Off-season: The shopping list

The off-season has been with us for a couple of weeks now, and despite no confirmed signings and only the three departures, there’s been no shortage of rumours. Today, I’ll quickly recap all of the rumours, and then take a look at the squad currently to assess where new signings might be needed.

So far as it stands the only confirmed transfer activity is the departure of trio Stef Nijland, Matt Jurman and James Meyer who were released in the immediate aftermath of the seasons end. That’s largely down to the fact a lot of Brisbane’s shopping was done in the January window. There have however been other transfer rumours, both coming and going, and incase you missed some- here they are:

Rumoured Transfers incoming:
– Liam Miller (Perth Glory CM/AM- fgn)
– Jobe Wheelhouse- (Currently uncontracted, spent 7 and a half years with Newcastle)
– Steven Lustica (Ended last season in Brisbane, on loan from Dinamo, linked to permanent deal)

Rumoured Transfers outgoing:
– Ben Halloran (Linked with Fortuna Düsseldorf in the German Bundesliga)
– Massimo Murdocca (Linked with a free transfer to Melbourne Heart)
– Mitch Nichols (Linked to off-season trials in Europe + a move to Melbourne Victory)

So with that, here’s the Brisbane Roar roster for the 2013/14 season as it stands- by position:
*Includes Full-time NYL players Ben Liftin (CM) and Kwame Yeboah (RW)

So that’s 18 players signed (2 keepers, 7 defenders, 11 midfielders, 1 striker) signed up with four foreign signings and one marquee player. A-League rules state that clubs must have a minimum of twenty first team squad players, with a maximum of 23 players and an addition 3 full-time NYL players on top of that. I’ve included the two full time NYL players in the above graphic because despite the fact they’re technically NYL players, they’ll more than likely train every day with the first team, and the three players previously on similar deals –Fitzgerald, Brown and Lambadaridis- all got first team football in both seasons they held similar deals.

Just to wrap this up, here’s a quick summary on the depth of each position:

This is one area that doesn’t require anything moving forward into next season. Theo is the unquestioned #1 right now and Acton will continue his development as the back-up. He’ll want to impress if and when given the chance however given his contract will be up in 12 months time.

Right Backs:
Like the wing position, a lot of this depends on how Mulvey views Franjic going forward. My guess is that Franjic will be viewed as a winger at the start of next season, which if accurate leaves Hingert as the only genuine right back in the squad and given Jack’s injury history it could be prudent to have a back-up. There’s the possibility in the case of an injury Franjic would move back into the defence, however we saw in the semi-final the difference in the side when Franjic plays in defence as opposed to further forward. This then could be one area where Mulvey considers a squad type signing, unless the versatile Jade North is going to slide across to the right at times- in that case another central defender would be useful.

Left Backs:
The left hand side isn’t half as confusing: Stefanutto will go into the season as the starter, with youth international Corey Brown his understudy for atleast the start of the season. Given Shane’s age and injury history, injuries are somewhat inevitable and in that case Brown is ready to step up and do a solid job on the left side.

Centre Backs:
Like in goals, this is another area that doesn’t require much attention, with Smith North and Donachie forming a solid top 3 central defensive options. Keep in mind that the likely first choice combination of Smith and North is yet to play together, so that’s a slight unknown going into next year. Donachie has proven himself capable at the level, and he’s played strongly alongside both. I do think that an 8th defender would be a handy squad addition, but im not sure it’s a massive priority, as opposed to other areas. Ideally that squad defender would be capable of filling both the right back and centre back positions.

Centre Midfielders:
This is one of two absolute priority areas for recruitment, as there is precious little experience in this area of the park- a problem which will be even further highlighted if foundation player Massimo Murdocca does infact move on to Melbourne Heart. As things currently stand there’s Luke Brattan who’s been outstanding since getting a regular run in the side, but apart from him there’s only youngsters George Lambadaridis and Ben Liftin- and you can basically forget Liftin for the moment. While he’s a quality young player with a lot of promise, he’s also still rather raw and needs more time in the NYL first.

