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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Three Transfers Road to Improvement: Portsmouth

another article i published on bleacher report

In the 14th part of my "Three Transfers" series, I look at Portsmouth, a team that is in the middle of a takeover by billionaire Sulaiman Al-Fahim.

Some might remember him being involved in the takeover of Manchester City, and he made bold proclamations of who he was going to sign for City back then. As such, I think we can expect him to splash the cash now that he is in charge of Portsmouth.

Portsmouth have a fair few problems to fix. They started the season with high hopes, but without Lassana Diarra and Jermain Defoe, arguably their top two players, they lacked quality and ended up losing almost half of their fixtures.

I think the short-term aim of the club would be to get into the top half, and possibly a Europa League place with a little luck.

If that is Portsmouth's aim, then I believe strengthening is required in a few areas, and I shall address them now.


After Defoe's departure, goals have been in short supply for the south coast club. Scoring a measly 38 goals, which equates to just 1 a game, is not enough, especially when your defence is not exactly water-tight.

Currently, Portsmouth have Peter Crouch, Nwankwo Kanu, David Nugent, and John Utaka on their books.

Peter Crouch managed to find a little form heading into the tail-end of last season, but clearly he needs to have better partners if he is going to improve on his performances next season.

Nwankwo Kanu's future is still up in the air, but even if he signs, the 32-year-old will probably be used in a role off the bench.

John Utaka has been preferred on the right, instead of in his favoured role, probably because his finishing has left much to be desired.

As for David Nugent, I don't think he has enough quality to be playing in the Premier League, and should at most be restricted to a place on the bench.

As such, signing a new striker must be the priority for Portsmouth in the summer.

I would suggest that with their new-found money, they should go after Darren Bent.

While many criticise him for being a multi-million pound flop, it must be noted that Bent is not the one who put such a price-tag on his head, and it is a result of the crazy market conditions, which sees him valued at 16.5 million pounds.

Darren Bent would be perfect for Portsmouth, as he is pacy, and as such, would be a perfect complement for Peter Crouch.

Often, Crouch has been the lone striker up front for Pompey and has had to drift wide to pick up the ball in space. If Bent were to move to Pompey to partner Crouch, then Bent would be the one running into the channels, leaving Crouch in the middle, where is the most effective.

Also, Crouch can make use of his height to flick the ball on for Bent to chase, if the team decides to use the aerial route.

With Redknapp reportedly keen on offloading Bent, Pompey would definitely be able to afford him, and he would be the perfect signing.

If they are unable to get Bent, they could perhaps turn their sights to Obafemi Martins.

The Nigerian striker is blessed with superb paceand athleticism, and while his shooting is not the best, he would also be a good partner for Peter Crouch, in a classic "big man, small man" combination.

With Newcastle needing to sell players, especially those on insanely high wages, Martins would definitely be attainable as long as Portsmouth come up with a reasonable offer.


Well, Glen Johnson is certainly one of the best right-backs in the league, but unfortunately for Pompey, it is unlikely that he will stay much longer.

With reported interest from Liverpool and Chelsea, among other clubs, the promise of European football will probably be too big a draw for Glen Johnson to ignore.

Assuming he goes, this leaves a huge gap for Pompey to fill. I think they should look for someone similar—i.e. good with the ball at his feet, and bombs down the flank with aplomb.

The player who I think is most similar to Johnson is Gianni Zuiverloon from West Bromwich Albion.

Zuiverloon is never afraid to run down the flank with the ball, or in support of the right-winger, and is thus a valuable asset to have when trying to break down other teams.

Defensively, he is not the best, but he is still young, and his reading of the game will definitely improve as he gets more matches under his belt. Also, his pace gets him out of trouble most of the time, so it's not too huge a problem.

If Zuiverloon cannot be attained, then Portsmouth could try to get Lucas Neill on a free transfer.

His contract runs out at the end of the month, and it looks increasingly unlikely that he will stay at West Ham.

Lucas Neill is very different from Zuiverloon, as he is defensively very solid, but his attacking ability is probably not even half as good. He has loads of Premier League experience, though, and would be a quality addition to any of the other teams in the league, not just Portsmouth.

