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Friday, June 26, 2009

The Three Transfers Road to Improvement: Hull City

another article i wrote on bleacher report

In the 17th part of my "Three Transfers" series, I take a look at Hull City, a team that started the season so well that a wretched run towards the end of the season still managed to keep them up.

Of course, Newcastle and Middlesbrough playing like they wanted to go down helped Hull's cause, but however it happened, what is important now is that Hull City have another season in the top flight to look forward to.

However, I think it has to be said that the current team, if left unstrengthened, will be around or inside the relegation spots again next season. As such, I think it is crucial that the Tigers strengthen for next season, and my suggestions for Phil Brown to mull over are as follows:


Hull City were one of the lowest scorers last season, managing only 39 goals for the entire campaign.

That Marlon King, who only spent half a season there, is the second-highest scorer with 5 goals, and Michael Turner, a defender, is the third-highest scorer with 4 goals, shows that the quality of the strikers probably leave much to be desired. Even with Fraizer Campbell's impending arrival at the club, at least one more striker is still needed.

As such, Phil Brown's interest in Michael Owen is completely understandable. However, with Owen expressing his reluctance to join Hull, perhaps other targets should be the focus for Brown.

I would suggest that Brown should try to sign Benjani Mwaruwari. With Roque Santa Cruz recently becoming the 176th striker on Manchester City's books, Benjani will surely find playing time really limited.

That he will not get much time on the pitch isn't an indication of his lack of quality though, it just so happens that there is talent like Robinho, Bellamy, Jo, Santa Cruz and Caicedo ahead of him in the pecking order.

As such, Hull would do well to sign Benjani, who is a decent goalscorer, but perhaps more importantly, he is a hardworking striker who never gives up a lost cause. This is a valuable mindset to have for any player playing for a relegation-threatened club, as the last thing you want is a team that gives up easily.

His strength and pace would also bring much more to the team than the likes of Daniel Cousin and Caleb Folan, who were clearly not good enough for the Premiership.

As mentioned above, considering that Benjani is probably surplus to requirements at the City of Manchester Stadium, Hull should be able to pick him up for a reasonable price, and Phil Brown should try to ensure it happens.

Alternatively, Phil Brown could go for Marlon Harewood.

Just like Benjani, Harewood is also not likely to see much first-team action next season, with John Carew, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Emile Heskey and sometimes even youngster Nathan Delfouneso preferred to him.

Harewood would be a good signing and definitely a first-teamer for Hull City though, as he has proven himself in the Premiership before, and even in his limited appearances for Villa, he has shown that he still has quality in him.

Strong and athletic, he will be a handful for most defences, and would definitely be a good signing for Hull City.

Just as in Benjani's case, a reasonable offer should do it for Martin O'Neill, as he is clearly deemed surplus to requirements.


Hull's struggles last season were also in part down to the lack of ability to retain possession, especially in the central midfield area.

Sure, Jimmy Bullard will be back from injury, and I think he will be an integral part of Hull's team next season, but they definitely need at least one more midfielder in there, especially as George Boateng and Ian Ashbee are not getting any younger. In fact, Bullard himself isn't exactly Mr Indestructible.

Central midfielders in the Premier League (who would realistically want to play for a relegation-threatened team) do not come much better than Kevin Nolan.

A good goalscoring midfielder who never shies away from a challenge, Nolan is a seasoned campaigner in the English top flight, and would be a valuable addition to most Premier League teams.

His form might have suffered a little after his move to Newcastle, but to be fair, almost the entire team underperformed, which ultimately resulted in their relegation.

And it is their relegation which should open the door for a move to sign him, as Newcastle need to sell to keep afloat, and if Hull are serious about retaining their Premier League status, they should have no problem affording the transfer fee.

Phil Brown and Kevin Nolan have also worked together before at Bolton, so that might make the move a little easier to complete.

If Nolan rejects Hull, then Phil Brown should perhaps set his sights on Tom Huddlestone.

The former England U21 international has a superb passing range, and would be a great addition to Hull City.

The current Hull City team looks short of ideas when going forward, and if they had Huddlestone, they would certainly have a little more inspiration in their play.

