What do we need more this transfer window: A new defensive midfielder or a new centre-back?

What do we need more this transfer window?


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Fortitude

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So the Smalling thread has been an interesting read. The forum seems to be split quite equally between those who see the logic in him staying and being part of our rotation next season and those who see him as a liability whose time at the club is up. My question always pertained to the fact that the money it would cost to get a defender in with Smalling's physical attributes and also the technical ability we yearn for is going to end up costing us north of £50m for a bona fide top-notch CB as you're talking about either getting in the upper echelon of established CB's (Koulibaly), or taking a risk on touted young talent (Upamecano, Pau Torres or Badiashile etc.) who may ultimately not settle in English football or realise their potential. The former is supposedly the sure thing, and really expensive, and the latter is not guaranteed to come good by any stretch of the imagination.

£50m+ is a hell of a lot of money in a transfer window where you've already (let's assume) purchased a marquee talent, and one would think that will be allocated to one position or other and not both, unless we unearth a hidden gem or manage to get a player in on a free or a loan.

There doesn't seem to be much talk about our defensive midfield on the site - certainly not relative to the gaping void we have in the position when Matic doesn't play. Trying to shoehorn two pro-active central midfielders into the role is a very bad fit - neither Fred nor McTominay are at their best trying to sit back and read the play. Neither of them can even hold in the role for long before the urge to go walkabout (towards the ball and action outside of their quadrant) takes them. They are midfielders who have proven their worth to us in central midfield positions, but neither of them have a clue when it comes to anchoring a midfield - they are not stand-ins for Mactic or players we should expect to give anything more than 5/10 performances as cover there, ergo, we need another defensive midfielder in our squad, urgently. If we want Pogba and Bruno out there, they need an anchoring midfielder behind them as a proactive CM is simply going to abandon his position under little to no provocation as his natural instincts determine he should.

In terms of squad health and with full regard for Matic's age and the challenge for him to play multiple, high intensity games over a short period of time, there needs to be an understudy to him - or a player he is an understudy to - sharing the role. It's perhaps a little unfair on one from Fred and McTominay that they've become surplus now we've got Pogba back, but ultimately, one from the two should be Pogba's stand-in providing energy and thrust from the 2-way CM position. It's either that, or both playing when Bruno or Pogba need a rest with one of the aforementioned then ahead of them.

Is midfield, as summarised above, not more of a pressing issue for us than CB when Smalling is back there making up the numbers? Maguire, Smalling, Lindelof and Tuanzebe makes for 4 players into 2 spots, as opposed to Mactic and nobody. Shouldn't that determine the priority or, by your hand, would you look to address the centrebacks over the defensive midfield in this team going into next season?
 

Mihai

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What we need is another thread about what we need.
 

lex talionis

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A new DM, no question.

Matic can still do a fantastic job for us, but his workload needs to be managed do that his successor going into 21/22 — by which time a expect us to make serious run the the LL and CL trophies — will have gained the required experience in 21/22.
 

Amerifan

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DM. It’s Matic and... Matic. Needs a backup.

We actually have decent backup CBs. If only we could figure out how to keep them healthy.
 

roonster09

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@Fortitude you should ask for a poll, easy to track what's the priority position as per caf.
 

fps

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I would like to see McTominay given the chance to grow into the DM role by training with and being back up to Matic, and Fred is there as well looking to build on a much better season. I’d like a really good centre back, as I like the Maguire Lindelof partnership and trust none of the others, though priority as another new signing would be a versatile midfielder who could cover both Bruno and Pogba and has the quality to start big matches.
 

Acole9

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Centre back. But we really need to offload a few first.
 

Web of Bissaka

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3 DM = Matic, Fred, McTominay
2 CB = Maguire, Lindelof

Only the 5 of them are reliable fitness wise.