His status as a free agent just makes it much more appealing for Portsmouth, and with their money, they should be able to afford his wages.

At the end of the day, it depends on whether Portsmouth want a like-for-like replacement for Johnson in Zuiverloon, or they want defensive solidity in the shape of Neill.


Currently, Portsmouth have Jerome Thomas as their only natural left-winger. Over the course of the season, they have used Armand Traore and Niko Kranjcar here as well.

However, Armand Traore will return to Arsenal at the end of his loan spell, while Niko Kranjcar should be left in the middle, where he can use his play-making abilities fullest.

While Jerome Thomas is a useful player to have in the squad, he is probably not good enough for a team with aspirations of finishing in the top half.

As such, Portsmouth definitely need a new left-winger, and I think they should try to sign Tranquillo Barnetta from Bayer Leverkusen.

The Swiss international is a quick winger who enjoys running at defenders at full tilt, and should be a hit in the Premier League.

He is equally adept at using either of his feet, and is comfortable on either wing, which will be a huge bonus to Portsmouth.

With Bayer Leverkusen also not qualifying for Europe, Portsmouth might find it a little easier to tempt Barnetta to the south coast to ply his trade in the English Premier League.

If Barnetta proves to be too expensive, or is not willing to move to England, then perhaps Dmitry Torbinsky will be an interesting option.

He is just as quick and just as skilful as Barnetta, and also possesses an excellent cross.

The only drawback is that he is not quite as proficient with both his feet, and as such is sometimes forced to cut in by experienced defenders.

Torbinsky currently plays for Lokomotiv Moscow, and if Portsmouth were interested, I'm sure he would jump at the opportunity to play in the English Premier League.

So that's it. That's my take on who Portsmouth should splash the cash on in the summer.

Taking a step back from all the suggestions, key to their summer is also making sure their best players like Sean Davis sign new contracts, as 15 of the Pompey team are free agents come the end of the month.

If they manage to keep their best players, use their money wisely and strengthen well, they should be in the running for one of the European spots next season, and not fighting a relegation battle.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Three Transfers Road to Improvement: Bolton Wanderers

In the 13th part of my "Three Transfers" series, I shall be taking a look at Bolton Wanderers, a club which has finished just about where everyone expected them to, well clear of the relegation zones, yet nowhere near European football.

To be fair, credit must be given to them for finishing above the likes of Sunderland and Newcastle, clubs that are run on much higher budgets.

The solid, uncompromising style of Megson and his charges, also mean that every visitor to the Reebok Stadium is not given an easy ride.

However, if they are to ensure that they stay well clear of relegation next season, signings are definitely going to be needed, and here's three they can consider.


This is a crucial area to strengthen. Bolton might look well-stocked here, despite Kevin Nolan's departure.

They have Gavin McCann, Fabrice Muamba, Mark Davies, Tamir Cohen, Joey O'Brien and Chris Basham on their books, which means six players for three central midfield spots.

On close examination, however, none of the six players are attacking midfielders. They are more "graft" than "craft", and that explains why Bolton seem to lack the necessary flair to turn draws into wins.

Bolton fans will remember the good ol' days when a certain Jay Jay Okocha lit up the Premier League with his tricks, flicks and free-kicks. Strangely for a player bursting at the seams with flair, a good long throw was also part of his arsenal.

Back then, Bolton were always in the top half of the table. That was due not only to their defensive solidity, but also because they had a player capable of turning a match on its head in Okocha.

As such, having already achieved their initial aim of stability after appointing Megson, I feel the top priority in the summer is to sign a flair player who can light up a game with moments of brilliance.

These players don't come cheap, and those willing to come to Bolton are probably in short supply in Europe.

Therefore, my first recommendation for this position is a player who plies his trade in Egypt for Al-Ahly.

That man is none other than the Egyptian Zinedine Zidane, Mohamed Abou Trika.

Playing in the hole behind the strikers, Abou Trika is a tricky player who uses his vision to set chances up for his team-mates. He also times his runs into the box to perfection, popping up with crucial goals for both club and country.