He also has a good long shot on him, which could be important if Hull cannot find a way past packed defences.

With Harry Redknapp clearing out half the Tottenham squad, Hull might have a chance of getting their claws on a cultured, classy midfielder, and I think Phil Brown should try to get him if the price is right.


While Andy Dawson might be a fan's favourite, having been voted Hull's player of the year in 2007, I feel that he is not good enough to play at the Premiership level.

Dawson is also not someone you would place money on in a sprint challenge, and with him being on the wrong side of 30, this problem will be heavily exploited by pacy wingers next season.

He is also the only specialist left-back at the club, which is obviously not ideal. As such, it would be wise for Phil Brown to try and sign someone to replace or provide back-up for Dawson.

I think Phil Brown should pull out all the stops to try and bring in Emanuel Pogatetz from Middlesbrough.

A player who "never gives less than 300%", as described by his former manager Steve McClaren, Pogatetz is one of the hardest of the "hard men" when it comes to the left-back position.

The Austrian captain might not be the best going forward, but he is very solid at the back, and will not let right-wingers pass him easily.

With Middlesbrough recently being relegated, Hull could take advantage of their situation and sign one of Boro's top players at a reasonable price.

If Hull cannot muster enough funds to finance the move for Pogatetz, Brown could look at bringing in Kieran Gibbs on loan from Arsenal.

While obviously not even half as solid as Pogatetz, Gibbs possesses excellent pace, which gets him out of trouble and makes up for his relative lack of defensive awareness.

Also, the above-mentioned pace will be very useful for Hull on the counter-attack, and should he be signed, I can see him being as exciting as Bernard Mendy on the opposite flank.

I think Arsenal would not mind letting Gibbs go on loan for a season, as Armand Traore is back from his spell at Portsmouth, and will take over as cover for Gael Clichy.

So that's it, those are my suggested signings for Hull City next season. If Brown manages to get these players, I'm sure Hull will not struggle as much next season.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Three Transfers Road to Improvement: Sunderland

another article i published on bleacher report.

In the 16th part of my "Three Transfers" series, I shall be taking a look at Sunderland, a club that lost Roy Keane halfway through the season, and ended up stumbling through the entire season to finally secure their top flight status at the end.

With Steve Bruce at the helm now, bigger and better things are expected at the Stadium of Light, and from what we saw with Bruce's Wigan, there is cause for optimism for the Sunderland faithful.

Of course, a new manager does not fix everything, and if they are to improve on this season, then Bruce will have to bring in a few new faces. Here are my suggestions on who should be brought in, and why.


With Djibril Cisse heading back to Marseille, Sunderland are left with David Connolly, David Healy, Michael Chopra, Daryl Murphy, and of course Kenwyne Jones as their striking options.

Of the five players listed above, only Kenwyne Jones is Premiership quality, and as such, a new striker should definitely be the priority for Steve Bruce.

Sunderland have been linked with Darren Bent in the tabloids, and for good reason, too.

Strong and fast, Bent would be the perfect complement for Kenwyne Jones' aerial prowess.

Last season showed that Jones and Cisse worked quite well together, so Bruce would do well to try and replicate it by getting a pacy forward like Bent in. In fact, it could even work better than Jones and Cisse, as Bent is a much more accomplished finisher than Cisse will ever be.

Harry Redknapp has made it clear that Bent would be allowed to leave this summer, and as such, a reasonable offer would probably be enough to secure his signature.

Alternatively, Steve Bruce could look to bring in Michael Owen.

Yes, he is not the same player he once was, as injuries have robbed him of his pace, but the guile and finishing instincts still remain, and he could definitely be a good addition to Sunderland's squad.

While not quite as speedy as Darren Bent anymore, Owen is a natural goalscorer and you never get enough of such players.

His contract runs out in the summer, and with little interest from the top clubs, Sunderland could pick up a good player for nothing. His wages might be high, but Sunderland could try to negotiate a contract based more on appearances, so that they are covered in case he suffers another one of those long-term injuries that have plagued his career.

