The off-season is a special time for many football fans. The first week is a novelty, but many of us begin wondering what exactly we do with our Saturdays now the Euros have finished.
Such boredom drives inevitable speculation; who's off-contract, who's sought after, who are we linked with. In the era of social media and the internet, there are vast swathes of people demanding that the players who bedazzled in the league last year be signed up instantly, the galacticos of the non-league, if you will.
The thirst for these type of signings are encouraged by the endless stream of anonymous, 'in-the-know', accounts, largely on Twitter these days, who mainly throw enough mud that eventually one will stick; cue the many incorrect predictions being quickly tidied up.
For those football manager fans, my personal approach was to go heavy on the scouting, sign the best players, regardless of position, knowing they'll be good enough, or decent enough, even if not entirely in the position they like best. Reality is somewhat different.
'Philosophy' or 'club culture' are the latest buzz-words for a rather simple thing - how does the club prefer to play football. It's relatively new for us here at Notts, as our style used to change in synchronisation with our manager - roughly every 6 months (or less).
More than most clubs, the Notts pendulum used to swing from one side to the other, without so much as a pause to think about exactly what we are doing and where we are going. Derry: defensive, rigid, direct - to Moniz: attacking, fluid, reckless.
Without diving down the rabbit hole of why and how this all happened, the inevitability is that with such drastic and instantaneous changes in style, you will find yourself with players that simply don't suite the new one.
It seems that tide has turned, however. A change of manager has brought in a change of tactics and play, but the style is largely similar.
There're no players that were well-suited to the previous manager that couldn't have done a similar job with the new one. This brings in a new factor to consider for our transfer policy - do we target players that are the best we can attract, or do we target the best players in the positions and roles that we need?
Sonny Carey. Brilliant player. Ripped us apart when we played KL. If you ignore the fact he has gone higher up the leagues, the next question is, where would we play him, or more importantly, who would you drop to play him? If we are sticking with 3-5-2, there are two striking positions and three central midfield positions.
Assuming one of those strikers will be Wootton, who plays close to him? Roberts? Rodrigues? If they're both playing, one of them (probably Rodrigues) will be the advanced man in that central 3.
You'd be very exposed if 2 of your central 3 were pretty much attacking midfielders, should you incorporate a Carey, or Carey-like player. Another name that came up regularly was Rhys Oates; primarily a winger.
We've made 3 signings so far, and they all convey to me the same message - we know the type of player we wanted, and we've got what we think will be a good fit. A summary of what we were missing, prior to these signings:
- A Michael Doyle. Left-footed, central midfielder who can dictate the game through his passing ability. Capable of the killer ball.
- A left-sided CB, ideally left-footed, who can step out and play with the ball at his feet.
- A left wing back who can attack. Chicksen is solid and technically gifted, but not a winger type. We needed a more attacking LWB to replace Miller.
The three players we've signed, so far, seem to be role and positionally ideal (at least theoretically).
The next question that naturally springs to mind is then what to expect from the further signings? For that, it's best to analyse what we have:
Noticeable is the scope for interpretation. Does 3 at the back mean this is how we line-up? Certainly not, but I've gone with more or less how we featured at the end of last season.
Secondly is just how attacking or defensive this formation varies hugely with personnel, start JOB instead of Rodrigues, Chicksen at LWB, and we all of a sudden look quite solid. Change that up and have Rodrigues, Roberts and Wootton as a quasi-front 3 with Taylor running from the wings, then we start looking dangerous, albeit a bit open. It can be assumed, I think, that those positions and players can be flexible depending on opposition or scoreline.
For the future signings, I'm not expecting any attacking midfielders or wingers. My personal thoughts are:
- Defensive-minded, or tenacious central midfielder who can still play. Neal Bishop type would be perfect.
- All-round central midfielder. No special leanings one way or the other. Reeves loosely could be pigeon-holed in this category.
- A striker to compete and at times partner Wootton. Doesn't necessarily have to be the same type as Wootton.
- A RWB that attacks. Brindley and DKE are solid at this level, but neither are ones to unlock defences.
- A backup centre back. While Brindley and Chicksen performed amicably last season, playing a back 3 with only 3 established CB's is a big risk.