What Still Needs To Be Done? Part Three

We have arrived in the second half of the alphabet, where Manchester United fans are still waiting for a midfielder and Stoke's progree is just a bit too steady for comfort...

Last Updated: 01/08/13 at 15:29 Post Comment

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What's been done?
Basically nothing. January's agreed signing of Wilfried Zaha has been completed and a rookie right-back has been procured from Uruguay. There was talk from David Moyes about getting new signings into the club before the start of their pre-season friendlies but that talk is now almost a month old. There have been bids - two for Cesc Fabregas at least - but Moyes' talk about the 'name' of Manchester United being enough to attract the world's biggest stars now looks a tad ridiculous. There's been little progress in the 'outs' department, with expensive bit-part players Anderson and Nani still on their books. The manager has changed but the squad largely remains the same. Which would be fine if their rivals had also stood still. They haven't.

What still needs doing?
"Signing a midfield player was one area where we thought we could possibly add to the squad," says Moyes, making us all repeat the word 'possibly' with exagerrated inflection. We've been told that they pursued Thiago, we know that they have chased Cesc Fabregas and we assume that they will end up with Marouane Fellaini, a signing that would have been welcomed a year ago and should not be sniffed at now. The answer from United fans is usually that they want 'Fellaini plus one other', which seems a tad greedy a full seven years after their last successful signing of a central midfielder.

Away from the thorny midfield issue, they still need a left-back because Alexander Buttner is no more a Premier League defender than Southampton's Danny Fox, though whether they need a left-back with an £18m price tag is another matter. The persistent link with Ezequiel Garay suggests that another centre-half is also on the agenda; initially we were sceptical, but then remembered the brittle and ageing Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand as well as the brittle but young Chris Smalling were three of their five options. Maybe it makes sense. But they could sign three defenders and still we would cry 'what about that midfielder, Davie?' He only has two weeks before that first game at Swansea.


What's been done?
Nowt. They brought in Joe Kinnear from 1994 to take care of signings and the sum total of his work so far appears to be to bin the potential signing of Douglas, cock up their chances of signing Darren Bent by offering the princely sum of £2m and finally learn how to pronounce the names of a Newcastle squad thinned by the exits of Danny Simpson and James Perch. Alan Pardew said they have "learned from" their transfer failures last summer but unfortunately (or should that be fortunately) for Pardew, he's no longer making any of those decisions. The buck stops with the little, fat Cockney bloke.

What still needs doing?
Everything that needed doing at the end of the season. A striker has to be the priority and sustained interest in Loic Remy, Bafetimbi Gomis and, of course, Bent, has dominated all the headlines, but there are gaps elsewhere in the squad. Perch's exit leaves them at least one centre-half down (surely Steven Caulker would have been ideal?), while an idealistic shopping list would surely include genuine wingers, some full-back cover and competition for Cheik Tioté that does not involve the underwhelming words 'Vurnon' and 'Anita'. They spent a big old pile of money in January but surely there's more than £2m left in the pot, Joe.


What's been done?
I've written elsewhere about the sensible but ambitious business done by Norwich this summer, and that was even before the solid signing of Gary Hooper - another young-ish player with hefty sell-on potential. Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Martin Olsson, Leroy Fer and Hooper will all improve the Canaries right now, while Nathan Redmond is the kind of gamble made possible by the new TV deal. They've also got rid of some of the players - Marc Tierney, Elliott Ward, Chris Martin, James Vaughan, Grant Holt and Simoen Jackson - who gave the squad a distinctly Championship feel. It's safe to say that it's gone well.

What still needs doing?
Persistent links with Fabio Quagliarella suggest that Chris Hughton is not happy with Luciano Becchio being his third-choice striker but surely his priority should be a centre-half to partner the excellent Sebastien Bassong. The rest of the squad is now looking capable of a mid-table finish but a mid-table Premier League side should not feature Michael Turner. Toby Alderweireld would have been perfect, while we could also add Norwich to the long list of clubs who should perhaps have known that Caulker was available. But even if Norwich fail to sign another player, they will start 2012/13 in far better shape than they started 2011/12.


What's been done?
Two signings for rather large money in Dejan Lovren (£8.5m) and Victor Wanyama (£12.5m). Spending so much money on Lovren is curious because he will still have to partner one of the utterly inept trio Jose Fonte, Jos Hooiveld or Maya Yoshida at centre-half, while Wanyama has been signed to strengthen probably the only area are of the pitch that did not need strengthening, with Morgan Schneiderlin and Jack Cork forming an excellent central midfield partnership last season. The good news is that they have got rid of a fair bit of deadwood from their league days as well as the expensively floppish Vegard Forren without having to fight off any serious interest in Luke Shaw or Schneiderlin.

What still needs doing?
Nick Miller wrote in June that 'a new goalkeeper is probably required, despite some slightly more stable performances from Artur Boruc as the season progressed' and yet there has been precious little talk of anybody coming in to truly challenge Boruc. As we hinted, Lovren still needs a central defensive partner, but a new striker should be a priority as they over-relied on Rickie Lambert last season. Like Norwich with Grant Holt, that could bite them on the arse in their second season in the Premier League. A headline-grabbing new marquee signing would be lovely - surely one of the reasons for sacking Nigel Adkins and bringing in Mauricio Pochettino was his ability to attract players with sexy names full of exotic promise like Gonzalo Bueno, Diego Castro, Ever Banega and Pablo Osvaldo rather than plain old Jack Cork and Steven Davis.


What's been done?
"My season only finished a fortnight ago when the European Championships ended, but I can't wait to get started for Stoke. I would start tomorrow if the club asked me to," said Marc Muniesa on signing for Stoke last month. Nobody in the history of football has ever been so enthusiastic about signing for Stoke. At 21, former Barcelona defender Muniesa has automatically become favourite for Stoke's Young Player of the Year award (won by Steven N'Zonzi at the age of 24 last season) but it doesn't do an awful lot to solve Stoke's greatest problem - a lack of goals. But at least they have signed a specialist left-back in Eric Pieters (Tony Pulis never did that in eight years in charge of the Potters) and got rid of a whole raft of limited players like Dean Whitehead.

What still needs doing?
Mark Hughes has talked of 'steady progress' but surely he is making more than 'steady progress' when it comes to bringing in strikers as Stoke basically have Jonathan Walters, Peter Crouch, Kenwyne Jones and Cameron Jerome. That's not exactly screaming quality. Links with Jermain Defoe and Mame Biram Diouf suggest that Hughes is busy making headway on a potentially double-figure striker (the bar has been set low). While Stoke are relatively well-stacked in central midfield with Glenn Whelan, Charlie Adam, N'Zonzi and the forgotten Wilson Palacios, they could certainly use one or two more creative players to play out wide or behind a central striker. Progress is just a tad too steady right now.

Sarah Winterburn

Parts One and Two are here...

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