To top it all off, he would be moving from Newcastle straight to Sunderland, which surely would not go down well with the Magpies at St James Park, but will probably delight the Sunderland fans.


Currently, Sunderland have Paul McShane, Calum Davenport, Danny Collins and Anton Ferdinand who can play in this position.

None of the above four players have looked very convincing last season, and additions are definitely needed to strengthen this very crucial area of the team.

As such, I would suggest that Steve Bruce go for Oguchi Onyewu, the giant American.

Onyewu stands at 1.96m tall, and is strong in the air, so on paper he would be a good partner for Anton Ferdinand, who is relatively more comfortable on the ground.

Although Onyewu has had an unsuccessful spell at Newcastle before, I think he has developed into a better player during his time at Standard Liege, and should definitely be considered as a potential signing for Sunderland.

Having already won two league championships with Standard, Onyewu would probably be open to a second chance in the English Premier League. Also, the EPL has effectively kicked out racism from the stadiums, which might be an important factor, considering he was the victim of a racist insult during a recent match against Anderlecht.

If Onyewu proves impossible to sign, then perhaps Steve Bruce could set his sights a little lower and go for Abdoulaye Meite.

Strong, quick, and good in the air, Meite would also be a good partner for Ferdinand.

However, he does show an occasional lack of concentration which can lead to disastrous consequences.

Nevertheless, he is a fine defender on his day, and is definitely better than the other options Sunderland possess.


Two Sunderland players are capable of playing at right-wing, and they are Steed Malbranque and Carlos Edwards.

I think a lot was expected from Steed Malbranque when his signing was announced, but if performances from last season are anything to go by, he has not been a success, and with his age, he probably will not get much better.

Carlos Edwards is even worse off, as he has not looked like a Premiership player at any point in his Sunderland career.

As such, a right-winger would be a good addition to Sunderland's team.

Jermaine Pennant comes to mind as the obvious choice for the position, as he ticks all the right boxes when one thinks of a Premiership-standard right-winger.

He is quick, skillful, and has a very good cross on him. Steve Bruce is also known to be an admirer, as he brought him in when he was in charge of Birmingham. Pennant's best form of his career so far was also at the St. Andrews Stadium, so perhaps Steve Bruce knows how to get the most of out him.

His contract runs out at the end of the month, and Bruce would do very well to pick him up on a free transfer.

If money is not a problem for Sunderland, they could instead opt for Pedro Leon.

Leon plies his trade in Valladolid, and is being tipped for great things in future.

A very skillful player, Pedro Leon also has qualities that conventional right-wingers do not possess, such as a the vision to pick out a pass, and a decent long shot.

The drawback of signing a player from the Spanish league is the risk involved, because they might not be able to bring the same level of performance over. Josemi, Antonio Nunez and Mikel Alonso are just a few examples.

Also, being a key player in Valladolid, Sunderland might have to pay over the odds to get their man.

With Bruce being promised a decent transfer warchest this summer, there is more than just a small chance that he can tempt Pedro Leon to ditch the warmth of Spain for the bitter North-east weather.

So that's it. Those are my suggested signings for Steve Bruce's Sunderland next season. If they do get them, they won't even be close to the relegation zone.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Three Transfers Road to Improvement: Blackburn

another article i published on bleacher report

In the 15th part of my "Three Transfers" series, I look at Blackburn Rovers, a team that started the season with the hapless Paul Ince, but managed to turn their season around with the appointment of Sam Allardyce as manager.

With Sam Allardyce at the helm, Blackburn fans should not have to worry much about relegation.

He managed to keep Bolton in the top half of the table for a long period of time, and I think that goes to show his managerial ability, considering Bolton offered him very limited resources to work with.

With Blackburn, I reckon Big Sam's initial aim will be to ensure that they do not get sucked into the relegation battle at any point of time during the season.

If that is the case, then the squad definitely requires strengthening in a few areas, and they might consider the following players.


A number of players have been used in this position this season, namely Andre Ooijer, Danny Simpson, Zurab Khizanishvili, and even Keith Andrews.

Of those four names, only two (Ooijer and Simpson) can claim to be specialist right-backs, and both will not be at Ewood Park this season.