If Murdocca does move on, two new signings will be needed in this area of the part, with loan signing Steve Lustica an ideal solution if they can prise him away from his Croatian club. The other could be Liam Miller who according to all reports is on his way to Brisbane from Perth. He could be the solution here, however there’ also the chance he’d be asked to play in the #10 role where Nijland and Nichols operated last season, and in that case another option may be required. So to sum it up, for mine atleast two quality signings are required here, and if Miller is being signed to play further forward a 3rd could be on the cards.

Right Wing:
Again, this depends on how Mulvey views Franjic, but again im assuming he’s now a winger full time, and if he is then he’s clearly the first choice. If he’s viewed as a fullback still, then Ben Halloran will likely go into the season as the man in attack on the right- that’s assuming ofcourse he sticks around given recent speculation linking him with a move to Germany. Similarly to Liftin, I wouldn’t expect too much from Yeboah too soon, despite his involvement in the finals series (although the fact he did said more about Mulvey’s opinion of Davies, Dong-Hyun and Meyer for mine). I really expect Franjic to remain further forward, so that makes this an area requiring little attention.

Left Wing:
Just like it has been for the past three seasons, this side of the park is all about marquee man Thomas Broich who is set to once again terrorise the right side of opposition defences. Young Julius Davies (Doe) will provide adequate depth, and there’s also Korean import Do Dong-Hyun still on the books, although I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he moved on before the players return for pre-season in about a months time.

Attacking Midfielder:
Since Mulvey has arrived and inverted the triangle in midfield to now include a point just behind the striker, this is now the second big need in the squad. As it currently stands Henrique and I guess Julies Doe (maybe?) could play in this role, and for mine more creativity and goalscoring is needed in this role. Perhaps this is where Liam Miller fits in if that rumour comes to fruition, however I see him fitting in better in a slightly deeper midfield role. Reports are that Mulvey is heading off on an overseas scouting trip to look for a player possibly in this role or as a striker so we’ll see what he uncovers. It should also not be ruled out that Mitch Nichols re-signs and fill this need.

Obviously there’s nothing wrong with Berisha who has Brisbane’s best games/goals ratio –and possibly the league?- however, despite his reported displeasure in January a backup to provide cover in case of injury and competition is important. Last season when Brisbane were forced to make it work with the whole false #9 option with Henrique or whoever else it just didn’t work (Meyer did an ok job, just not in the opinion of Mulvey, but whatever) so an additional striker is required.

Just to wrap this up neatly, here’s a brief summary of the above, in the order of highest priority to lowest priority:

1) Attacking midfielder to play behind the striker in place
2) Central midfielder to play alongside Brattan in the heart of the midfield
3) Additional striker to provide competition to Berisha
4) Additional central midfielder to provide competition to Brattan/??? **
5) Utility defender capable of playing both RB and CB

**#4 on that little list could be Massimo Murdocca if infact remains in Brisbane- although reports from the awards night on Friday make that sound highly unlikely.

Just finally (I promise this time!) here’s the list of free-agents across the league- not including Brisbane.

Adelaide: TBA
Central Coast: TBA
Melbourne Heart: Colosimo, M. Thompson, Fred (fgn), Bolton
Melbourne Victory: Ferreira, Dilevski, Velaphi, Gallagher.
Newcastle: Jesic, Ritter (fgn), Ribeiro (fgn)
Perth: Miller (fgn), Ward, Heffernan, Berger, Italiano.
Sydney: Fabio (fgn), Neill, Lovrek (fgn), Reid, Sherlock ,McClenahan, A. Griffiths, Kyle.
Wellington: TBA.
Western Sydney: Kressinger (fgn), Elrich, Gibbs Visconte.

More on which of these could be potential fits over the coming days.


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