Writer: Jonathan Moffatt
Date:Thursday August 11 2011
Vital Latics member Jonathan Moffatt, aka J_Mo, takes a look at the coming season and assesses our chances, over to you Jonathan
With just a couple of days to go until the new season kicks off, it's probably as good a time as any to assess how we'll do over the next nine months.
Many websites doing similar previews about our club this season have, as usual, been quite negative about our chances, pointing out our narrow escape from relegation last season, the sale of Charles N'Zogbia, or just their plain dislike for us.
The more generous predictions expect us to have another season of struggle at best. It would be foolish of us to ignore these negative points however (except the bit about them disliking us anyway). The fact is that N'Zogbia will be missed in the upcoming season, and even some our own fans are concerned by our lack of transfer activity.
It's not all doom and gloom however - far from it. One thing to consider is that, despite only confirming our survival right at the death, from the Blackburn home game onwards things finally started to 'click' and we were performing considerably better than the teams around us. As a result, in our final 13 games of last season we picked up a total of 19 points - form which would put us in contention for Europe if we could maintain it throughout a season.
Fortunately for us, the starting line-up which achieved this fine run remains largely unchanged, with only Cleverley and N'Zogbia missing from the squad that beat Stoke back in May. The outstanding form of Victor Moses in pre season makes him the ideal replacement for N'Zogbia, so that just leaves finding a replacement for Cleverley.
I don't think Martinez intends to make wholesale changes, nor do I think we need to. One more permanent signing, plus perhaps a loan or two, and I think we'll be in good shape unless anyone else leaves. It's worth also noting Martinez's focus on developing our youth players, so it wouldn't be surprising to see a new face or two breaking into the first team to add some more depth.
Realistically though, I do think there are a couple of concerns which could make our season go all pear shaped. The first is if we get off to a bad start. In theory there should be no better opening fixtures to wish for than playing three newly promoted teams, but just a glance at the opening fixture against Blackpool last August shows that we know better. The hope is that we'll be much better prepared this time around, but the early season enthusiasm of both players and fans of these teams could make life difficult for us.
The other worry is the number of players in the final year of their contracts. Boyce, Watson, Diame, and Rodallega are all regular first teamers that could potentially leave the club for nothing next year. Diame and Rodallega in particular are big concerns, as they have been linked with moves abroad and could begin negotiating moves away to these clubs as early as next January.
So in summary, I think a good start to the season is the key. Not only will it spare us the embarrassment we suffered this time last season, but it would give us a massive confidence boost to be sitting higher up the table rather than playing catch up all season. It also may just convince those players considering their future to sign a new deal if they see the club progressing as the season goes on.
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Date:Thursday August 11 2011
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