Ooijer has confirmed he will be heading back to PSV Eindhoven, while Simpson will return to Manchester United, his parent club.

Brett Emerton, the Australian midfielder, has shown that he can do very well in the right-back position, but his high energy is better utilised in midfield. Even if Allardyce does play him on the right side of defence, a right-back is still a highly necessary signing for them, given their lack of personnel who can play there.

As such, I would suggest that Blackburn make a new right-back their number one priority this summer, and they should look no further than to Habib Beye, the Senegalese international from Newcastle.

Solid in the tackle, and a decent option on the counter-attack, Beye would be the perfect answer for Blackburn's right-back woes.

Besides, with Newcastle recently being relegated, Beye would probably be available on a cut-price deal, as the Magpies need to sell their players to stay afloat.

Alternatively, Blackburn could try to go after Alan Hutton.

The Tottenham man is one of 37 right-backs at White Hart Lane, and might be allowed to go if the price is right.

Strong on the ball, and in the challenge, Hutton would also be a good addition to Ewood Park.

However, the drawback is that he is not quite as good when it comes to counter-attacking, and he would also definitely cost more than Beye.


With Roque Santa Cruz now at The City of Manchester Stadium, Blackburn will find themselves short of striking options in the coming season.

Their situation is made worse by Matt Derbyshire's desire to stay in Greece, where he has had a good spell on loan at Olympiakos.

As such, signing a striker should also be a priority for Sam Allardyce, and I think the ideal replacement for Santa Cruz would be Nikola Zigic.

Standing at 2.02m tall, Zigic is tailor-made for Sam Allardyce's long-ball style of play.

With Blackburn lacking in creativity in the middle of the park, Zigic's height would serve as an outlet for the rest of the team to punt long balls to, much like what they attempted to do with Christopher Samba at the tail-end of the season. Of course, Samba is no striker, so that was more of a failure than a success.

Zigic is surplus to requirements at Valencia, and with the club in some serious financial trouble, Allardyce certainly has the funds to prise him away from the Mestalla.

An alternative for Allardyce to consider would be Jo.

A reject at Manchester City, the Brazilian has shown in his loan spell at Everton that he still has what it takes to be a success in the Premiership.

Not only is he decent in the air, he is also quite a skilful player, and would be an asset to any team.

With the money from Roque Santa Cruz's move to Manchester City, Blackburn should be able to afford Jo.


Blackburn currently boast one of the most intimidating central defensive partnerships in the Premier League, with Ryan Nelsen partnering Christopher Samba.

However, I still believe that this department requires one more central defender, as there is little cover beyond Nelsen and Samba.

Andre Ooijer and Aaron Mokoena have left, and they have been used as emergency cover in the past.

Zurab Khizanishvili has shown time and again that he is not good enough for the English Premier League, and as such, I think Blackburn should try to sign David Wheater from Middlesbrough.

A tall and imposing defender, Wheater was one of the shining lights in Boro's otherwise rather gloomy season.

A solid defender who never shies away from a challenge, Wheater is one of those defenders you wouldn't mind trusting your life with, and is probably exactly the type of defender Sam Allardyce loves.

With his addition, Allardyce would then have three quality central defenders, to cover for injuries and suspensions. Also, with Nelsen turning 32 this year, Wheater can be groomed as the long-term replacement for him.

Middlesbrough, like Newcastle, have to sell their prized assets to keep afloat, and despite insisting that they will not sell Wheater, they might find it hard to keep him if big offers come in.

If the Wheater deal does not materialise, then Allardyce could try to go after Nedum Onuoha from Manchester City.

Boasting superb pace and strength, Onuoha's athleticism would be a good complement for either Nelsen or Samba, as their only weakness is a lack of speed to deal with forwards who run at them.

With the new signings starting to pile in at the City of Manchester Stadium, Mark Hughes might allow Onuoha to leave for a reasonable fee.

So that's it - those are my recommended signings for Blackburn for next season. If they manage to get half of the targets listed above, relegation fears will not even enter the heads of the Ewood Park faithful.