One of the most pleasing things about the season so far has been our strength in depth.
We haven’t enjoyed such a privilege for some time and we’ve been able to witness first hand just how crucial it can be – despite Cheikhou Kouyate and Diafra Sakho both either away on international duty or sidelined through injury, we’ve still looked a very strong side.
But the one major concern remains our defence. Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Cresswell have arguably been two of our most successful summer recruits so far this term, but behind them we’ve only got Joey O’Brien and Guy Demel as back up, which is one huge step backwards in terms of quality.
The lack of strength in depth in the full-back position isn’t our major worry, though. It’s in the centre of defence.
Winston Reid’s future at the club is hanging in the balance. Will he leave this month or can we at least look forward to having him at our disposal for another five months?
Either way, Sam Allardyce needs to be prepared for when he does leave. Reid has been our best centre-back this season, but if he were to leave we’d be left worryingly short at the back – just James Collins and James Tomkins are there to fill in.
We do have Doneil Henry, but throwing him straight in to the side isn’t ideal and could prove detrimental to both the team and Henry’s development. That’s not a dig at Henry’s ability, it’s just you have to be careful with how you introduce players to the rigours of Premier League football these days. Just look at how Winston Reid struggled when he first arrived at the club.
Winston Reid v James Collins v James Tomkins
So that leaves us with just a couple of alternatives within the squad who could, if we get desperate, slot in and cover in central defence.
The fact Allardyce has admitted that the likelihood of us signing someone this month is slim, you’d suspect playing players out of position might be the route to go down if times get tough.
We had someone at Sam Allardyce’s press conference on Friday and he discussed whether Cheikhou Kouyate and/or Alex Song could be the players to call upon in the centre of defence if need be.
And going by what he says, it appears Allardyce is quite happy to go the rest of the season just as we are before rebuilding that part of the team next summer…
On Cheikhou Kouyate…
“He played centre midfield every time we watched him.
“I see him as a stand in for us, I think on the basis of how he performed in that position I see that to be his main role.
“I also think as a person he prefers to play there. There is a lot of energy wasted if you play at centre half and he is a great athlete this lad, which is one of the main assets of a midfielder.
“But he can play there which is a relief for us, we only have three centre halves at the moment, with young Doneil coming through, so yes he can play there but we see him in midfield.”
On Alex Song…
“Song would be wasted there, his passing talent would be wasted there.
“He has got some real cutting edge passes in his locker, if you play him at centre half, he will never be able to get in the opposition’s half and play those cutting edge passes.
“The one he slid to Valencia against Manchester City, for example, he plays those passes really well.”