It’s been a long while since a Clarets manager has been able to build a new team, writes James Bird.
This summer’s departures will open up the opportunity for an exciting off-season. Sean Dyche has a chance to build the side he wants at Turf Moor, he won’t need to fit another manager’s signings into a system – he can pick his system and bring in the personnel he needs for it to work. The last time we saw a chance for changes as big as this, Steve Cotterill took over a bare bones squad. He looked to lower leagues and diamonds in the rough to build a side that would eventually win promotion under a more skilled motivator. These places are where we’ll need to look again to get the most bang for our buck.
In many ways UK sport puts managers at a disadvantage. One man is responsible for bringing in players and picking the system a side plays. With the high managerial turnover in the modern game this can be turbulent for sides and make it difficult for new managers to play the football they want when they can only use the previous manager’s players. American sports use a different system. A general manager acquires players and his coach plays them in a system, if the coach doesn’t perform he is sacked but the GM’s philosophy continues. In a way, Swansea have half taken on this approach. Their promotion to the Premier League was a long journey, with a clear system that was bought into by several coaches – without bringing in managers who could play to that system they wouldn’t be where they are today.
Nevertheless, Dyche has been offered a rare opportunity to really influence his squad from a smaller number of bodies. There are now going to be key positions that need to be filled. He was hopeful of keeping hold of Lee Grant but the lure of family was too great for the fans’ player of the year and now Dyche needs to look for a new goalkeeping tandem. It looks as though he may have found his back up in the raw talent of Nick Liversedge but it will be most interesting to see who he brings in for the number one spot. While he had his critics, Grant is one of the best keepers in this league in my eyes. I was delighted when we signed him from Sheffield Wednesday and there was only Julian Speroni who I would have preferred – but we can no longer afford to be looking to pick off the cream of the league and will have to look lower down the league ladder.
The next big position Dyche has to fill is central midfield. I wrote some months ago about my disappointment in Chris McCann’s performances this season – he had gone stale at Turf Moor and while he has been a great servant and a product of the club’s youth system I felt it was time to move on. This looks likely to happen and Dyche has a big wage freed up that he can use to retool the centre of the park.
The Clarets midfield has been hit and miss this season. Dyche needs to be able to build his own system and bring in who he thinks can play it. When you are looking for a role player you don’t always need to spend the most money, when you have a system in mind you can afford to bring in a player who will excel in the role you have for him. He doesn’t need to be able to do everything else. The gaffer clearly wanted to keep Dean Marney and he adds battle to the middle of the park – he now needs someone attacking alongside him, a promotion season McCann, to make a good Championship pairing.
Up front is just as tough of a task to retool as the midfield. Charlie Austin is a fantastic goalscorer but it remains to be seen whether he will still be a Claret come August and he has struggled of late. Several systems have been tried in attack this season and the results have been mixed. This is not helped by the hot and cold nature of wingers. You will never have a winger at this level who will win you games every week and Junior Stanislas is a perfect example of that. On his day, he is fantastic. He can cross, beat a man and has a wicked shot from distance but all too often he goes missing and Dyche will need a system to compensate for these off days.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that there is a big tool that the Clarets haven’t made the most use of lately. The loan market. In the opening month of the season it’s worth watching what youth could be available from the top sides. One or two loan signings can add greatly to a side for very little capital and it’s not unusual for the top Championship sides to have one raw youngster lighting up their side.
The action on the pitch may have come to a close until August but this is set to be the most interesting off season at Turf Moor in years. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Who would you like to see Dyche bring in? Comment below.