With Heather O’Reilly’s imminent signing, the squad is looking a bit better prior to the start of the spring series but questions still remain on the squad’s strength, weaknesses and depth in certain positions.
I have listed all the players from the first and development team and separated them into different categories.
The players in green are the contracted first team players. The ones in orange are the Development team players that are knocking at the door of the first team. Those in yellow are the other development team players. Those with an * are those who should hold the team leadership on the pitch.
In term of squad size, you would ideally have two players fighting for each position and maybe a youngster pushing those two players to keep them on their toes.
You can clearly see a number imbalance in certain positions, especially in attacking ones where we have three playmakers and at number nine where we have four players. In the meantime, there is only one left winger and now one right winger who is backed up by a youngster.
Now, players are flexible and will play anywhere in the front three, so Van De Donk, Carter, Kelly and Oshoala will end up playing on the wing rather than up front. That’s what they did last season and the seasons before. Therefore eight players for three attacking positions is a fine number.
The playmaker position is settled with a world class player in Little and fantastic back-up in Humphrey, same thing for the number eight box to box position with a top quality international, Nobbs, and an understudy nearly as good as her in Williamson.
At defensive midfield, we have two players Janssen and Williams who will fight for the place and if needed a youngster from the Development Team Brunton-Wilde to back them up.
The full-back positions are interesting because in both cases, the senior players Scott and Mitchell are backed up by youngsters with high potential and might have a fight on their hands come September 2017.
Now I would not be surprised if Hinds actually ends up starting at left-back when the new season starts in eight months. Patten and Ritchie-Williams will certainly challenge Scott but I am not sure they will be competing with the club captain come September.
At centre-back, there is only one “senior” player remaining, Rose, who is 25 years old. Sampson, who did not play much last season due to an injury, is 21 and still developing, and Wubben-Moy, who will be 18 in 2017, will also compete for a place.
Depending on how Sampson and Wubben-Moy carry on improving, another centre-back might be needed, but I understand that option is covered inside the squad by Williamson and Janssen.
In goal, our number one goalie Van Veenendaal is backed up by two youngsters England u19 international Rogers and Houghton-Boyle.
In term of numbers, maybe adding two extra players now or in the summer transfer window would make it a very strong squad, but the risk is having too many players like last season.
It ended up badly with a regular squad rotation that did not yield any results. Being out of the title race by matchday 3 was simply a disgrace for such a quality squad and it is no surprise in a way to see many players depart, although not the expected ones according to the performances on the pitch.
Let’s hope the spring series will help the coaching staff find a settled starting XI that will hit the ground running when September comes, because with the quality inside the squad, another underwhelming season will not be acceptable.