End of Term Report Part 1 12/05/2014Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
This is going to be done for the World Cup if it kills me… onwards…
1- Manuel Almunia
A player whose status will perhaps divide opinions. He has an error in him, certainly, and has done throughout his career. He appears to be increasingly fragile – four separate spells out this season with either injury our illness (albeit twice for a game only). Despite which, for me the case is clear. In a side lacking leaders, a side which by its very make-up might have language issues and has often fielded a formation that leaves you vulnerable down the flanks and thus demands organisation we are hugely dependent on Manuel. There’s a debate about whether you’re better off with your captain outfield which is a separate conversation – you’d need the right character before foisting the captaincy further forward for one thing, and thereby hangs the real problem. Not lack of an outfield captain, but lack of outfield leadership. The armband shouldn’t be relevant. But in any case, Manuel isn’t a presence that you want to be without as it stands.
The case for the Spaniard is made most strongly, as is often the case with underappreciated players, when he’s out of the side – with no slur on Bond intended. Just as his Vicarage Road debut, in Lloyd’s testimonial almost two years ago, was characterised by his bellow echoing off the back of the Rous Stand; the two more prolonged absences this season coincided with Zola’s last run of games and the pathetic close to the season and defensive fragility. More going on in both cases than just a change of keeper, more context, no direct cause-and-effect. But not a complete coincidence either that our two grimmest spells of the season saw Manuel out of the team. There’s one voice calling the shots back there.
Next Season: Out of contract, the future’s rather up to Manuel one suspects. I don’t believe for a minute that he won’t get another year if he wants one.
2- Reece Brown
Ah, Reece Brown. Remember him? Me too, just about. An odd signing amongst a number of odd signings in our scattergun recruitment last summer, having left trees comprehensively unpulled during a number of loan spells from Old Trafford before his release. In his pre-season outings and limited first team action he resembled his more celebrated brother both physically and in the way that, like Brown Sr in his early days in the Man United first team, he spent long spells looking commanding and every inch the part before tripping over his own feet at an inopportune moment. The corollary to that comparison of course is that Wes Brown turned out to be a solid top flight and occasionally international defender, and that Brown Jr wouldn’t need to emulate his brother to be an asset. He’s going to be lucky to get the opportunity to do so at Vicarage Road though.
Next Season: A year left on his contract, Brown is a long way down the pecking order and seemed to have been written off as a bad idea very early on.
3- Hector Bellerin
By contrast, I really don’t remember Hector Bellerin. Is that more a reflection of me getting old, or of the transient nature of much of our squad this season? Have I just lost track? Was he the anonymous defensive midfielder from this big club or the lightweight wingback from that big club? His loan spell, part of the ongoing quest to provide more cover at wing-back, spanned the two managers before being curtailed, presumably since Arsene Wenger decided that his charge would learn more back at the ranch than he would from being part of the remedial rearguard action being undertaken at Vicarage Road. Not the easiest period in which to arrive on loan by any standards… his only involvement in a victory was five minutes at the end of the mauling of Millwall, despite which he seems to have been well thought of on his departure by those upon whom he left an impression. I wasn’t one of them.
Next Season: His star on the rise at Arsenal, another loan seems most likely. Not over the fence again tho.
4- Gabriele Angella
That Gabriele Angella is a terrific defender should go without saying. Strong, quick, utterly comfortable with the ball at his feet and a threat at set pieces to boot. He’s not quite the monster that he appeared to be on his arrival though… a strong defender, good in the air but somehow not dominant, not a bully, not a leader. Not always the happiest looking camper either, although heaven knows we’ve all had enough to be grumpy about this season. As someone who by all accounts we were after a year earlier and who was relatively close to the top of the pile at Udinese Angella must haven taken some persuading in the first place and mid-table in the Championship probably wasn’t what he banked on. Nonetheless, his dips in form were far less pronounced than those going on around him and whatever problems there were at the back, Angella wouldn’t have been near the top of many people’s diagnoses. Enormous fun from attacking set pieces also… the biggest threat we’ve had from set pieces than the more brutal but no less effective Dan Shittu left WD18. Clearly one of the ones who worked, then. Just wish he looked like he was enjoying it a bit more…
Next Season: Would not be surprising to see Prem clubs sniffing around… Gaby has the air of someone who knows he’s above all this. A return to Italy not out of the question either. If he’s still in yellow in August I’ll be delighted.