So, one game and one win with Swansea had got the Fergie Challenge off to a pretty promising start but could it continue? The simple answer is yes.
Tenth in the league is actually an improvement on what Fergie did in his first season and I’m reasonably happy about that.
However, we were at one point as high as eighth but too many stupid losses in games we could have easily won ended up costing us at the end of the season.
Yet, I can’t be overly disappointed as we were comfortably clear of the drop zone for a long time and my main goal was to survive and get as high as possible. So, mission accomplished on that front.
The FA Cup was secondary but we did well to get to a fifth round replay against a pretty strong Spurs side that eventually were just too strong for us in the end.
Enough about that though. The big thing for me is the squad.
See, my entire mindset was to make do with what I had and make my changes in the summer.
There is no point ripping up and starting again in the middle of a season because there is a high chance it won’t work and you’ll end up back in the drop zone. That meant using this season as an evaluation period for the squad, giving player that I’m unsure of a chance to prove their worth.
Pierre Webo was immediately persona non grata with me and he left in January to join Stade Reims in France. I have to pay a portion of his wage until the end of his deal here but I couldn’t care less. He was awful.
Dwight Tiendalli was one player I said would never play for me until I found myself actually needing to play him for a couple of games. He was still shifted out in January to FC Groningen in his native country.
Irish international Kyle Naughton did an OK job when called upon thanks to injuries here and there but he is definitely not up to scratch to help bring the club forward and I’m going to sell him.
Bakary Sako never played much and offered nothing when he did so he’ll be off.
Teofilo Gutierrez tried to use player power to get game time and unsettle my job which led to him being hated by the other players and shipped off to Russia for £6.5 million.
Charlie Adam is Charlie Adam and he’ll be out the door as soon as anyone is stupid enough to buy him.
Nelson Oliveira and Tom Carroll were rarely used and while both loanees showed potential, there was never really a space for them.
It wasn’t all negatives, however.
Gylfi Sigurdsson was an absolute revelation with nine goals and ten assists from just behind the front man and was maybe or best player this season. At 25, he’s hitting the prime of his career and someone I can build around.
Bafetimbi Gomis was inconsistent but still managed 14 goals in 34 games which is a decent return in a debut season.
Jordi Amat was sensational at centre back and is attracting interest from the top four clubs which is a big concern for me. I’ve convinced him Swansea is the best place for his development twice but I don’t know if he’ll keep on accepting my view for much longer.
The money for the Gutierrez deal gave me enough to make one signing in January so naturally I got another striker (instead of a defender) and paid Blackburn £5 million for their wantaway striker Jordan Rhodes. He is a literal goal scoring machine and while it took him a few games to get going, he did manage seven goals in fourteen games in the run-in.
Star man, though, was by far and away Ashley Williams. He’s been unsettled by Spurs but he was almost ever present had he not picked up and injury at the tail end of the season. He’s pushing thirty too but is by far and away the best defender I have and possibly the best defender outside the top four.
So, where do we go now? What are my plans for this upcoming season?
Well, my plan is to make at least four or five signings in the positions I feel are needing to be strengthened. Most notably, our lack of depth and quality at the back was a problem. Our three centre backs are good but I need one more while I need at least two full backs (one for each side).
I would like, in an ideal world, another winger and attacking midfielder but I think that I might have a couple of options in the U21 side that won the U21 Cup.
It begs the question now about which players I’m planning on targeting.
A favourite little trick of mine is to nab a player from one or two of the relegated sides because you’re more likely to get value for money from them as the player usually wants out and the club needs to drastically lower the wage bill for the drop in divisions.
With West Ham and Aston Villa gone, I’m looking at picking up Winston Reid for nothing and Jack Grealish to replace Sako on the wing.
Full back is where I’m a little light on ideas so feel free to leave suggestions for me in the comments or over on Twitter (@LongBallFoot).
I’m also looking at the transfer list for talent and have seen Atheltic Bilbao’s Benat and Siem de Jong from Newcastle, both of whom I have some real interest in.
The target for this season for me is to finish in the top half again and maybe even push on into the Europa League places.
There is the basis of a really good side here and with a few additions it could be excellent. I’m going to try and go as far as possible in the cups too to smash the first target of this challenge, but I do have some time as I received a new deal until 2017 towards the end of the season.
That being said, just how did I do in the first season with the objectives of this challenge (obviously I haven’t managed the trophy ones yet):
- I have only really blooded one youngster into the side and that was Australian Giancarlo Gallifuoco. This upcoming season will see more game time for Matt Grimes and Moudou Barrow, however.
- I’ve not convinced any players yet to move into coaching but both Gerhard Tremmel and Leon Britton are on my radar
So, that’s pretty much it for this update of The Fergie Challenge. Can we build on this positive start in the new season? Will I be able to have more than seven defenders in my squad? Will Charlie Adam ever leave? Find out next time.
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