There are two position for CB per game, and usually only one position for DM per game.
Easy choice --> CB

We've gone through games seeing all of Jones, Bailly and Tuanzebe out injured. Getting at least one of them to be fit is already a tough high luck. Another season of no reliable fit 3rd CB is really risky. We're seeking to do better next season. One big injury to one of Mag or Lind and we're so having another circus at CB. Should we try TFM at CB?
 

King Andow

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DM. We need a specialist that can offer a disciplined defensive role to get the best of Pogba and Bruno, we only have Matic and we know that for him it's difficult to perform well more than one time a week, mainly after an intense run of games. Press resistance, mobility and speed would also be ideal traits since we struggle with high pressing, our CB's are slow and the whole back 4 is average on the ball.
At the back we could give Bailly and Tuanzebe a last to chance to keep fit and establish themselves next season if we can't find a CB ready to challenge Lindelöf and Maguire. And maybe keep Smalling (:nervous:) for insurance if we can't sell him, at least it wouldn't be a tragedy worse than relying on Phil Jones in case of emergency.
 
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AneRu

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DM and I fear it's a blindspot that could actually hold us back should Matic's form collapse again. I agree with the OP that Scot and Fred don't offer what Matic provides us especially with the ball and I think Matic himself isn't particularly strong enough defensively to be paired with Pogba in a match against a top six side.

I see Fred and McTominay as similar players, very good defensive box to box midfielders but not capable of playing the sitting DM role. I am of the opinion that the club should be proactive and sell Fred so as to fund the acquisition of a DM. Matic's three year deal suggest they are happy to groom McTominay though.

Declan Rice or Ndidi would cost an arm and a leg but that's the level of player we need if we want to play both Pogba and Bruno in midfield in the big matches. Rice would be ideal but West Ham would take us to the cleaners but would he still be as expensive if we used funds recouped from the sale of deadwood plus Fred?

I reckon a roster of Maguire, Smalling, Lindelof, Tuanzebe and Mengi should be enough to see us through the season. Selling Bailly, Fred, Jones and Rojo should give us about £50m so it shouldn't be too difficult for the club to raise another £20m from internal funds to complete the deal. A Pogba - Rice - Fernandes midfield should be able to go toe to toe against any team in the league.
 

MrEarl

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Why is it either or? The defense has a problem which was exposed when teams pressed us effectively. We couldn't get the ball out of our end for long periods of time. This was especially true with Sheffield United. We need more speed and defensive ability in the CD and DM. And, we have another serious deficit. There is no one capable of replacing Bruno Fernandez. He is not invincible. Without an effective creative number 10, we would be right back where we were before Bruno came in. Counter attack or nothing.

It looks like United will spend most of it's available money to fix the strongest part of the team and put one of our three young outstanding and developing players on the bench. Presumably Greenwood.

We should fix our deficits and not go after another big-name player. The last two have not ended up well at all. We spent and continue to spend too much on Sanchez and Pogba has not produced commensurate with his cost.
 

b82REZ

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DM.

I've always thought Smalling had a role to play at the club.

I think he asked to go on loan after finding out he wasnt first choice but I honestly think he'll still get 30 apps if he stays next season. He's better than Jones and more reliable than Bailly.

Unfortunately I do think Ole wants a ball playing pairing at CB so he'll prioritise that this season.
 

A-man

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3 DM = Matic, Fred, McTominay
2 CB = Maguire, Lindelof

Only the 5 of them are reliable fitness wise.

There are two position for CB per game, and usually only one position for DM per game.
Easy choice --> CB

We've gone through games seeing all of Jones, Bailly and Tuanzebe out injured. Getting at least one of them to be fit is already a tough high luck. Another season of no reliable fit 3rd CB is really risky. We're seeking to do better next season. One big injury to one of Mag or Lind and we're so having another circus at CB. Should we try TFM at CB?
Fully agree with this. Think this is a disaster waiting to happen. There have been times during the season where no backup CB were available. They all got injured during training, warmups etc.
 

davidmichael

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Based on what Ole said yesterday Smalling is staying with us now Roma can’t afford him so he’ll become third choice if Tuanzebe can’t prove his fitness although I think Tuanzebe will as it was coming back too soon from surgery for his injury problems so that’s four centre backs and I’m happy to keep Bailly as fifth choice IF Mengi doesn’t get that spot.

