After back to back defeats effectively ended our season, focus now turns to the summer Transfer Window. I take a look at the positions that require strengthening in order for Blackpool to compete at the top end of the championship next season.
There’s been a lot of inactivity from utmp on the blog front, but the ships been sailing nicely and in all honesty we’ve been enjoying the journey! Not to say that this blog will be all doom and gloom, far from it, but the recent losses against a top tier side in Steve Cooper’s Nottingham Forest and them across the M55 has highlighted areas for growth or opportunity for squad players.
It’s a long old season and as we know games come thick and fast. In the past, we have marvelled at the depth of our Blackpool squad, especially in League One. However, recently it is becoming clear what positions that quality is lacking. I won’t be calling out players for lack of quality as form is temporary. I do think it’s been tough for a number of them to rediscover their form, especially when so many are recovering from injuries or are more injury prone than others.
Number one priority on the shopping list
Middle of the park. Work horse. Playmaker. Central Midfield. This is the number one priority for where I believe we need recruitment. When you consider the ongoing campaign, it is quite astonishing that Kenny Dougall has featured in 34/39 Championship games so far. He’s only missed five – despite the fact he’s regularly had flights to and from Australia, which will eventually take its toll on the body. As for Kevin Stewart, he has missed a substantial amount… only featuring 11 times in the Championship for the Pool. Sonny Carey, another up and coming player, after a few stand out performances, unfortunately faced a fractured metatarsal during the Boxing Day game against Huddersfield.
Matty Virtue has only just recovered from his ACL injury. Hopefully the contract extension and faith shown to him by his former coach Critchley, will benefit us in the next couple of games. As for others, Ethan Robson developed into a top-end League One midfielder for MK Dons until he was hauled back due to lack of numbers. Callum Connolly has been a make shift centre midfield, where he has done a job, but ultimately, we know he is better suited to his defensive duties than his attacking ones.
This leads me on to potentials. It’s recently, become apparent that Peterborough’s captain Oliver Norburn won’t be on our shopping list or he might be withdrawn from it, the midfielder recently suffered an ACL injury himself during international duty. This leaves us with an option to return to Oxford’s Cameron Brannagan or look elsewhere. Much of that will depend if Oxford successfully mount a late play-off challenge and get themselves promoted.
2. Full backs – Yes, left and right!
This season we have seen how having secure options really works for Blackpool. The switching of Dujon Stering and Jordan Gabriel has been seemless, both ready to step up, both very capable defenders. However, even with a plethora of options at left-back the transition hasn’t been so smooth – neither has the link up play with the midfield.
It’s clear that elements of Luke Garbutt’s game have been overlooked, he is our best set-piece taker in the team and this has been missed. We have looked defensively stronger, but during our recent derby game there was only one person I wanted stood over that free-kick and that man was injured. For all Garbutt’s attacking attributes, there are some defensive frailties that hopefully will be ironed out when he is back to full fitness. James however, is still yet to convince me he does not seem to be at the required standard, whereas Husband doesn’t pose the same attacking threat.
For me one first team starter at left-back and assuming Dujon goes back to Chelsea, we’ll need a backup for JG.
3. The final part of the puzzle.
This was a genuine tough one for me. There are essentially two areas I’d like to address. Firstly. Wingers. With Josh Bowler likely to move on elsewhere with plenty of interest surrounding him, we may well have to get another in this position. What I don’t quite understand, is why we have made two signings: Charlie Kirk and Owen Dale and not given them much of an opportunity? Not to forget, we still have Keshi, CJ Hamiliton and Lubala on the books, but the latter looks like his days look numbered.
If we do give these fellas a run-out it will be interesting to see who has the quality. Dale clearly showed it during one of the best performances of the season away against Reading. It is whether he can consistently replicate that form. As for Kirk, I thought he looked tidy enough. Decisions to made in the next couple of weeks, as I predict a number of the above names won’t be here next season.
The only other area that’s lacked is at the top of the field. Veteran Gary Madine has produced an excellent showing up top this season. However, currently it does feel there is an over-reliance on the goal machine. We have an average of 2.28 goals scored per game with only 6 teams averaging lower than that. Are Yates and Lavery the answer? The jury is still out on Beesley but he does look a like-for-like replacement for Madine.
As much as I like the excitement of the transfer window, there is definitely some talent within this group of players that need to churn out some performances. Many haven’t had enough of an opportunity to kick on but hopefully there are a few diamonds in the rough. You only have to look at Marvin Ekpetita to see his rise in performance from League Two to know that these players are capable, they just require confidence.
If you enjoyed this, have a listen to our recent chat with the former Pool captain and player Richie Wellens in our most recent podcast (link below).
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