He boasts an approximate one goal in three games for either club or country, and has big-match experience as well, having won the African Cup of Nations twice, and the FIFA Club World Cup once.

In my opinion, he has all the attributes necessary to be a hit in the Premier League, and even though he is 31 this year, noone would think it if they watched him play.

If Megson finds it tough to sign him due to interest from other clubs, then he could perhaps set his sights on bringing Aaron Ramsey in on loan from Arsenal from next season.

Ramsey has found first-team opportunities for Arsenal limited, and perhaps a loan move to another Premier League side would be beneficial for all parties involved.

Bolton will get a player who creates opportunities for others with his silky passing skills and occasional driving runs, and being schooled the Arsenal way, there is no doubt that he will help Bolton to retain the ball in the final third, an area where they often lack inspiration and guile to prise open the opposition's defence.


For the longest time, Kevin Davies has been used as a right-winger by his managers at Bolton. While it is obviously not his favoured position, Davies has been a model professional, and has never moaned about being played there.

This season, however, should prompt his boss, Gary Megson to rethink the wisdom of leaving Davies out on the right. Davies has shown this season that there is more to his game than just winning headers and leaving defenders with bloodied noses.

He proved to his doubters that he can actually score goals, as he scored twelve this season, which is a good tally considering he doesn't operate as an out-and-out striker.

Johan Elmander, who was deployed as the lone striker for many games, finished the season with a measly five goals, not a good return at all, for someone who cost 11 million pounds.

As such, Kevin Davies should be given a chance in his favoured position next season, but for that to happen, Bolton have to sign a right-winger.

My top recommendation for Bolton is David Odonkor.

Once one of the brightest prospects in world football, the German winger has been affected by injuries for the past couple of years.

However, he remains a good player, and his pace is quite frightening. If Megson can get him to perform to the best of his abilities, then Bolton have themselves a fantastic player.

With Real Betis getting relegated to the second division in Spain, Odonkor may well jump at the opportunity to play in the English Premier League.

If the deal doesn't go through, Bolton could sign Gary O'Neil from Middlesbrough.

A hardworking player, with decent technique, O'Neil would fit in with the rest of the Bolton squad, who scrap for each other and generally put up a good fight every week, no matter who the opposition is.

He possesses a good cross as well, which is important, as that will play to Bolton's strength in the air.

With Middlesbrough down in the Championship, Bolton could nip in and steal O'Neil for a reasonable price, as they will be forced to sell their prized assets in a bid to keep afloat financially.


Bolton have had a fair few strikers over the past couple of seasons, but none has really convinced. This remains one of their problems, scoring goals, and if they had someone who could regularly knock in as many goals as Anelka once did for them, they would definitely be higher up the table.

Also, the current strikers are all big and strong, but not very good on the ball. The exception to the rule is Ricardo Vaz Te, but he's the sort of striker who needs ten chances to even get the ball anywhere near the goal. His record reads 6 goals in 72 appearances, which is a measly tally, even for any other outfield position.

As such, I think Bolton have to invest in a good striker with pace and skill to bring them back to the top half of the English Premier League, and I think their best option is to pull out all the stops in an attempt to get Ricardo Oliveira.

Having just been relegated with Real Betis, Bolton can possibly get him if they are willing to break the bank, and go on a charm offensive.

Skilful and explosive, Ricardo Oliveira is like a poor man's Robinho, and would certainly enhance Bolton's firepower.

If Oliveira proves a step too far for them, then Bolton could perhaps set their sights considerably lower on Kevin Doyle.

Doyle is much less skilful and also not as quick as Oliveira, but he is certainly a much more realistic target for a club like Bolton, and they would not have to break the bank to finance a move for him.

Stuck with Reading in the Championship, and having lost his long-time manager Steve Coppell, Doyle would probably welcome a move back to the Premier League, and I think he would fit in well with the rest of the team.

So there you have it, those are my recommendations for Bolton to sign in the summer. If they can pull off a few of the signings here, they will become a better, and perhaps, just perhaps, a more entertaining team. Neutrals like me can only hope the latter part comes true.