End of Term Report Part 3 18/05/2014Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
8 (#2)- Alexander Merkel
Alex Merkel’s name had been mentioned frequently in dispatches long before his eventual arrival in January, ostensibly as cover for the still-not-quite-recovered Almen Abdi. Having joined Milan at the age of 16 he had no small pedigree, and if he blotted his copybook early on with a needless, stroppy red card at the end of his debut defeat to Reading it was only after he’d shown tantalising glimpses of his ability from an unnatural-looking berth, pre-Tözsér, at the back of the midfield. Thing is… he never really got any further than that. There was no doubting his ability; at times, such as at Doncaster in March and off the bench against Barnsley the following weekend, there was a suggestion that the Kazakh-German, who looked like he might have belonged in an eighties boy-band, was beginning to establish himself. Instead as the season draw to a close he was involved less rather than more, making only one further start and drifting away from the picture despite options in midfield being further limited by injuries. You were left with the impression of someone whose heart perhaps was never really in the thing to start with.
Next Season: Apparent indictment in the end-of-season fall-out would seem to preclude further involvement at Vicarage Road, which on the basis of the unrealised status of his talent is no great loss. A philosophical question: does a stradivarius, kept in its box under the bed, make any noise? In a forest or anywhere else?
9- Troy Deeney
There’s a reason that players don’t often score 20 goals in consecutive seasons, after all. More than one reason, strictly speaking… the first being that 20 goals a season tends to be enough to attract interest, the second being that those that hang around are either playing at a higher level having propelled their club upwards, or lack the ability to repeat the feat – the first twenty an outlier,a flash in the pan – or that they fail to motivate themselves in quite the same way given no change in status. Been there, done that, already got that t-shirt. So… sure, Troy’s Player of the Season campaign was not without its criticisms. As we flailed, rudderless and leaderless, in Zola’s last days Deeney was as culpable as anyone, a dip in form and influence that he’s since acknowledged. And as he surged back into view in the New Year you did have to wonder quite whose benefit that was for… were these colossal performances simply a consequence of rediscovered mojo or did Troy realise that his chances of a big move would be greatly enhanced by a show of force. Either way, he was magnificent during the second half of the season, almost without exception or hiccup. Strong and yet mobile, aggressive and yet controlled, ability matched with personality, he stood out like a beacon in the same way that Adrian Mariappa did during his final season at Vicarage Road. Just too good for this level of football any longer – those debates about whether he was worth whatever we paid Walsall for him now seem an awfully long time ago.
Next Season: The Pozzo model would suggest that this would be the time. Two years to go on his contract, peak of his powers, two massive seasons under his belt… this is the time to sell, and it’s inconceivable that there won’t be offers. If he does stay, you suspect it would be for the longer term… here for keeps, here to finish what we’ve started. If he goes… the rationale would be that you sell now because you don’t need to sell now, so you only sell if the right money comes in. And that would need to be an awful lot…
10- Lewis McGugan
When we signed Lewis McGugan it felt like a bit of a coup. One of the most eye-catching players in the Championship, scorer of belting long rage goals and audacious free-kicks, a highlights show staple, his signing something of a statement of intent. Fast forward, and Lewis has ended the season with eleven goals, an impressive haul from midfield by any standards, and a respectable enough eight assists. So why is there any debate? Scores goals, often eye-catching goals. Makes goals. What’s not to like?
The answer was suggested by the shrug with which McGugan’s departure was met by many on the Forest messageboards, a response that knocked our triumphalism at poaching him somewhat. It’s reflected in the fact that after an underwhelming campaign for the team Lewis didn’t make the top ten in Player of the Season despite those impressive stats. McGugan isn’t lazy. He’s not merely a showman, a highlights player, a show pony. If he were there would, again, be no debate and he wouldn’t have been the most regular pick in the midfield three over the course of the season. Not lazy. But perhaps… indisciplined. Not in the losing temper, picking up cards sense but rather… disappearing when things get tough. Making bad decisions far too often… the defining image of McGugan’s season isn’t of him reeling away from another triumphant free kick, it’s of Troy Deeney giving him the look (and sometimes more than a look) after, once again, Lewis chose to take his chance with a long-range drive into the back of the stand rather than looking for the pass.
To return to one of BHaPPY’s favourite topics, you rather wonder what Lewis would look like playing alongside a John Eustace character… someone to keep in his ear, remind him what the hell he’s supposed to be doing and kick him up the arse when required. As it is, he’s obviously an asset but for all the positive contributions his potential remains unrealised.
Next Season: More of the same, one suspects. Which will be good, but, you know…
11- Fernando Forestieri
Really, what’s not to like? In a side that’s struggled for… personality for much of the season, Nando provides it in bucketloads. He’s still a young player and whilst he’s progressed immeasurably in his two seasons at Vicarage Road there are still rough edges. He could have probably done without being a de facto first choice for as much of the season but at the same time his name on the teamsheet is never anything but a Good Thing.
His expressive nature has also made him a barometer of the team’s mood. Early in the season a brief return to the more testing histrionics, going down too easily, remonstrating with the officials or into space as he stomped slowly back onside provided due warning of the brick wall that ‘franco’s side was careering into. His devilish goal at Manchester City served notice on a renewed exuberance that would see us lose only four of the next seventeen games… and his doleful trudge across the front of the Rookery early in the Huddersfield game telegraphed that something was amiss before events on the pitch underlined the concern.
He hadn’t started a game since mid-February, incidentally, and much as Mathias Ranégie and Ikechi Anya between them provided reasonable service to Troy in the meantime we hadn’t half missed his fairy dust. He’s the guy at drama club who doesn’t learn his lines but turns up and improvises genius… a group full of Nandos would be a disaster. You do rather need at least one though.
Next Season: He’s a weapon and still improving, but we’d get so much more out of him if as last season he was merely one of a number of different options.