We start the 2016/17 season with an air of enthusiasm and energy that Stam has brought with his appointment. Contrast this with the mood that surrounded the club at the end of last season and it’s easy to see why some people are already hailing our new manager as our saviour. Hopefully this will be the case, but I think it’s going to be an extremely difficult first job for him.
For the last 3 years we have struggled to score goals and to stop conceding soft ones. This is something Jaap will want to improve immediately, but selling Aaron Tshibola will not have helped him. I don’t think we’ve realised the full impact of him leaving us for Villa. I can’t see any of the players we’ve signed being able to replace his calm and composed head in midfield. Joey Van Der Berg looks like a decent player but totally different to Tshibola. And from his past disciplinary record it’s not unfair to assume he might miss a few games this season.
On a positive note we’ve signed some decent creative midfielders, something we’ve lacked for a few years. Beerens has the potential to be a key player this season. Two footed and understands the formation that we will be using. Swift has the added advantage of one full season of Championship experience with Brentford. 7 goals in 28 games isn’t a bad return. His goal against Bournemouth in the recent friendly showed he could be a midfielder who arrives late in the box. Yet another area where we’ve looked weak for years. Yakou Meite will need to be handled with care, definite potential but let’s not build him up too much. He’s still very inexperienced and needs time to develop into the adult game. I would put Liam Kelly in the same bracket, but I hope we persist as he’s technically very good and could solve our set piece issues. So I think we have improved our midfield in an attacking sense.
Towards the end of last season Rakels and Kermorgrant showed some promising signs of linking up nicely. But it’s very surprising we haven’t signed any strikers apart from Joseph Mendes. Even he is a converted winger who only really hit any form for Le Havre in the last part of the 2016 season. Unfortunately he’s also now injured. Samuel has joined him in the Physio’s room after a relatively successful loan spell at Gillingham. Going into a season with two fit strikers is very risky, even playing 4-3-3. This is an area that urgently needs reinforcements if we want to improve on last year.
I can’t be very positive about our defence either. At the time of writing this article we have signed one defender, Danzell Gravenberch, from a second division Dutch team. With no experienced players to cover for any injuries, suspensions or lack of form, it’s an area of major concern. Gunter, Obita and Cooper all had a poor season last year. The fact Joey Van Der Berg was tried at centre half instead of Jake shows us that Jaap isn’t sure on him this season. Personally I rate Cooper but he needs to show that he has learnt from his basic mistakes. So I’m very concerned about our lack of defensive signings. This isn’t helped by the fact that our No.1 goalie is far from ‘Safe Hands’ despite last years deserved Player of The Season award. The new back up, Jaakkola, is an unknown quantity, so we will have to wait and see if the South African league is the new hotbed of keepers.
I’m a bit worried that some of the fans will struggle to adapt to Stam’s new style if we don’t get a half decent start. I wouldn’t expect to see much of the conventional crossing the ball. Instead I expect far more intricate moving of the ball, waiting for lapses from the opposition. Stay patient with the team and manager. He’s learning like the team will be.
I think we can slightly improve on last season if we are lucky with injuries and have a decent last few weeks in the window. As long as I see a clear plan and some improvement I will be content. I’m saying we will finish 13th but hope I’m wrong and we trounce the league.
Let us know if you if agree or disagree with my thoughts or prediction via the comments section below or via @ElmParkRoyals