In his debut piece, Shuei Ishii (@Fulham_Japan) looks ahead to next term and asks if we’re set for a struggle.
Amid an ageing team, a severe lack of squad depth, and the threat of our main players moving away, many fans (including myself) would not be wrong in assuming that a second-season syndrome may be incoming.
But how far are we really in the deep end? And can it be resolved? While the possibility of a second-season syndrome may arise mostly from squad depth (as I stated before), there is also another underlying factor stemming from Marco’s career at Premier League clubs Hull City, Watford, and Everton. His tenure at all three clubs seems to start wonderfully, picking up consecutive three points despite not having the most competitive of player selections.
However, while they all start in graceful ways, they all seem to come crashing down in under a year. In fact, Marco’s longest time in England has come from managing Fulham, with one season being in the Championship. The chances of a second-season syndrome for a team under Silva’s reign are unfortunately quite high, and it certainly wouldn’t be too big of a surprise.
And in terms of squad depth, there are many factors that lead to concerns about it being quite lacklustre. Tim Ream, Willian and Tom Cairney for example are all players that seem to point towards the fact that we have a very ageing squad. In fact, we have the second-oldest squad in the league (with an average age of 27.7), just behind West Ham with an average age of 27.9. While Ream and Willian have definitely displayed performances you wouldn’t expect from a 37 and a 35-year-old, the question of: “How long will it last?”, certainly has to be asked.
Moreover, our most important and pivotal players such as Palhinha, Solomon and Pereira all seem certain to leave in the following summer, with many big clubs, such as Liverpool, Manchester United, Atletico Madrid and PSG all keeping a keen eye. And while Mitrovic will likely stay for the next couple of seasons, his recurring injury problems will also likely stay for the future. So signing another number nine must be a priority – someone who can truly compete with Mitrovic for a place in the starting XI.
Our bench players further give light on our lack of squad depth. With the likes of Dan James, Cedric and Vinicius all being brought in on loan and set to return to their clubs in the summer. While permanent signings of Wilson, Tosin, Duffy and Rodak have all failed to impress and replicate their form in the Championship into the Premier League. A second-season syndrome seems inevitable and impossible to escape unless signings are made. Sheffield United (a few years ago) kept most of their ageing team after a successful first season and did not invest in the market at all. They finished dead last the following season. Let’s try not to replicate that.
Like it or not, our long-term survival in the Premier League rests in the hands of Shahid and Tony Khan. Hopefully they heed the warnings.