We have a new manager, our rivals are beginning to shape their rosters, and kickoff is less than a month away. Several transfer targets are either off the market or have a likely destination in place. Given our weaknesses last year, the transfer activity that is already underway, and the direction you want the club to go, who would you sign if you could? Who would you sell? What would your starting XI look like in mid-August? Try to keep a reasonable transfer budget in mind and also be mindful of FIFA Fair Play regulations that will come into play in 2013.
Here is mine:
Bosingwa: too inconsistent and sloppy defending have made him a liability. Beskitas and Milan may be interested.
Anelka: Age and wages make him an odd man out in our full house of attacking players. Let's ship him to PSG and give him a chance to be a first-choice striker for a squad playing in the Champions League.
Malouda: Though he has hit some incredible highs with us, he has never been incredibly consistent and now he is on the wrong side of 30. He has been linked to Roma recently.
Zhirkov: Has always been a bad fit. Time to recoup some of that cash that we threw away.
Alex: Great leader and tremendous player but is getting up there in age and has only made 24 or so appearances the past two years. If we are getting good offers we owe it to him to give him a shot to start somewhere. This allows Rajkovic the chance to start playing for us as well, assuming we can get him a work permit.
Hilario: I doubt I need to explain myself here.
Gregory Van der Wiel: We need a young right-back who can defend well and get forward, and he ticks all of the boxes. Despite being 23, he has a great deal of experience, having made over 100 appearances for Ajax and having started in a World Cup final. He would be a fixture for a decade.
Willian: This guy has impressed me since Shakhtar Donetsk's CL run. He can play in any attacking position and would slot in well on either wing. He turns 23 next month and would give us two contracts.
Javier Pastore: While Modric has a gamut of skills and is proven in the EPL, he has less of an upside and causes selection problems for us. Pastore can play in the hole behind Torres just as Gerrard used to, and I think this would be the key to providing him the service he needs to score goals. Pastore has the ability to be the best midfielder in the world. If he struggles during his first few seasons, Lampard will be around to help carry the load.
Scott Parker: This only makes sense to me if we can take him on a one year loan. This would give West Ham some financial relief and would give us the benefit of the reigning player of the year to plug into Essien's spot. You don't get too many chances like this, and it makes sense on every level for us.
Loan: van Aanholt, Courtois, Delac, Mellis, Kalas.
Summary: The balance sheet would likely only reflect about a 20 million pound loss if these moves were made, and we would have addressed our biggest holes. I think AVB will want to play some variant of a 4-3-3 with Torres as the lone striker. I would want to put Willian on the left flank in Malouda's old role, and Pastore would slot into the hole right behind Torres. Van der Wiel would be given the nod at right-back. Terry, David Luiz, Cole, and Ramires would all be locks to start.
The additions and subtractions present a few interesting competitions for the two remaining spots. Parker and Mikel would fight for Essien's holding role. Mikel is obviously younger and it would be ideal to have him play as much as possible to prepare for the future, but Parker is the in the form of his life and is an England international. He is also much quicker and much more dynamic than Mikel and is better pushing forward when needed. My suspicion is that Parker would be the man here.
The other gap would be on the right side of the attack. Given that we still have Sturridge, Drogba, and Kalou, I don't think that Roman and AVB will see a need to bring someone in just yet. I envision a sort of forward/winger hybrid in that spot, though tucking in toward the box more so than playing in a traditional wide role like Arjen Robben and Joe Cole once did. I'd hope that AVB would give Sturridge the chance in that role for obvious reasons. I think Kalou and Drogba would do well off the bench since both have limitations as starters.
Lampard, Benayoun, and Ivanovic would all be substitutes, though their experience would make them regular contributors and they would each start frequently. McEachran, Bertrand, and Kakuta should find plenty of opportunities to play in this formation and with this squad.
After looking at my ideal squad I realized that I have too many changes in the starting lineup (compared with last year's team) and that AVB will likely make such transitions gradually. In that way, this may be more of what I would hope the team would look like by December or January (hopefully Essien will be back by then though). Right off the bat it may be more likely that Kalou (or Anelka if he is kept) plays on the right or left, and that Ivanovic and Mikel hold their spots.
Cole - Terry - David Luiz - Van der Wiel
Parker - Ramires
Willian - Torres - Sturridge
Subs Bench: Turnbull, Ivanovic, Mikel, Lampard, Benayoun, Kalou, Drogba