Squad Assessment: Where The Imps Need To Strengthen This Summer

Credit Graham Burrell

Wide Forwards

I’ve split the forwards up into two categories, wide players and central players. Make no mistake, this is the area we need to strengthen, and I’m not convinced any of our current wide players will be classed as first-team players next season. Theo Archibald is the one who interests me most. I still think there is a top player in there, but he came here behind the rest of the squad in terms of fitness and never quite caught up. He didn’t get the games he needed to impress, but I don’t think he looked bad when he did play. He’s one that we suspect had Covid, and he picked up a late injury, so his season never really got going. Hopefully, with the benefit of a full pre-season, we can see if I’m right about him or not. Zack Elbouzedi had a disappointing time on loan at Bolton, and I wonder where he goes from here. Zack’s a nice lad, very unassuming and hard-working, and whilst I don’t see a first-team spot for him this year, he did impress in the EFL Trophy and certainly deserves six months around the squad to prove his ability. The same goes for Remy Howarth, apart from the loan, of course. Remy is a player I would actually like to see out on loan, maybe somewhere like Rochdale, a team in League Two that plays a bit of football and will go through him in a central role, rather than a wide tole. I didn’t know where to put Remy in terms of positions either, and it will help him being somewhere for ten or 20 games and settling into a rhythm.

Credit Graham Burrell

That means we need to sign at least two wide players, in my opinion. We seem to be targeting is Jordan Graham, he would be a superb signing if he were to come to the club, but I’m not sure we’ll pull that off. I can see at least one of our wide players coming in on loan, as Morgan Rogers did, but I also think there is a desire to have contracted wingers of our own at the club. I’d like to see two come in, one on loan and one permanently, with Archibald also stepping up. Remember, Anthony Scully operates out wide as well as down the middle and can also cover. Basically, we need to replace Johnson and Rogers, but we have one borrowed player and a player of our own instead of two loan players.

Centre Forwards

Our number nine this season has been Tom Hopper, and whilst he did a good job, especially in the latter stages of the season, we need an option or two around him. I remarked how a striker like, say, Charlie Wyke wouldn’t fit into our pattern of play the other day and was told that perhaps our pattern of play was dictated by not having a striker of his ilk. Have we adapted to play with a false nine because our only option was a player whose strengths lay in playing the false nine? If we have, then it makes a new face an absolute must. It’s easy (and lazy) to say we need to sign a 20-goal striker. They don’t physically exist, only in the past (20 goals one season doesn’t mean 20 the next at another club), which Tyler Walker proved. He hit 20 for Mansfield, would have done for us had he not been recalled and then didn’t for Coventry. What we need, in my opinion, is to focus more of that increased budget we have heard about on a player who offers a different threat to Hopper but proven as a player at this level. Callum Morton looked great on paper, but of all the signings last summer, he is the one you can probably say didn’t work out, especially with his injury, and that left us with one striker all season. To finish fifth with one fit out-and-out striker was a big achievement.

Credit Graham Burrell

What about Anthony Scully, I hear you ask? What indeed. I’m going to liken him to a tomato. People think Tomato is a vegetable, but it is a fruit, yet you use it in things like Spaghetti Bolognese and even lather your chips in it. Anthony Scully is a tomato of the Imps’ squad; he is labelled as a striker. Still, he comes to life when he plays out wide, or in the ten role, or on as a sub. he fits so many roles. Still, I’m yet to be convinced he fits the central number nine role, much as I’m yet to be convinced a tomato should be in my fruit bowl with bananas and avocados (like I have those in my fruit bowl. In fact, like I even have a fruit bowl). There’s no denying Anthony Scully is a good player; there’s no argument that he is around the first-team squad and will be next season, and his goals tally cannot be put down. I just don’t quite know where he fits in from the start as yet, which is why I think we need a more defined striker to add to our complement of forwards. In fact, if I am honest, I’d like to see two come in, a marquee signing and someone like Charlie Brown at MK Dons. He arrived there from Chelsea last season as a project player, and I’d love us to have a project striker, a proper out-and-out nine or ten from a bigger academy looking to cut it in senior football.

Finally, to complete our squad, Jovon Makama signed professional terms last season. He will be out on loan with Gainsborough Trinity getting much-needed experience, so hopefully, I’m talking about him as a possible first-team player when I write this article next season. As for this season, if his loan starts at the beginning of the season, I don’t see him making his debut. If he is with us during the early stages of the EFL Trophy, maybe we’ll see him in competitive action.

Makama – Credit Graham Burrell

Conclusion

To conclude, I think we need a keeper, right back cover, two wide players and two attackers as a minimum. That’s six new faces, but in reality, I’d also feel more comfortable with a central defender who boasts a better injury record and maybe even an attacking midfielder to give us tactical flexibility. That would be eight new faces, taking our squad to a total of 29. That won’t happen without players leaving, and whilst a couple could go without us replacing them like-for-like, we also have to assume that one or two might depart and need replacing, the likes of Montsma and Grant the two who immediately spring to mind.

Once this godforsaken West Brom racket is put to bed, hopefully, we can crack on with building next season’s squad in the image of last years, with a bit more depth to see us through those sticky injury patches.