Where does relegation leave our squad?

Colm O'Donnell 14th May 2021

Colm takes a look at what Monday evening’s relegation means for our current squad of players.

With our defeat to Burnley on Monday night, relegation to the Championship next season was confirmed, and with that will come another summer of squad upheaval. Having relied so heavily on loan signings, this was always going to be a risk if we didn’t survive. To put it into context, out of the seven loan signings we made, six of them featured against Burnley on Monday night, with Ola Aina being the only exception. While that has obvious consequences on the starting XI, we’ll take a look at the impact this relegation will have on our squad as a whole and what we will be left with next season.

Goalkeepers

Alphonse Areola, for me, has been our best loan signing of the season, but unfortunately he will be heading back to PSG this summer and will possibly be looking to get another move back to the Premier League where he is more than capable of getting game time. We have an option to buy at the end of his loan, but it’ll have hinged on staying in the top flight.  

Fabri and Marcus Bettinelli are both out of contract this summer, and as of yet neither have signed new deals. That create the real possibility of Marek Rodak being our only senior goalkeeper left at the club. Marek did a tremendous job for us in the Championship last season and many were upset he didn’t get his chance in the Premier League. He’ll more than likely be restored between the sticks next season. But there’ll certainly need to be some recruitment done to find some backups. 

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Defence

Unfortunately, relegation will see the dissolution of the centre-back partnership of Joachim Anderson and Tosin, with the former heading back to Lyon at the end of his loan deal. We don’t have an option to buy, and Anderson is definitely going to be on the radar of Premier League clubs, with Spurs already linked with making a move for him.

Terence Kongolo, looked able to step up to the mark during his only appearance this season, against Wolves, but huge questions remain over his ability to stay fit. Ola Aina is the other loanee in the backline, and with his versatility, a case could be made for making his move permanent, but the £15m price tag might be a deterrent.

Kenny Tete, Antonee Robinson, and Joe Bryan will all be around next season, which gives a solid backline to choose from. Micahel Hector, Alfie Mawson, and Denis Odoi will also be options, with Maxime Le Marchand and Steven Sessegnon both returning from loan spells away from the club. Tim Ream and Cyrus Christie are both out of contract this summer, and realistically their futures probably lie elsewhere.

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Midfield

Our midfield next season is going to take a hit. We spent most of the season playing with two of Lemina, Reed, and Anguissa in the engine room and Loftus-Cheek or Decordova-Reid sometimes playing centrally but further up the pitch. There was a £7m option to buy in Lemina’s deal, but only if we avoided relegation. While I wouldn’t rule it out completely, I would be surprised if he made the drop to the Championship.

Thankfully, there was never an option to buy with Ruben Loftus-Cheek and he’ll be moving back ‘next door’ at the end of the season. Andre-Frank Anguissa is a different story though. When we were relegated in 2019, he was out the door faster than the Michael Jackson statue when the Khans took over. Only time will tell whether the same will happen again this year, but I feel like he’s a lot more settled in the squad this time around. The fact that he is reportedly the highest-paid player in the squad may have an impact on the decision made though.

Harrison Reed, Tom Cairney, Bobby Decordova Reid, and Josh Onomah should all be still here next term. Stefan Johanson has another year left on his deal, but after his impressive loan spell at QPR, you’ve got to think the Hoops will be in for the Norwegian. Finally, Jean Micheal Seri returns from Bordeaux, but one would think there is no space for him in the squad.

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Attack

This summer looks set to play host to a “will he, won’t he” transfer saga with Alexsander Mitrovic. His post-match comments after the Burnley defeat didn’t do anything to give us any indication of where his future may lie. But with 26 goals last season in the Championship, we have a proven goalscorer who could be crucial in our bid to bounce straight back up. It appears he and Scott Parker are not on the best of terms, so Parker’s presence in the dugout come the start of the season may have an impact on whether Mitro is there or not.

Josh Maja has an option to buy for £9m, but I don’t think he’s done enough to warrant that sort of transfer fee. Bourdeux’s financial struggles in France could see that figure halved, which oculd test our resolve. Ademola Lookman will head back to RB Leipzig unless we come up with the £15m they want for him, which leaves us with Ivan Caveleiro and the returning Anthony Knockaert, Neeskens Kebano, and Aboubakar Kamara.

Youngsters like Fabio Carvalho and Sylvester Jasper could also find themselves with the first team a lot more often and could be in line for much more game time. But whichever way you slice it, our super light attacking options will become a lot thinner. The chequebook needs to come out

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All in all, if we manage to hold onto Mitrovic and Anguissa, there’s a strong core to the side that could mount a challenge to add the extra yo to our yo. Hopefully, we’ll see a mix of experience and youth deployed next year, but if we want to return at the first time of asking, there are more than a few gaps that need to be plugged in the transfer window.