Matic is our only defensive midfielder and once he’s tired and overused he’s awful so it’s an alternative to him that’s our biggest priority position outside of right wing, McTominay and Fred ARE not defensive midfielders and are more box to box ball winners.
 

AneRu

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Why is it either or? The defense has a problem which was exposed when teams pressed us effectively. We couldn't get the ball out of our end for long periods of time. This was especially true with Sheffield United. We need more speed and defensive ability in the CD and DM. And, we have another serious deficit. There is no one capable of replacing Bruno Fernandez. He is not invincible. Without an effective creative number 10, we would be right back where we were before Bruno came in. Counter attack or nothing.

It looks like United will spend most of it's available money to fix the strongest part of the team and put one of our three young outstanding and developing players on the bench. Presumably Greenwood.

We should fix our deficits and not go after another big-name player. The last two have not ended up well at all. We spent and continue to spend too much on Sanchez and Pogba has not produced commensurate with his cost.
Money in this COVID era, it's just not possible to spend £200m in this environment.
 

EwanI Ted

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We need both. Lindelof needs upgrading. Matic is good enough, but needs a backup. Our best bet is to put the money we have into a the best CB we can find, while buying a young DM that we can slowly replace Matic with over a season or two. But of course it depends on the market. If a great DM is out there but no decent CB options, then that's which way we have to go.
 

el3mel

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A defensive midfielder because Matic has no replacement and he can't play 2 games a week.
 

Valencia's Left Foot

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3 DM = Matic, Fred, McTominay
2 CB = Maguire, Lindelof

Only the 5 of them are reliable fitness wise.

There are two position for CB per game, and usually only one position for DM per game.
Easy choice --> CB

We've gone through games seeing all of Jones, Bailly and Tuanzebe out injured. Getting at least one of them to be fit is already a tough high luck. Another season of no reliable fit 3rd CB is really risky. We're seeking to do better next season. One big injury to one of Mag or Lind and we're so having another circus at CB. Should we try TFM at CB?
This. Fred and McT arent the perfect answer for DM, but they are better backups than what we have at CB. We can't count on Maguire and Lindeloff to play every game next year, and we can't count on Bailly to be healthy as a backup either. If you're just looking at the starting 11, then yeah, I think Matic is a bigger weakness then Maguire and Lindeloff, but if either of the 2 CBs go down, we are in some deep shit defensively, whereas if Matic goes down, I have faith that Fred or McT can hang in there and do a decent job.
 

Andersons Dietician

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If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s Sancho I’d have DM as the most important position that needs some attention this summer. I agree on the points of Fred and McT. They want to be involved, they want to be doing stuff and they will go for a wonder. Fred is the better of the two holding but yeah I feel like we need someone.

Heck can Carrick still lace them up? In all seriousness, I’ve always felt Saul has the ability to be an anchorman. He has the discipline and basically can play any role you want. However I just do t see him being an option for us especially if we are signing Sancho. So in all honesty I would probably try for Rice.

Depends on cost of course and who is available but yeah I would think DM is more important right now especially if Smalling comes back and the rumours of Juve wanting him aren’t true.
 

Fortitude

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@Fortitude you should ask for a poll, easy to track what's the priority position as per caf.
Heh, mods?
3 DM = Matic, Fred, McTominay
2 CB = Maguire, Lindelof

Only the 5 of them are reliable fitness wise.

