Welcome to the second installment of Transfer Window Worries. This column will highlight issues in the current squad shown in the first half of the season. Additionally, it will present three possible players who could be brought in to address the problem. The first will be an elite player who, if signed, would be the ideal fit. Secondly, a star-quality player ready to take the next step in their career. Finally, a safe signing who would bring much needed depth to the team.
Transfer Window Worries: Wingback
Antonio Valencia has made a terrific transition from winger to full-time right back in recent years. His powerful running and offensive ability have made him a mainstay in the Manchester United team – validated by his Players’ Player of the Year Award for the 2016-17 season. However, Valencia is now on the wrong side of 30. The task of playing 90 minutes in each match is too much. Manchester United need a proper right back, not named Matteo Darmian, to help carry the load.
The left back position poses a unique problem for Jose Mourinho. Ashley Young has been commendable, however is currently playing right back in Valencia’s absence. He too, is over 30 and shouldn’t be a first choice left back for a team of Manchester United’s stature. Luke Shaw is arguably the perfect fit for the position. However, his public spats with Jose Mourinho will always cloud his strong form. Additionally, Shaw’s extensive history of injuries may have Jose Mourinho looking for a sturdier option.
The Superstar Signing
At just 22 years of age, Joshua Kimmich has already accumulated 25 caps for Germany. He has cemented his place in the Bayern Munich starting XI, filling the void left by Philipp Lahm. What Kimmich may lack in pace, he makes up for by being a supremely intelligent footballer. He completes 90% of his passes and has registered 3 goals and 8 assists across all competitions this season – an outstanding return from right back. Additionally, Kimmich is equally talented in central midfield. If deployed in a holding role he would give offensive freedom to Paul Pogba.
Alex Sandro, Jordi Alba, David Alaba and Marcelo have long been the cream of the left back crop. The next player looking to join the upper echelon is Tottenham‘s Danny Rose. He, along with Kyle Walker, formed a formidable wingback tandem at Spurs. Walker has since moved to Manchester City for big money and Rose has been vocal in his desire to get paid his worth. He is adept to playing in both three and four back formations. He is accustomed to playing the Premier League; for a top 6 club at that. Rose is 27 years old and ready to take the next big step in his career.
The Top-drawer Transfer
A large reason for Antonio Valencia’s effectiveness is his ability to buccaneer from box to box for the full 90 minutes. If Manchester United are looking for a similar skill-set in Valencia’s successor, the answer is Porto’s Ricardo Pereira. The 24 year-old has contributed two goals and four assists in all competitions this season. Defensively, Pereira is arguably Valencia’s superior. He averages 1.5 clearances, 2.1 interceptions and 3.5 tackles per match. The Ecuadorian pales in comparison. The Portuguese joining United’s ranks would provide Valencia with immediate rest and a future replacement.
The likely heir to Jordi Alba’s throne, Jose Gaya of Valencia is a very exciting prospect. His statistics don’t necessarily jump off the page, however his style of play would fit Manchester United perfectly. Gaya loves the attacking aspect of football. He frequently makes overlapping runs to support his winger and lashes quality crosses into the box. In transition, he always looks to release his attacking players on his first pass. The likes of Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford would welcome the open space Gaya provides.
The Safe Solution
In theory, Matteo Darmian should be the ideal substitute right back. A full international for Italy, Darmian is very resolute defensively. Unfortunately he is so weak offensively that Manchester United have no width or support whenever he plays. The actual ideal right back depth comes in the form of Southampton‘s Cedric Soares. The Portuguese international is a strong defender, yet attacks with purpose down the right flank. In Southampton’s first 14 Premier League matches, he played all but ten minutes; which speaks to his consistency in a struggling team. The Saints will welcome his expected return from injury January 13th. However, a Premier League tested, European Championship winning defender could attract many suitors.
Despite the change in management, West Ham still find themselves caught in the midst of a relegation battle. This could result in players moving on in order to save their Premier League careers. One player who could provide depth at left back for many teams is Aaron Cresswell. The 28 year old has been the epitome of consistency for West Ham in recent seasons. He provides multiple clearances per match and is seldom beaten on the dribble. Additionally, Cresswell is an excellent crosser of the ball. He has four assists in the Premier League this season. He also takes the majority of West Ham’s corners and free kicks. If Luke Shaw becomes a first choice left back, Cresswell could provide multiple seasons of quality support.
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