We’re now halfway through the preseason, pretty much. What have we learned so far? Certainly we have to be pleased with our signings—Gerard and Toko Ekambi are the first-choice striker pair, Funes Mori is easily our best centerback and Santy Caceres looks very assured in midfield.
But beyond that? Have we answered any of the other questions? Here are some I have with my current thoughts....
(1) formation. We used one-striker formations with Carlos Bacca last year after Bakambu’s departure; that doesn’t really make sense if Gerard and Ekambi are both available. Calleja has been trying our tried and true 4-4-2; that seems to have no place for a ‘behind-the-striker’ sort of player like Fornals though. Is 4-3-1-2 better?
(2) Will any players play their way into a spot on the team? Sure looks like Miguelon will. He’s been impressive in every match he’s played. Manu Morlanes has shown enough to indicate he would be a good callup, but needs more experience. Other than that, no.
(3) Will Santi Cazorla make the squad? It sure looks like he should. He’s still rounding into match fitness but he is producing moments that are certainly like the old Santi. (I wouldn’t be surprised though to see him rested for one of our remaining friendlies so Manu Trigueros can get some playing time.)
(4) Do we really need Carlos Bacca? This is a tough one. If we get Bacca permanently, what do we do with Enes Unal? The thing about Bacca is he will score if he plays—he has done that everywhere he’s gone. I’m happy to have him. Unal is young and developing; I wonder if he wouldn’t benefit by being loaned out so he could play every day. So we don’t totally NEED Bacca, I don’t think, but I’m OK getting him—for €8m or so.
(5) Could N’diaye have a role on this team? No. Marcelino wanted to convert him to a centerback, remember—he never intended him to play defensive midfield for us. N’diaye is not terrible—but he’d be better off in the English league, which is more physical in midfield and doesn’t require the close control of the ball at your feet that the Spanish game does. That said, I would hold out for a sale, not a loan.
(6) So our main need is a defensive midfielder? Yes, and I would happily sell Ruiz to get a good partner for Funes Mori. Or sell Alvaro. I don’t care, but we need a second strong CB. (If we had Funes Mori and Musacchio, that would be a better pair than anything we have now—and no, I’m not suggesting we get Mateo back).
Gotta run for now. Other thoughts?