There are two position for CB per game, and usually only one position for DM per game.
Easy choice --> CB

We've gone through games seeing all of Jones, Bailly and Tuanzebe out injured. Getting at least one of them to be fit is already a tough high luck. Another season of no reliable fit 3rd CB is really risky. We're seeking to do better next season. One big injury to one of Mag or Lind and we're so having another circus at CB. Should we try TFM at CB?
You have 1 DM there and 2 clear box-to-box central midfielders. If we go into a new season expecting either of them to offer what Matic does, we cannot complain about our midfield getting ran through time and time and time again.

Why is it either or? The defense has a problem which was exposed when teams pressed us effectively. We couldn't get the ball out of our end for long periods of time. This was especially true with Sheffield United. We need more speed and defensive ability in the CD and DM. And, we have another serious deficit. There is no one capable of replacing Bruno Fernandez. He is not invincible. Without an effective creative number 10, we would be right back where we were before Bruno came in. Counter attack or nothing.

It looks like United will spend most of it's available money to fix the strongest part of the team and put one of our three young outstanding and developing players on the bench. Presumably Greenwood.

We should fix our deficits and not go after another big-name player. The last two have not ended up well at all. We spent and continue to spend too much on Sanchez and Pogba has not produced commensurate with his cost.
Because we're not an oil club. As @AneRu stated, it could well be a case of prioritising one position over another, or taking a cheapened punt on one from two at a time when we should be looking for clear upgrades and contributors to the squad.

You take punts when the majority of your squad is able to contribute and are settled as then it doesn't matter whether the punt works out as it is, by definition, a chancer's move. We're in a place where Ole clearly distrusts the back-ups we have, which means anyone coming in has to be able to do a job for the team otherwise we've just gone round in a circle and effectively remained inert.
 

UpWithRivers

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Key facts that are always ignored -
1) Smalling wanted to go. If he comes back its because he is forced to ie. no buyers. The question isnt 'Would you take Smalling back' it's 'Would you take a player that doesnt want to be here back.' The answer should always be No.
2) Fred and McTominay are not DM's. Why people keep saying they are is beyond me. Also turning McTominay into a DM is like saying Chong will be a first teamer. Has he got the skills. Yes. Will he make it? Who knows but the odds are more in favor of not. Do we have the luxury of waiting for McTominay to turn into a good DM? No.

To answer the question - DM. But either way we need a body in the other position - a free or cheap option if we have no cash
 

Bilbo

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I wouldnt yet write McTominay off as a future DM for this team. Good energy, decent passing. He will get better
 

Mcking

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DM. Though we have only Lindelof and Maguire who I'd consider reliable for a consistent starting role at CB, but I think they are much more likely to be available and fit to play every game than Matic at DM.
 

E-mal

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I would like to see McTominay given the chance to grow into the DM role by training with and being back up to Matic, and Fred is there as well looking to build on a much better season. I’d like a really good centre back, as I like the Maguire Lindelof partnership and trust none of the others, though priority as another new signing would be a versatile midfielder who could cover both Bruno and Pogba and has the quality to start big matches.
Scott is not a DM, he doesn't have the qualities for it and he won't just become one. Let's stop the experiment and get someone experienced in that role.
 

jamesjimmybyrondean

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Bring Smalling back and get a DM. How many centre backs currently available are actually better than Smalling?
 

Fully Fledged

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Jack Grealish, If Burno is out of the team we lack real penetrative quality Jaden and Jack will add to the quality. We need to be able to create from more than one avenue.
 

MZX7

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DM, RB/RWB, Striker at the minimum.

Squad depth and bench strength currently is laughable.
 

Isotope

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Both are necessary. It's a matter of which one is available (at the right price) and able to make a difference.
 

paulscholes18

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Could sign Rice, 2 birds 1 stone.
I would say a CB is more important than a DM, we do piss about with the ball in defence so a centre back who can play football would be very useful
 
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Could sign Rice, 2 birds 1 stone.
I would say a CB is more important than a DM, we do piss about with the ball in defence so a centre back who can play football would be very useful
True, although i feel if we can get a good DM we can get away with not buying a CB.