Last year we had one of the largest squads in the PL. Zola says that he fancies to work with a smaller squad and that suits our CEO Duxbury fine. Number one on Dux’ agenda for quite some time is to bring down the money-spending to a minimum, If you have limited funds it makes sense to spend them as wisely as possible, squad wise that means - don’t spend it on players not contributing.
A 23 man squad, including goalkeepers has been mentioned and that would leave us with one of the smaller squads in the PL. Luckily (although some will argue luck has got nothing to do with it) following the introduction of the new medical and physio team the injury list is reduced to Ashton and Gabbidon so the need for backup is reduced, at least for the moment.
So how will the Club reduce the team-size in a sensible manner?
Zola wants to sell off a few “fringe players”. That makes sense, but what is a fringe player and what is necessary backup?
I think the Zola definition of a fringe player must be “mature” players that does not get much time on the pitch. Bellamy certainly wasn’t one so only Mullins and Etherington fits that description as yet.
These must be the “mature” outfield players:
Davenport, Spector, Collins, Faubert, Upson, Gabbidon, Lopez, Parker, Bowyer, Noble, Dyer, LBM, Behrami, Cole, Sears, Savio (!),Tristan, and Ashton. In addition we have 2 players in on loan Ilunga and DiMichele.
That’s 19+2 outfielders, close to aim, however that does not leave any room for “developing” players so further reductions in mature players must be made for Zola to have the kind of squad he says he wants.
Out of those Davenport, Spector, Faubert, Lopez, Quashie, Bowyer, Dyer, LBM, Sears and Tristan have been given limited playing time lately, indicating that they may be regarded as "fringe players”.
The Club made some short term reductions by sending Quashie and Bowyer on loan and I think the Club is pretty confident that they will not burden our economy much in the future. As I understand it Bowyers contract expires in the summer and Quashie seem keen on playing football.
That leaves Davenport, Spector, Faubert, Lopez, Dyer, LBM, Sears and Tristan.
Sears is out of the question, in addition to Zola considering him an integral part of the Clubs future, his symbolic value is too big.
Davenport, Spector, Faubert, Lopez, Dyer, LBM, and Tristan remaining.
Dyer and Spector are probably not possible to sell at the moment, so regardless of what Zola thinks of them they will stay at least until the summer. LBM was almost sold to Hull (...), but he fancied to stay and fight for a place. If that meant that he didn’t want a wage cut or if he actually think he can make it with us is not clear, regardless, I doubt he will go before his contract expires next summer.
This leaves Davenport, Faubert, Lopez and Tristan as possible fringers to move.
Tristan will stay until the summer when his contract expires. He is the only tallish striker except for Cole and is necessary backup until Ashton is back.
Lopez is also on a short term contract that expires in the summer. He will not leave now since he offers cheap cover for Ilunga as left fullback and possibly left midfield.
That leaves Davenport and Faubert of the fringe players that may move during this window.
Are anyone still wondering why Mullins and Ethers left?
Davenport is likely one of the high earners and following the fallout with Zola, making it obvious he wants to play and doesn’t consider himself as backup, he could and should be one to leave. His contract expires next summer and he is one of the few “fringers” with a market value. He may still find a new home this January, or if not, at least in the summer.
Faubert wants to leave to gain first team football but states that the Clubs asking price is too high, making a move impossible. He may be a telltale of whether we actually need to reduce the squad. If we do we will find a buyer for him. But as my mate Rapidhammer was quick to point out (see comment) we have precious little cover for Neill if he leaves, even though Behrami have been played in that position too.
4 fringe players have left including the ones out on loan and no panic sales - it seems the squad reduction is a long term project.