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End of Term Report – Part 3 03/06/2019

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

10- Isaac Success

It’s easily forgotten, but Isaac had a strong start to the season.  He started seven out of eight Premier League games in a two month run from mid October to mid December, impressing as a lone striker in the wins at Molineux and against Huddersfield, and in the draw at Southampton.  He looked strong in Cup games too.

But there’s a fragility there… inappropriate word for such a big guy but… it’s as if he needs to have faith expressed in him via team selection to let rip.  He impressed at Manchester City too but that was his only League start in 2019 and coming off the bench there have been too many ineffectual perfomances, performances where you want him to bully and impose himself and he’s struggled to do so.

There’s a very very good player in there, and we catch glimpses of him occasionally – the deft touch to set up a consolation goal at Old Trafford one such example.  We just need to see them a little more often.

Next Season:  Competition for attacking positions will be more intense next season, with Peñaranda having a pre-season behind him and a number of the foreign-based legion of young forwards possibly coming into consideration.  Isaac will turn 24 during the season, not a kid any more.  Now or never, you suspect.

11- Adam Masina

Adam Masina is decent.    He’s had some really good games (Old Trafford) and some less good ones (Anfield).  He kicks the ball really hard, and I like that.  He’s not nearly aggressive enough for such a big guy, doesn’t throw his weight around.  Less keen on that.

He’s been as good as we’ve needed him to be, simply because his most significant impact has been on the performances of our first choice left back.  Surely no coincidence that for the first time since Nathan Aké was keeping him out three years ago José has serious competition and has put in his best season in a yellow shirt.

Next Season:  We’re going to need to see Adam’s A-game more regularly if he’s the long term replacement for Holebas who, 35 later this month, is ten years his senior.  We’ve been able to afford him an easing in season, adapting to a new country isn’t trivial.  Let’s hope he can crack on.

12- Ken Sema

There’s a real skill to picking up squad players.  Ability is important, certainly.  Mentality, too though.  You want someone who is going to be on it, who’s going to push for involvement, who’s not going to throw a paddy and disrupt the dressing room because they’re behind Hughes/Pereyra/Deulofeu in the pecking order but who is going to, at the very least, “do a job” as needed.

And Kenzema has done that.  His performances, his impact has sometimes been criticised but… he’s been a bit part player for the most part, in and out of the side.  Difficult to get a run of form going when you’re doing that job and that’s probably his biggest problem.  Again, there’s a player in there and we’ve seen frequent glimpses… Bournemouth away springs to mind but elsewhere too.  Notably we’ve only lost one game that he’s started – that the competitive defeat to Chelsea on Boxing Day – whilst of his sub appearances the only defeats came versus Liverpool and Arsenal, where he played less than ten minutes in total.

You can argue that we only choose to use him in lower risk situations, the stats are inherently biased.  Nonetheless, he’s been part of a successful side on a regular basis, and invariably with a physicality and enthusiasm that suggests there’s more to come.

Next Season:  Rather depends on what Ken wants.  He’s perfectly capable of doing the regular stand-in job that he’s done this season but is unlikely – barring injury disasters – to get the sustained run that he probably needs to show us whether he can push on.

14- Nathaniel Chalobah

There aren’t many players who two injury-hit seasons after signing, two seasons that for various reasons have only afforded eight League starts, would still be talked about in reverential terms.  There aren’t, admittedly, many such signings who would have come in with the benefit of a startlingly precocious loan season as a teenager five years earlier.

Nonetheless, it’s more than that.  It’s the memory of Nate’s extraordinary start to last season, before the freak knee injury struck.  The outrageous ability to snap into a yard of space and prize a counterattack, the control like silk.  There’s the faith shown in him by Gareth Southgate;  a token outing against Spain, and an expensive one, but a statement.  Echoed by Troy Deeney late this season, by Javí Gracia after Chalobah’s gently encouraging outing at Stamford Bridge – the latter countering concerns that the boss didn’t fancy him, Chalobah having seemingly slipped behind Domingos Quina in the ferocious competition for midfield places earlier in the season.

It’s also the player’s maturity.  OK, he’ll be 25 before the end of the year, not the sixteen year-old kid we signed on loan in 2012.  Nonetheless.  Intelligent.  Calm.  Measured.  “Can’t complain while Doucs and Caps are playing so well” was the gist of his comment on his limited game time later in the season.

Next Season:  Chalobah is special.  He needs a proper pre-season, and chance to prove it.  If he gets both he will surely put pressure even on our exalted first choice pairing.


1. Ray Knight - 03/06/2019

Nice measured summing up Matt. Too many ‘fans’ willing to criticise some of our classy players like Pereyra, wishing they were sold. Not you.Hoping for a good pre-season but in the meantime enjoy the holidays.

2. JohnF - 03/06/2019

Excellent evaluation as usual Matt. I do enjoy your end of term reports which are always objective and sensibly balanced. I agree with all the assessments but I do think that we have a number of players with fragile confidence (they are with us and not a “top” side”). I think that Success is one of those and you put your finger on it when you point out that he plays best when he starts. Often it is a problem following a bad injury. Hopefully that will not happen to Chalobah who, I agree, will benefit from a full pre-season. I would argue that he is potentially our most talented mid-fielder and was showing that until a very cruel and unlucky injury.

3. Gareth - 05/06/2019

I’ve often wondered why my nickname for “Kenzema” hasn’t caught on.


I mean, it’s genius.

Matt Rowson - 05/06/2019

Requires two steps of thought. Like calling Pantilimon “Bridget” instead of “big pants”

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