sallahi is now my first choice left back after impressing last season. He’s the only non Ukraine player in my first team at time of writing.
So, there we have it, signings in and getting settled. I’ve trimmed the fat a bit and signed three players that I think can help us out straight away.
Tactically I’m sticking with the 4141 that I employed towards the end of last season. I’m trying to be a bit more cautious with my training workloads as I feel that it probably contributed to my injury crisis at times last year.
Personally, I think if I can get to the Mid-Season break and be within 4 points of the top two, that would give us a chance of pushing them towards the end of the season. Shakhtar has lost Bernard and Dnipro has lost Konoplyanka this summer and neither have really strengthened. I don’t think that will affect either team too much though.
Will put my mid season report up at some point during the week unless something dramatic happens.
Thanks again for looking.